Volume 92, Issue 49
Tuesday, December 1, 1998
Concordia's Vanier dreams stung by fumble
© Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
By John Intini
TORONTO For 58 minutes this past Saturday, the Vanier Cup underdog Concordia Stingers could almost taste a national title. In the end, all that was left was the bitterness of defeat.
In what critics called one of the most mismatched Vanier Cup championships in recent memory, the heavily favoured Saskatchewan Huskies came away with a narrow 24-17 victory. The Huskie win, played in front of 15,157 fans at the SkyDome Saturday afternoon, is their third title since 1989. It also marked the fourth consecutive time the Vanier Cup has been won by a Western Canadian team.
With just over two minutes left in regulation and with the score tied at 17, the game took a tragic turn for the Stingers, who were making their first ever Vanier Cup appearance. With the ball on their own 17, Stinger rookie quarterbackJon Kronemeyer called for the option to running back Evan Davis Jr.. The play, which had earlier resulted in Davis Jr. scoring on a 55-yard touchdown, blew up in the Stingers' faces.
Kronemeyer was hit by Huskie linebacker Michael Milo, just prior to releasing the football, sending the ball hurtling into the end zone. Saskatchewan linebacker Trevor Ludtke, the game's most valuable player, came up with the loose ball for the touchdown and with it a national title.
"The ball was just there and I jumped on it," Ludtke said. "We were trying to get more pressure on Kronemeyer and we were able to get through on that play and hit him. This is just an incredible feeling."
On the Concordia sidelines the feeling wasn't as upbeat.
"It just hurts to lose on one play," said defensive back Greg Casey, tears welling up in his eyes. "We played our hearts out and it just wasn't enough."
Davis Jr., the intended recipient of the pitched football, was also stunned by the turn of events but said the whole blame could not be placed on a single play.
"It's tough when an entire season comes down to one quarter of football, but that's just how it goes sometimes," he said. "We had a number of chances earlier on and just didn't capitalize, but so did they."
In the early going the game was marred by a lack of execution on both sides of the football. The most notable mental lapses were three dropped balls by Huskie receivers, costing the club three touchdowns.
"Both teams had their chances to put this football game away and didn't," said Stinger head coach Pat Sheahan.
Huskie quarterback Ryan Reid, who was 19-32 for 272 yards and a touchdown, said the early mistakes made things a little tough, but should be expected in such a big game. Even Reid admitted to having some pre-game jitters, but said a late-night talk with his father Friday night helped calm his nerves.
"It was great knowing that he was up in the stands today," Reid said.
"It was a little frustrating at the beginning of the game and it didn't help the confidence level, but once the game got going, things started to work.
"The most important thing to do is go right back to the guys who dropped the football and that's what I did. My receivers don't drop the ball too often."
For Reid, the win was extra sweet, since it allows him to finally get out of the shadows of former Huskie greats, such as ex-quarterbacks David Earl and Brent Schneider the leaders of the other two Vanier Cup champion Huskies in 1990 and 1996 respectively.
The veteran pivot also said the label of a CIAU dynasty may be overstating his club's success during the '90s.
"I don't know if you can call us the team of the decade," he said. "We've won three championships with three different quarterbacks which is more a testament to Brian [Towriss] and the coaching staff than the team on a whole."
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