Panda Game rocks the house at sold-out TD Place
Carlos Verde | @Carlos77Verde
TD PLACE — 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.
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.
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).”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Looks like Pedro is staying with the #Ravens another year.
— TD Place (@TD_Place) September 30, 2017