By Earl Zukerman and Jim Hynes
It was a successful weekend for McGill’s varsity men’s sports teams, with big wins in soccer, lacrosse, rugby and baseball. But the football win over Sherbrooke was easily the sweetest of them all.
Redmen rookie quarterback Jonathan Collin rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another as McGill snapped a conference record 17-game losing streak with a stunning 29-11 home-field victory over the Sherbrooke Vert & Or before a boisterous crowd of 3,192 at Molson Stadium, Friday.
It was the first Redmen victory since a 6-0 forfeit over St. Francis Xavier on Oct. 21, 2006 and their first on-the-field conquest since beating Bishop’s 14-0 a week earlier. The now-ended futility streak had equalled the conference mark established in 1988 by the Carleton Ravens.
The Redmen, who had a 34-16 advantage in first-downs, led by a precarious 3-2 margin after the opening quarter, then extended that to 12-9 at the half and 19-11 after three quarters.
Collin, a colossal 6-foot-5, 240-pound pivot from Greenfield Park, Que., became only the fifth true freshman ever to start at quarterback for the Redmen and the first since Josh Sommerfeldt in 1998. Collin completed 21 of 34 passes for 177 yards and one interception. He also carried five times for 21 yards and directed an attack that generated 436 yards of net offence — including 260 on the ground — compared to 347 by the Vert & Or.
“It’s very satisfying to get the monkey off our backs,” said third-year head coach Sonny Wolfe, who was showered with Gatorade in the dying seconds and was presented with the game ball after finally earning his first career win as bench boss of the Redmen. “We have worked very hard to get this win, both on the field and off, and we needed it as a matter of pride. It’s been a long haul but it is very gratifying.”
One of Wolfe’s off-field agenda items was getting running back Andrew Hamilton, a transfer from Concordia who was on the Alouettes practice roster last year, declared eligible to play. He was held out of the lineup in last week’s loss against the Montreal Carabins but was finally cleared by school officials some 52 minutes before game time and didn’t disappoint.
The six-foot, 198-pound Montreal native rushed for 177 yards on 20 carries and added 16 more yards on a pair of kickoff returns. It was the highest single-game rushing effort by a McGill player since Sept. 10, 2003, when Mike Samman piled up 212 yards against Sherbrooke.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hamilton, who was clocked at a lightning-quick 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash during training camp. “There was a lot of emotion out there tonight, our offensive line played great and it was a good team win for us.”
Success in Sherbrooke for soccer, rugby Redmen
Axel Dovi of Hawkesbury, Ont., scored the game-winner in the 67th minute of play as visiting McGill blanked the Sherbrooke Vert & Or 1-0 in men’s university soccer action, Sunday.
“It was relief to come away with a win here after suffering a heartbreaking last-minute loss to the Carabins on Friday,” said Redmen head coach David Simon. “Sherbrooke played a good defensive system and it was a hard-fought, very physical game.”
Physical indeed. The game featured 31 fouls, including 16 by Sherbrooke, which dropped to 1-1. McGill, also 1-1, will play next on Sept. 18 at Concordia (1-0-1), a team that surprised No.2-ranked Montreal with a last-minute goal en route to a 2-2 draw earlier in the day.
The good times kept rolling on to the rugby pitch where the rugby Redmen opened their 2009 campaign with a 40-15 pasting of host Sherbrooke Sunday. Alastair Crow, a third-year fly-half from Victoria, B.C., tallied for 20 points for the defending conference champions. Junior Kyle Buckley of Ajax, Ont., who also spent last year with the national team, constributed a try. Other try scorers for the Redmen were juniors Brendan O’Sullivan of Toronto and Mathieu Sidoti, a native of Beijing, plus freshman Roderick MacKenzie.
McGill (1-0) now embarks on a home-and-home with Bishop’s (0-1), who dropped their opener 17-15 at Concordia last Friday. The Redmen play in Lennoxville on Sept. 18 and return to Molson Stadium the following week.
McGill’s winning ways continued in Kingston, where team captain Nick Moreau of scored five times and freshman Alex Kruse added a hat-trick and two assists as McGill hammered Queen’s 15-5 to open the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association regular season Saturday. McGill (1-0) now heads to Peterborough, Ont., to face the Trent University Excaliber on Sept. 19. Trent went 10-0 last year to finish first in CUFLA’s Eastern Conference ahead of second-place McGill. While the Redmen dropped both of their meetings with Trent, they were one-goal affairs. The Trent-McGill confrontation will be the marquee match-up of the CUFLA’s Great Canadian Lacrosse Bash, an event that will also feature a Toronto-Carleton match, as well as a Bishop’s-Queen’s affair.
In Kingston, designated-hitter Chris Haddad walked and advanced to third base before scoring the winning run on a wild pitch as the visiting McGill Redbirds held on for a 6-5 victory over Carleton in the opening game of a doubleheader in men’s university baseball at Kanata Kinsmen Park, Sunday. The Redbirds gave up 13 walks and a hit batsmen en route to losing the nightcap 9-3.
Rookie third baseman Chris Arndt continued his stellar debut in the Canadian Intercollegiate baseball Association, going a combined 2-for-5 at the plate with a walk and three runs batted in over the two games. Equally impressive was shortstop Alex Day and left-fielder Ted Davis. Day went 4-for-6 on the day, with a pair of walks and an RBI, while Davis was 3-for-6 with a double and a pair of RBIs.
McGill sits third in the five-team CIBA Northern Conference with a 3-2 record. They trail Ottawa (2-0) and Concordia (4-1), Carleton (1-3) is fourth and winless John Abbott College (0-4) is last.
Winless weekend for Martlets
The news was not quote so rosy for the Martlets this weekend. On Saturday, the Ottawa Gee-Gees rallied with four tries over the final 19 minutes and came away with a 24-5 upset over visiting McGill to open the Quebec university women’s rugby season. The loss ended McGill’s 21-game win streak over the Gee-Gees, dating back to a 12-10 Ottawa win in 1996.
On Sunday, Chloé Belhumeur-Limoges, a freshman striker from Drummondville, Que., tallied twice in a three-minute span to cap an outburst that featured four goals in seven minutes, as Sherbrooke smothered McGill 4-0 in women’s university soccer action. The Martlets (0-2) will head across town to take on Concordia (0-2) in a battle of winless teams on Sept. 18, then play at UQAM on Sept. 20. Sherbrooke, which improved to 2-0, will host the undefeated Montreal Carabins (2-0) the same night.