Football opens season with a bang

Gaels overcome injuries to defeat the University of Toronto 53-7

Fullback Mike Giffen charges towards the end zone on his way to a touchdown.
Fullback Mike Giffen charges towards the end zone on his way to a touchdown.
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Teammates confer on the sidelines during Monday’s game.
Teammates confer on the sidelines during Monday’s game.
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The varsity football team proved Monday that it means business. Decked out in their new gold uniforms to open the new season, the Gaels handed the University of Toronto Varsity Blues their 34th consecutive loss, with a convincing 53-7 victory on Monday at Richardson Stadium.

Defensive line coach Pat Tracey said that, coming off a 10-day training camp and an exhibition game against the Concordia Stingers, the team was well prepared to meet Toronto’s offensive strategy.

“Our ability to apply pressure to [their] quarterback was key in creating six turnovers,” he said.

The Gaels approached their first regular season game differently than they did the game against Concordia two weeks ago. Playing at home, the Gaels lost to the Stingers by a score of 24-7.

Tracey said the Blues ran a much more balanced offence than the Stingers, who opted mainly for passing off the football.

He said the Gaels are working to hold their opponents’ offensive drives to under five plays.

Toronto’s Marc Gaudett was the main target of the Queen’s defensive line.

“He is a very talented player in this league and was the leading rusher last year for Toronto,” Tracey said.

He said the line also worked to limit their opponent’s run game. The Gaels were able to hold the Blues to 192 yards.

Scoring 28 points in the second quarter, the Gaels held a lead of 39-0 going into the half.

Quarterback Danny Brannagan, last year’s CIS Rookie of the Year and winner of Queen’s Athletics’ Alfie Pierce Trophy for outstanding male rookie, completed 15 of 26 passes, for a total of 276 yards. He threw three touchdowns but also threw three interceptions.

He also dove into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown of his own.

Tracey said the win was a credit to the team’s overall depth, with several backup players stepping up to fill in gaps left by injuries.

“We have several key players who are currently in backup roles that could start on any given Saturday,” he said.

Billy Burke filled in for Marty Gordon, who injured his knee during the game, and Taylor Morasutti replaced Matt Vickers, who injured his shoulder during the game.

Burke made his presence known by scoring twice for the Gaels. He also recorded a game-high 77 yards on 13 carries.

The list of Gaels scorers is rounded out by Brad Smith, Rob Bagg, and Mike Giffin who all had touchdown catches.

Experience is also one of the Gaels’ greatest assets, Tracey said. Although the season has just begun, older players are already thinking about their future prospects.

CFL scouts have been attending practices and games and representatives from Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto and Edmonton have already contacted players for this year’s college draft.

Over 7,000 students and alumni were present for the home opener and Tracey said the players were very appreciative of the support they got at Monday’s game. They will be on the road tomorrow to face the Guelph Gryphons.

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