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  • Saturday, November 27, 1999

    Laval wins first Vanier Cup

      TORONTO (CP) -- Laval University has made Quebec City's Carnival a much bigger party this year.

      In only its fourth year competing in CIAU football, the Rouge et Or won the Vanier Cup on Saturday with a 14-10 victory over the Saint Mary's Huskies.

      "I think I have to run and catch the carriage before it turns into a pumpkin," quipped Laval coach Jacques Chapdelaine, a seven-year CFL veteran.

      Laval's football program has become wildly successful since its first season in 1996. The Rouge et Or average close to 8,000 for home games and 18 busloads of fans made the trip to SkyDome from Ste-Foy, Que., a suburb of Quebec City, which brought the attendance for the game to 12,595.

      After hoisting the Cup, the players ran into the stands to embrace their faithful.

      The 35th Vanier Cup was the sixth-lowest scoring final in CIAU history, with special teams contributing to the low score.

      Running back Stephane Lefebvre led the Rouge et Or with two touchdowns, including a 41-yard run in the second quarter that spotted Laval a 14-7 halftime lead. The 22-year-old from Berthierville, Que., finished with 119 yards and was named offensive player of the game.

      Lineman Francesco Pete-Esposito won defensive honours with four tackles and one quarterback sack.

      The Huskies got one final chance late in the game, but quarterback Ryan Jones fumbled near midfield with just over a minute left.

      "The ball went all kinds of ways," said Chapdelaine. "The fumble at the end definitely helped."

      Laval quarterback Mathieu Bertrand engineered the play of the game in the first half when, under pressure in his own end zone on a second and 18, he connected with Pascal Robitaille at their own 50.

      "We got a lot of pressure inside," said Bertrand. "We decided to roll out to give me time to throw the ball and we connected and that was good."

      Bertrand then took Laval the rest of the way, highlighted by Lefebvre's 41-yarder for the decisive touchdown.

      Bertrand, whose father Jocelyn died of a heart attack the day before Laval's final regular-season game, played a stellar game until the third quarter when he was hit hard, suffered a mild concussion, and was replaced by backup Francois Chapdelaine for the fourth quarter.

      Bertrand completed 10 of 18 passes for 182 yards and ran for 29.

      Saint Mary's had better passing yardage with Jones going 20-for-32 for 251 yards, but his receivers missed several key passes.

      Jones found receiver Jay Currie on Laval's doorstep with an 18-yard pass late in the first quarter and Luis Perez finished the drive with a two-yard run to make it 7-7 eight seconds into the second quarter.

      Bertrand took control on Laval's first possession off the kickoff, taking the Rouge et Or 65 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, completed by Lefebvre's seven-yard run.

      Michael Gagne kicked two converts, but missed two field goal attempts for Laval. Currie was good on one convert, but was 1-for-3 in field goals for Huskies, including a 27-yarder with 10 seconds left in the first half.

      The Rouge et Or recruit French-speaking players because all courses at Laval are instructed in French. Laval went 6-2 during the regular season, knocked off undefeated Ottawa in the conference final and beat defending CIAU champion Saskatchewan in the Churchill Bowl to advance to its first Vanier Cup.

      Saint Mary's made its fifth Vanier Cup appearance, its first since 1992. The Huskies last won the title in 1973.

      Saturday's game was a coaching clash of two former CFL teammates. Saint Mary's Blake Nill, named the CIAU's coach of the year this week, and Laval's Chapdelaine were teammates with Montreal in the 1980s.


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