Countdown to first Ravens football season in 15 years

Ravens football coach Steve Sumarah is pictured in the new work-out facility in the Athletics complex. (Chris Roussakis Photo)

Steve Sumarah says he’s relieved the day he’s waited almost two years for is within sight.

And he doesn’t have to think for a second to remember Jan. 15, 2012 was when Carleton University appointed him head coach and de facto architect of the reborn Ravens football team.

“That was a long time ago and there have been many trials and tribulations since then,” he says. “There’s a huge sense of satisfaction knowing we’ve come this far.”

The red and black will finally step onto a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) field for the first time in 15 years against the Western University Mustangs in London, Ont. on Sept. 3.

Sumarah says he always had a rough idea of the club he wanted to build to kick off the long-awaited 2013 season.

Now, just three months before opening day, he says some names on his coaching staff and roster surprise him.

“It’s gone much better than I anticipated,” he says. “The quality of the (coaches) involved is incredible. They bought in to what I was trying to do here and they were excited, which has led to success recruiting. We’ve attracted some of the country’s top players.”

Sumarah and his eight-man coaching staff have invited 79 players to training camp, which begins on Aug. 15. Between 70 and 72 athletes will make the team for opening day, he says.

But some players have already locked their spots on the revived Ravens squad.

One of them is Nate Behar, who the CIS ranked as the best receiver in the 2013 recruiting class.

The 18-year-old played 11 games for the Ontario Varsity Football League’s 2012 champion team – the London Junior Mustangs. He compiled 10 touchdowns and led the league with an average of 30.1 yards per reception.

“He legitimized our program,” Sumarah says. “The fact that he wants to be here and is excited makes the other players say: ‘Nate sees a future here, maybe I do as well.’ I really believe he kick-started the recruiting process.”

While Sumarah has finished that process, the upgrades to the football stadium and team locker room are almost complete.

The dressing room is “getting its finishing touches,” says Jennifer Brenning, the director of recreation and athletics. Workers still need to install lockers and finish tiling the floor, she says. The work to the locker room is expected to be completed before the end of June.

And by July 1, the upgraded 3,000-seat Keith Harris Stadium should be ready for the season.

As everything falls in to place and opening day draws closer, Sumarah says fans have expressed their enthusiasm to see Ravens football for the first time since 1998.

“I see a lot of excitement and I can’t thank the people on campus enough for their interest and support for this program,” he says. “They’re going to see a young, vibrant and exciting team. They’re also going to be part of a great atmosphere. That’s what will keep drawing people in.”

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