War­riors win and they’re in

Water­loo meets Ottawa, gets chance to clinch first play­off berth since 2003

Waterloo Region Record - - SPORTS - Mark Bryson, Record staff

WATER­LOO — The third op­por­tu­nity didn’t pan out, so per­haps the fourth time will be the charm.

The Water­loo War­riors (4-3) will get an­other chance to clinch their first play­off berth since 2003 when they take on the Ottawa Gee-Gees (4-2) in On­tario Univer­sity Ath­let­ics foot­ball play. The War­riors have lost three straight games head­ing into Satur­day af­ter­noon’s game at Gee-Gees Field but re­main in com­plete con­trol of their own destiny.

“This is ar­guably (Water­loo’s) big­gest foot­ball game since 2003 and ob­vi­ously there is a lot of pres­sure that goes along with that,” said War­riors head coach Chris Ber­toia.

“I’ve told the guys it’s a priv­i­lege to have that pres­sure be­cause it means we’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

The War­riors are com­ing off their worst per­for­mance of the sea­son, a 68-17 loss to the Queen’s Gaels last Thurs­day that was a dud from start to fin­ish. Queen’s led that game 28-3 at half­time and added 24 unan­swered points in the fourth quar­ter.

Ber­toia said he has “fo­cused on the pos­i­tives” dur­ing this week’s “up­beat” prepa­ra­tions for Ottawa, an­other team with plenty to play for.

The Gee-Gees close out their reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule on the road next week against the Western Mus­tangs (7-0), so a loss to the War­riors could put their post-sea­son as­pi­ra­tions in jeop­ardy.

Ottawa has been in­volved in a num­ber of close games this sea­son and has vic­to­ries over a pair of teams that have de­feated Water­loo. The Gee-Gees beat Queen’s 14-13 on Sept. 4 and recorded a 24-21 over­time vic­tory against the Guelph Gryphons on Aug. 27.

First-year quar­ter­back Alex Lavric leads a work­man­like of­fence that has av­er­aged just 23.3 points per game, eighth of 11 OUA teams. Water­loo, by con­tract, has tal­lied 38.4 points per game and is ranked fourth. The War­riors have also posted su­pe­rior rush­ing and pass­ing to­tals.

The Gee-Gees get the edge on de­fence, hav­ing al­lowed 20.3 points per game and 412.5 to­tal yards per game. The War­riors have sur­ren­dered 42.7 points per game and 463.1 to­tal yards.

The War­riors have an out­side shot of back­ing into the play­offs with a loss, said Ber­toia, but the third-year coach is hop­ing it doesn’t come to that.

“If we win, there’s a good chance of us fin­ish­ing fourth, and if we lose, there’s a good chance of us fin­ish­ing sev­enth and be­ing out of the play­offs,” he said. “So as (for­mer Oakland Raiders owner) Al Davis said: ‘Just win baby.’ ’’

The War­riors, who get their bye week af­ter the Ottawa game, will host a play­off game if they fin­ish fourth in the stand­ings.

MATHEW MCCARTHY, RECORD STAFF

Mike Bushell tries his foot at field-goal kick­ing dur­ing prac­tice with the Water­loo War­riors on Thurs­day.

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