Lions seize first win in years

York Lions maul the Waterloo Warriors in a landmark win. ROBERT DZIARMAGA

Laurie Brownrigg

What a difference a week makes. Offence was a noticeable Achilles’ heel for the Lions when they lost to U of T in the annual Red and Blue Bowl. But the Waterloo Warriors couldn’t find a foot at all on Saturday. Winds of change blew onto the Warrior’s field, as the Lions won their first game in over four years.

York Lions maul the Waterloo Warriors in a landmark win. ROBERT DZIARMAGA

Yes, four years. If losing fuels the fire for a comeback, then it’s fair to say our football team should be back with a vengeance.

The Warriors held a 17-0 lead until the Lions started to pounce back at the end of the first half, with a long pass from quarterback Dimitar Sevden to William Austin in the end zone for a touchdown, bringing the score to 17-7. This season is Sevdin’s debut for York, and it seems he’s confidently stepping up and feeling right at home, finishing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Through out the game, a handful of new faces made their mark. Denzel Philip, another rookie on the scene, led the way in tackles, with a game high of eight.

“The strength and weakness of the team this year is youth,” says head coach Warren Craney. “It’s a strength, because we are able to recruit top GTA athletes that don’t know the history of losing. But it’s a weakness because they’re young. In this sport, it takes a while to gel as a team, but we made a lot of strides this weekend.”

By the end of the third quarter the Lions had kept it together, working hard to tie the game with a four-yard rush by Blair Yachetti. An incomplete pass set up third down and the Lions converted, with Sevdin completing a four-yard pass to fellow rookie Skyler Hurst in the end zone. That resulted in the tying touchdown with just 2:44 left on the clock.

With only a few seconds left of the game clock, York had a chance to claim the victory. Unfortunately, Devishi’s 32-yard kick went wide. The Lions kept their resilient comeback until the end, defeating the warriors in overtime, when Devishi redeemed himself by kicking the game-winning field goal straight through the uprights.

It was a very optimistic game to open the season with for a team that hasn’t made provincials in four years.

The talent and drive is there, but can the Lions persevere?

Defensively, it’s plausible. The Lions held little back and kept it coming to Waterloo’s quarterbacks, ending the game with six sacks. Lions veterans Patrick Russell and Steven Reading had 1.5 each and Zack Davis had one as well.

Offence will be the big hurdle on the road to glory for the Lions. Waterloo stole the spotlight with their starting quarterback Evan Martin going 15-23 for 229 yards. He got one touchdown and one interception in the first half before injuring himself on the first drive of the second and missing the rest of the game. Then their receiver Dustin Zender led all players with nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.

It wasn’t a complete offensive loss for the Lions, though. Offensive co-ordinator Michael Faulds says that the team has definitely made progress.

“To start off the first half, offensively things weren’t together, but this game was Sevdin’s first for us and it was an adjustment for him,” Faulds says. “He was anxious and nervous, but after the first touchdown, he and the team got a lot more confidence. Offensively in the second half they gained a lot more yards and finally put some points on the board.”

After the triumphant efforts of the team and the notable impact that the rookies are making, the Lions seem up to the challenge of the upcoming season.

“Young recruits will be the foundations for future championships of York,” says Craney.

Now that York has decided to ante up, the stakes will be on Saturday September 24, when the Lions face the Queen Gaels at home. The Gaels made it to the quarterfinals last year but were defeated by the McMaster Marauders. The game starts at 1 p.m.


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