After an absence of nearly 700 days, Ottawa’s college football team is finally returning to action on Saturday

After an absence of nearly 700 days, Ottawa’s college football team is finally returning to action on Saturday

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Carleton Ravens coach Steve Sumarah and University of Ottawa Gee-Gees coach Marcel Bellefeuille are college football rivals across cities, but they are on the same page and talking about their expectations of what might happen when they finally return to match play on Saturday afternoon.

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“You just do not know. There are so many strangers, ”said Sumarah, who will receive the Queen’s Geals in front of a COVID-19 closed crowd of 750 spectators at Ravens’ Perch.

“I have no idea,” Bellefeuille said of what the Gee-Gees could face in their match against the University of Toronto at Varsity Stadium. “And I am happy about that. We can focus on ourselves and that’s what it should be. We have zero info (about Toronto) until we line up and play. Let the chips fall when the whistle blows. ”

For anyone who has forgotten the last time the Ravens and Gee-Gees played while we endured all the stops and starts and twists and turns in the life of pandemic life, here is a little refresher. Both have been out of the game since losing in the playoffs on October 27, 2019, a span of 691 days.

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The Gee-Gees, who dropped a 44-21 decision to the Waterloo Warriors in their final outing, brought Bellefeuille back as head coach in May 2020. Bellefeuille, who led the Gee-Gees to a Vanier Cup championship in 2000, had spent a decade in Canadian Football League, including a period as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 2008 to 2011.

Last time the Ravens played, they lost 22-17 to Guelph Gryphons.

Since then, there has been an ever-changing process in where, when and how university practitioners have been able to train. Ontario University Athletic’s football training camps officially reopened on September 3, but without exhibition play to measure itself, the uncertainty makes sense.

However, the level of expectation is sky high.

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“I’m excited about the players and the coaches,” Bellefeuille said. “Most of all, I’m just excited to watch college football. Everyone has sacrificed a lot in the last 18 months. Everyone has been very patient with compliance (with COVID-19 rules and regulations). No, they finally have a chance to actually go out and play. ”

Still, even though the Gee-Gees boarded an afternoon bus en route to Toronto on Friday, there was still a breath of uncertainty in the air.

“One player told me he had six hours of sleep this week and was just waiting to get this game,” Bellefeuille said. “With everything that has happened along the way, there is still a certain fear that the carpet will at some point be pulled out from under their feet. It’s not anxiety about playing, it’s anxiety about it really happening. There have been so many ups and downs and shutdowns, so many times. ”

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Considering the players returning to the field, Bellefeuille says he has noticed that some timing is missing. Training alone or in small groups can only do so much.

“What’s not much talked about, and it’s not just lacking football, it’s about not being able to practice certain sports, is eye-hand coordination,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. Without being able to play lots of sports at all, you really notice these things. It’s not coming back right away. It’s going to take time. ”

For Sumarah, there is no hiding his enthusiasm for being able to play again in front of a home crowd, limited as it is due to distance requirements on the seats.

“The tension is super high,” he said. “I am really, really looking forward to reliving the experience of the game day. We sold a maximum of 750 tickets. We could easily have sold 3,000, but with the Covid protocols we could not do that. ”

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In terms of achieving perfection on the court, he recognizes that it can take some time for players to get up to speed and reintroduce themselves to the nuances of an actual game.

“My expectations may be a little subdued,” Sumarah said. “It has been so long. It’s the mechanics of everything, like getting the exhaust team out there and the defense and the offensive, how all the little things will work. Like, oh, boy, are we ready for this? You can rehearse all of these things, but how does it work in a real game situation, with a real clock that gets the actors in? ”

There is also the not so small factor of knowing that football is such a physical game. Sumarah says he has been careful to manage contact exercises during training camp workouts and is not entirely sure how long it will take players to adjust.

“Like any team, our expectations are to go out and win,” he said. “But we do not get a better sense of where we are as a team until a few weeks have passed and we have established more of the routines. We get into that flow and we know what kind of team we need to be. ”

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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