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Laval Rouge et Or quarterback Hugo Richard (4) throws during first half U Sports Vanier Cup championship football action against the Calgary Dinos, in Hamilton, Ont., on Saturday, November 25, 2016. (Peter Power/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Laval Rouge et Or quarterback Hugo Richard (4) throws during first half U Sports Vanier Cup championship football action against the Calgary Dinos, in Hamilton, Ont., on Saturday, November 25, 2016. (Peter Power/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Laval Rouge et Or lift ninth Vanier Cup in comeback victory over Calgary Dinos Add to ...

In the Canadian university football circuit, it’s hard to ignore the dominance of the Laval Rouge et Or.

Since the birth of the school’s football program in 1995, the Rouge et Or made nine appearances in the Vanier Cup, the national championship. They won eight of those.

So in their 10th appearance on Saturday at Tim Hortons Field, it seemed only natural that the Laval Rouge et Or came back from a 14-point disadvantage, only took their first lead with 21 seconds left in the third quarter, blocked a punt for the go-ahead touchdown and rolled with dominance to their ninth national championship victory, defeating the Calgary Dinos 31-26.

After taking a two-year hiatus from the Vanier Cup, quarterback Hugo Richard marched Laval back into Vanier Cup win column, finishing 25-for-32 for 339 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran 62 yards on nine carries.

“I like showing to people that I’m capable of playing football. There’s always going to be critics, but listen, I’m my biggest critic, it doesn’t bother me,” said Richard, who was chosen the game’s MVP.

At the beginning of Saturday’s final, Laval looked lost. Richard was sacked five times in the first half. The quarterback called a timeout, not knowing what play should be called. Laval was caught off guard when Calgary’s Michael Klukas scored an 86-yard touchdown on the Dinos’ first play of the game, and didn’t expect Calgary to march into the end zone on its next possession on a two-yard rush from halfback Anthony Anderson.

But Laval never really went away. After Calgary went up 14-0, Richard didn’t miss his opportunity and threw a 37-yard toss to Marc-Antoine Pivin and cut the lead to 14-7.

Calgary extended its lead to 17-7 after Niko DiFonte squeaked over a 43-yard field goal on the Dinos’ first drive of the second quarter.

Richard was sacked for a fourth time early in the second quarter and the Rouge et Or had to settle for a field goal.

Laval drove the ball down into Dinos territory late in the second quarter but Tyrone Pierre fumbled the ball on the Calgary two-yard line. DiFonte kicked a 31-yard field goal on the Dinos’ first possession of the second half to make it 20-10.

Cedric Lussier-Roy sacked Adam Sinagra deep in Calgary territory to force a fumble in the third quarter. The Rouge et Or recovered and Richard didn’t miss his opportunity, connecting with Antony Auclair for a five-yard TD to make it a three-point game.

Vincent Alarie-Tardif capped off a 10-play, 89-yard drive late in the third quarter by punching in a touchdown from three yards out that gave Laval a 24-20 advantage.

Calgary regained the lead midway through the fourth off two consecutive field goals to make it 26-24. And in a crazy series of events, the Dinos intercepted Laval’s Richard, followed by Laval blocking a Calgary punt.

And it wasn’t minutes later when Richard marched in for the game-winning touchdown with 2:33 left in the game, securing the country-leading ninth victory.

“There was nothing easy about it,” said Laval head coach Glen Constantin. “Trailing 14-0, that’s a lot of adversity and the guys on the bench were a little bit disoriented about that but they believed.”

Sinagra came on in relief in the first quarter and completed 21-of-38 passes for 276 yards and an interception for the Dinos. Calgary’s Jeshrun Antwi had 25 carries for 177 yards and DiFonte kicked four field goals. Nick Statz had two of Calgary’s seven sacks on Richard. The loss drops the Dinos to 4-6 in Vanier Cups with their last championship coming in 1995.

– With a report from The Canadian Press

Editor’s note: An earlier digital version of this story incorrectly stated in the headline that the Laval Rouge et Or won their 10th Vanier Cup; however, it was their 10th appearance in the finals and ninth win.

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