Football bows out

All year long there has been something problematic about the third quarter that the Golden Gaels football team has not been able to solve. In five games this season, the Gaels were within seven points of their opponent going into the third quarter and only came away with the win in one of those games.

Their woes peaked Saturday against the Western Mustangs, when a third-quarter collapse turned a 20-19 halftime lead into a 50-29 Mustangs victory. The loss by the Gaels, coupled with a win the previous week by the Guelph Gryphons, means the Queen’s football team will be sitting out the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Last weekend’s game, a must-win, was one of the most heart-wrenching of the Gaels’ five losses this year.

After turning the ball over four times in the first half, the Gaels still led the game by a point at halftime on the strength of outstanding defensive play.

The Mustangs started their first two drives from within the Queen’s 35-yard line, and both times they were left only with Derek Schiavone field goals. The defence only allowed one major score in the first half, and it seemed as though the defence had finally gelled after a year of hard work.

The offence in the first half was carried by Brad Smith, who looked the way he did in his first year when he was an All-Canadian at the wide receiver position. Smith had two touchdown catches in the first half and recorded his fourth 100-yard-plus receiving day this season. However, the strong offensive performance in the first half did not carry into the second, where the Mustangs scored three times on the ground and added a major score in the air to receiver Andy Fantuz.

All in all it was an outstanding day for Fantuz, who was the inspiration for the bobble head dolls that event staff handed out to the first 1,000 fans. With his third catch of the game against Queen’s, Fantuz broke the all-time receptions mark in the CIS and has put his name on the top of yet another record list. Fantuz is also the all-time leader in career receiving touchdowns and receiving yards.

The end of the football season gives the returning players the chance to refocus and refuel, but it also means the end of some fine careers. Mike Patone, Ryan Bechmanis and Craig Thompson all had outstanding fifth years in the Tricolour.

Bechmanis finished second on the team in interceptions and third in tackles. Patone, last year’s defensive player of the year, had a great year as a captain and playmaker. He scored a touchdown against Ottawa and added 54.5 tackles, good enough for ninth in the CIS. Thompson had the game of his career in his last home game, a victory over Toronto where he had two and a half sacks.

The selection of OUA All-Stars as well as individual awards is coming up, and some Golden Gaels have put themselves in a position to bring home some hardware. Linebacker Ian Hazlett finished the season second in the nation in tackles, first-year quarterback Danny Brannagan was third in the OUA in passing yards and defensive back Mike Botting led the OUA in pass breakups.

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