October 4, 2017

Panda Game rocks the house at sold-out TD Place

Image of Carleton Ravens fans cheering in Panda costume at the 2017 Panda Game

Carlos Verde | @Carlos77Verde

— Saturday afternoon’s Panda Game had everything you could want in a football contest: dramatic field goals, big-time hits, athletic interceptions, a raucous crowd — it was all there at TD Place.

When the dust had settled, and the black-and-red field rush had dissipated, the Carleton Ravens emerged the victors in a 33-30 double-overtime thriller against the cross-town rival uOttawa Gee-Gees.

The storylines were immense; Carleton, at 1-3, needed a win to maintain their slim playoff chances; the Gee-Gees were playing with the cascade of emotions associated with the tragic passing of teammate Loic Kayembe last weekend.

uOttawa Gee-Gee's moment of silence for tragic passing of teammate Loic Kayembe last weekend.

On a day where the two quarterbacks combined for an unspectacular 32-for-68 line, where fumbles, interceptions and penalties ruled, the Ravens saved their season in ultra-dramatic fashion before a record crowd of 24,420.

“It’s really unbelievable — you never know what’s going to happen in Panda,” laughed Carleton head coach Steve Sumarah following the wild victory. “Maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe it’s the great rivalry…I’m just glad we’re on this side of (the win).”

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Sumarah, in his fifth year at the helm of the Ravens program, told his players prior to kick-off to feed off their emotions.

“You try to ride the emotion,” explained Sumarah. “Fortunately or unfortunately, in these kinds of games, you get these highs and lows. You’ve got to ride it.”

Ravens take ball from Gee-Gees

Carleton fullback and Ottawa-native Stefano Napolitano was nearly at a loss for words following his fourth Panda win in five seasons.

“I’ve got to get my heart checked, these are always close games, respect to those (Gee-Gees),” said a sweat-streaked Napolitano following the field rush. “I heard so much about Panda growing up, but there was no Panda Game when I was a kid — when I was getting recruited, I looked up some history and, oh my god, I couldn’t wait to play in it.”

Sunny soldout stadium photo at 2017 Panda Game

The Ravens blocking back couldn’t help but beam reflecting on the Panda triumphs of his career.

“Nate Behar’s Hail Mary, who can forget that? Third year, the OT…every single play of that game was outstanding,” said Napolitano. “There were a lot of mistakes (today), but somehow we got through (them) and got the W.”

I won’t be there for Pedro’s fifth tattoo but I was there for his fifth panda so I guess it’s alright

A post shared by Ricardo Barrett (@rico4teen) on

Saturday’s madhouse atmosphere — both teams’ benches were on the uOttawa-dominated south side — was the perfect Panda send-off for the fifth-year local.

“All these people I know — friends (and) tons of family came out — I take it all in,” said Napolitano. “Those (uOttawa fans) were trying to get us off our game, but I enjoy it when they’re trying to chirp us — it’s all fun and games, and I loved it. Honestly.”