After last weekend’s victory over Toronto pushed his football team to 3-0, head coach Chris Bertoia claimed it was “…the best victory [the team] has had.”
The Warriors’ trip up to Ottawa might have forged a new favourite.
A 45-43 come-from-behind victory over the Carleton Ravens gave the Warriors a 4-0 start to their season, Waterloo’s first four-win season since 2001.
Prior to the match, the focus was on whether the Warriors would have the services of freshman quarterback Tre Ford, who suffered an upper-body injury in last week’s victory over the Varsity Blues.
The Warriors have deployed a dual-quarterback system to perfection this season, with Ford and senior Lucas McConnell splitting time to lead the team to a historic perfect start.
While Ford made the trip, he didn’t appear in the game, leaving questions as to whether McConnell could handle the offense for the entire 60 minutes.
McConnell responded with the game of his life.
He finished with a career high of 477 yards on 29/43 passing with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. McConnell also added 34 yards on the ground with both a major and a fumble.
The game marked the return of receiver Tyler Ternowski, who missed the first three games of the season. He hooked up with McConnell a team-leading 10 times for 185 yards and a score.
Dion Pellerin led the ground attack with 138 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns. Michael Reid had a team-high of 9.5 tackles, leading a Warrior defense that failed to record a turnover on the day.
The match was a tale of two halves, with the Ravens taking a 30-10 lead into the interval.
A couple of eight-yard scores, the first a McConnell run and the second a McConnell to Ternowski connection, brought the Warriors within six points heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was a battle of long touchdowns. Pellerin had runs of 52 and 60 yards for majors, while Carleton quarterback Michael Arruda connected with Phil Iloki for a 72-yard score.
A 23-yard touchdown from McConnell to Lam Diing put the Warriors up eight with 5:45 left on the clock.
The game came down to the final minute with a Carleton touchdown at 0:12 of the fourth quarter leaving the Ravens down two. The Ravens had a chance to tie the game, but their two-point conversion was stuffed by Lautaro Frecha, giving the Warriors the win.
When asked what changed at half-time, McConnell told Imprint, “There wasn’t much change, it was just getting our stuff figured out. We had a few good plays in the first, but way too many busts.”
“At half we said that when we execute and do the right things, we are very good, so let’s be very good this half,” he added.
McConnell credited the team’s preparation for his outstanding performance.
“We just had a good game-plan and it allowed me to just play.”
The win helps bolster the Warriors’ playoff chances, with the team’s last playoff berth coming in 2003, where they met a 70-7 loss to McMaster in the OUA quarterfinals.
The Warriors have already ensured a greater record than last season’s 3-5 Guelph Gryphons, who were the final playoff team in 2016.
It’s been a while since the Battle of Waterloo has had such massive implications for both teams.
With the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks sitting at 3-0 and ranked fifth in Canada, the Warriors-Hawks September 23rd showdown could play a major role in determining the final standings.
The game will take place on Warrior Field, where Waterloo hopes to achieve their first five-win season since 1998.
Kick off is at 1p.m.