FOOTBALL EXCITEMENT AND FUN REIGN (DAL 31- UNB 28)
Dalhousie’s Wickwire Field rocked with excitement as more than 1,500 waited in line to see the rematch of the 2022 Atlantic Football League Championship game. That final was unlike anything I had seen in Tiger football, as Dal overcame a 3 TD deficit in the last 8 minutes and 35 seconds to claim “the AFL title over the UNB Red Reds, 26-25. Tiger QB Noah Glover had his best half-quarter of the season, while the Black and Gold’s “D” was flawless.
On a very windy but pleasant Saturday night, Glover picked up where he left off in Fredericton last fall. His 48-yard connection with Noah Stevens had the student body on their feet. This set up his 9-yard TD toss to Colton Allen, and the decibel level soared on Dal’s first major of the year. Earlier, Okyay Kepenek’s massive kickoff left the Reds inside their ten. UNB strategically gave up a safety, and Kepenek’s convert gave the Cats an early 9-0 lead.
The high winds were a factor, especially in the first half. The Tigers took advantage before the Q was over. Matt Lawton from 27 yards out, and Ethan Lord from 17 away, scored 6’s on well thrown balls from Glover. Kepenek converted both, giving the Dal squad a 23-0 at the end of the first Q. That period of scoring was also equal to the final minutes in last year’s final Q.
UNB would respond in the first minute of the second Q as QB Jonah Rawlines connected with Jace Taylor for the TD and Justin Remillard made the PAT, making the score 23-7 Tigers.
Thirteen years ago, Jim Wilson (Dal alumni president and board member) wanted Fun and Football back on Dalhousie’s campus. The result was New Era Dalhousie Football, and tonight’s event proved just that! Halftime saw crazed fans cheering for a student tug of war. Next, the vocal support was palatable as tiger fans cheered for a fellow student as he kicked for tuition! He missed, but he was given a shorter distance FG for cash, which he made, and his peers went wild.
Halftime ended with an athletic, upbeat precision routine from Dal’s dance team. Throughout the game, the student body was kept engaged by the cheerleaders adding to the atmosphere and making the football game the place to be on campus. Wilson’s wish again came to fruition.
The Black and Gold fan's decibel level diminished a little in the third Q as the Reds were mounting a comeback. Rawlines scored on a run, and Remillard converted, cutting the Tiger's lead to 23-14. But the Dalhousians rebounded when David Shamsuddin-Ciata caught Glover’s 4th TD pass (16/22, 140 yards, 4 TDs, 2 ints). Kepenek’s convert was good, Dal 30 - UNB 21. The Tigers leading rusher, Caden Quong (10/73) contributed on that march, but his best was yet to come.
The Reds put Dalhousie’s “D” on notice, marching and scoring on Rawline’s second TD throw to Taylor. PAT good, 30-28 Dal. A Tiger drive would come up short, and Dal would settle for a point off a missed 19-yard FG. Dal 31-28. A fan-induced chant of “D-fence” seemed to become louder on the Red's next drive.
Tiger penalties simplified the Reds’ field position, and it looked like the chant would come to no avail. The UNB squad was set to score and take the lead. It was 3rd down on the Tigers one. But NO! The determined Dal “D” executed a goal-line stand.
The fans went nuts! Defence had won the game but no, nearly two minutes remained on the scoreboard. The cats took over on their two and that is when Quong ripped off 27 yards to give them better field position. But the Black and Gold could not maintain possession and the Reds would have yet another chance.
The defence would come up with another huge play as unheralded veteran, Luke Smith (6 tackles), stripped the Reds’ QB, causing loss of possession and eventual pandemonium, as hundreds of fans rushed the turf in jubilation seconds later as the game ended. It was another titanic battle with our rival Reds. Other noted defenders in the game included Max Parker, Logan Steeves, and Aron Brooks, all with four tackles.
This victory, 31-28, gives Dalhousie a 3-point lead in the two-game total point series with UNB for the Alumni Cup. UNB like Dalhousie, was a member of the old AUS and they introduced the idea.
Mark September 30th on your calendar and enjoy the beautiful autumn drive to Fredericton for the 2nd game in the series. The Tigers hope to reclaim this trophy and eventually first place in the AFL standings. By doing so, they would have the honour of hosting the league championship at Wickwire Field on November 11th.
Next game is at Holland College on September 16th– fingers crossed to avoid cancellation due to Hurricane Lee!