While the seats in Richardson Stadium are brand new, Queen’s dominant play in front of the 8,000 tri-coloured spectators at Saturday’s game ensured they weren’t put to much use.
The 55-5 Homecoming blowout against the Windsor Lancers put the Gaels in the OUA’s final playoff spot with just one week left in the regular season.
With the Homecoming excitement and an emotional tribute honouring former head coach Doug Hargreaves who passed away earlier this summer, the Gaels came out energized, earning their first touchdown within six minutes of the opening kick-off.
The touchdown came at the hands of running-back Jonah Pataki, rushing 67 yards on the Gaels’ opening drive, ending it with the 12 yard score. Much to the delight of the decked-out crowd, Pataki would earn his second touchdown of the game at the end of the first quarter, following an interception and return from defensive-back Wesley Mann.
“Even though you’re running and running and running, you don’t really feel tired when you’re moving the ball,” Pataki said after the game.
Fifteen minutes in, the Gaels were holding a 19-0 lead.
As the second quarter picked up, Gaels’ Nate Hobbs and Peter Hannon connected for a touchdown from 15 yards out. However, the Gaels’ clear-cut lead was compromised by a fumble on a punt return mid-way through the quarter, leaving the Lancers to push back with their first points of the game on a 37-yard field goal.
Nate Hobbs (#5) winds up for a throw. The quarterback threw for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Photo by Stephanie Nijhuis
However, the Gaels defense held off most of the Lancers’ attempts through the rest of the afternoon, holding one of the OUA’s top running-backs Terrence Crawford to a mere 58 yards on the day.
Right before half-time, Pataki came back with his third touchdown of the day, giving his team a hefty 33-3. Pataki ended the day with 139 of his team’s 342 total rushing yards — compared to 78 rushing yard total.
Heading into halftime with a 33-3 lead, Sheahan stressed proper game management over the final 30 minutes to secure the win.
“I challenged them to keep the foot on the accelerator,” he said, “When you reduce your effort level in a contact sport like football, you have injuries. They get hit or somebody else gets hurt. This wasn’t personal, it was about the Queen’s Golden Gaels football team and getting ready for the weeks moving forward.”
With this week’s win, Queen’s moves into sole possession of the sixth and final playoff spot in the OUA with a 3-4 record. With just one week remaining in the season, Sheahan repeated his message from earlier in the week that this was a must-win contest, and hopes to ride the momentum into next week’s matchup against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. “I thought the kids gained some great confidence today,” Sheahan said. “Every win or loss at this point has consequences for everybody.”
Sheahan didn’t shy away from being confident after the Queen’s victory. “Whatever momentum you get by being at home, we had it,” he said.
Standing out individually in Queen’s defensive efforts was third-year defensive-back Wesley Mann, who had a pair of interceptions, including a 60-yard touchdown return halfway through the third quarter.
“He scrambled and threw up a prayer and I was just lucky to be on the other end of it,” Mann said of his second interception leading directly to a score.
Queen’s was without a pair of their key performers for the majority of the game. Kicker Nick Liberatore sustained a foot injury in practice and did not participate, while the team’s leading receiver, Chris Osei-Kusi, injured his leg in the game’s first quarter and sat out for the rest of the contest.
Sheahan was confident however that both players would be available next week.
The Gaels face Ottawa next Saturday at home, and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. While Ottawa has already secured a spot in the postseason, there’s still seeding implications on the line and no one on the Queen’s sideline is expecting an easy game.
However, Queen’s is hoping that the momentum from the Homecoming win will signal good things in the future.
“Hopefully it kickstarts a run of consecutive wins for us,” quarterback Nate Hobbs said.
The victory was the team’s highest offensive point total in two years, dating back to a 57-10 victory over York on Homecoming 2014.
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