“We go through peaks and valleys,” head football coach Chris Bertoia called to his team following Saturday’s game, “and we’re still undefeated.”
The second home victory of the new season, the Warriors won a tight 28-23 battle against a resilient University of Toronto side that refused to quit.
Showcasing perseverance in the face of adversity and meticulously-planned play-calling, the win took place in front of a roaring crowd of more than 3,600 students, fans, and alumni in honour of the university’s annual Black and Gold day.
In a feat which Bertoia called “two years in the making,” the 28-23 victory marked the first time in a decade the Warriors began a season with three consecutive wins.
During a first quarter rife with flags on the field, Toronto’s offense came out firing with a few big plays, but an end-zone interception by Sammy Prantera kept the Blues off the board in their opening drive.
After the interception, both teams traded scoreless drives until a 30 yard field goal from Caleb Girard put the Warriors up 3-0 heading in to the second quarter.
A punt caught by Blair McKay brought the Warriors up the line of defense, where they settled at midfield.
Foiled on the first and second downs, the game changed with just eleven minutes left in the quarter when senior quarterback Lucas McConnell and the Waterloo offense executed an onside punt to perfection, recovering the ball at the Toronto 19 yard line.
Three plays later, freshman quarterback Tre Ford tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Richmond Nketiah to give the Warriors an impressive 10-1 lead.
After Toronto came back with a major of their own, Nketiah added his second touchdown of the game, this time a ten-yard score from McConnell.
A kickoff rouge from Girard gave the Warriors an 18-7 lead heading into halftime.
The middle of the third quarter was not kind to Waterloo.
The seven minute mark was the last snap of the game for Ford.
While the nature of his absence is uncertain, he finished the game out of pads on the sideline, moving gingerly.
At 5:41 of the third, a 55-yard pass from Clay Sequeira to Will Corby brought the Blues within four points of the Warriors.
With Ford out of the game, McConnell was tasked with leading the Warriors to the finish line, and he responded by orchestrating a six play, 78-yard drive that finished with a four-yard touchdown run by Brandon Metz to put Waterloo up 25-14.
After trading field goals, Toronto scored a late touchdown to make it a one score game.
A missed two-point conversion left the Warriors leading 28-23 with 100 seconds left on the clock.
A quick two-and-out by the Warriors left Toronto an opportunity to win, but a third down pass breakup from Shaquille Sealy secured victory for Waterloo.
Undeterred by the last-minute touchdown by Toronto, the Warriors clung tight to a five point lead for the win.
As the stadium erupted in sound, Bertoia gathered the team.
“That’s the best victory we’ve had,” he called to them amongst cheers.
Congratulating the team on their “great, great effort,” he reminded them, “we gotta get back to work tomorrow.”
The secret to the team’s historic momentum?
After sending his players on their way, Bertoia admitted there wasn’t one.
“It’s the old adage of hard work and determination and a positive attitude,” he commented on the preparation and lead-up to the team’s big win. “As long as you work your tail off and have a good attitude, you can do anything.”
It’s a winning attitude the Warriors will have to work to continue, should they hope to continue the bold victory streak which has thus far defined the young 2017 season.
Waterloo travels to Ottawa next for a Sept. 16 matchup with the Carleton Ravens.
Having ranked in the CIS Football Top 10 Ranking each week of the 2016 season, the Ravens have proven themselves formidbale opponenets. The game will no doubt be a worthy test of the Warriors’ newfound and unprecedented momentum.
Should the Warriors keep the streak, they merit as candidates for the 2017 CIS Ranking.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. where the Warriors try to continue the streak and win four games for the first time since 2001.