Gaels looking to reset ahead of bye week

Disappointing loss puts playoffs in jeopardy

Image by: Jeff Chan
Kurtis Schaefer hauls down a Hawk.

The Gaels travelled to Waterloo to challenge the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks on a dreary Saturday afternoon.

Coming off a win the week before against the nationally-ranked Toronto Varsity Blues, the upstart Gaels were looking to spoil Laurier’s homecoming party.

Unfortunately for Queen’s, their play matched the weather—a dull performance on either side of the ball resulted in a 52-16 rout by the Golden Hawks. 

The Gaels defence held strong initially, forcing a punt. Defensive back Nolan Bedard returned the Laurier punt for 42 yards to the Hawks’ 12-yard line to set up the Gaels with great field position.

In his second consecutive start, Ryan Licandro threw three straight incompletions on the drive and the Gaels were forced to try for a field goal. 

Kicker Ben Hadley lined up to attempt a 14-yard chip shot, but the Hawks brought all 12 defenders on a block attempt. The snap was quick, Zach Kealey pinned the ball cleanly, and Hadley struck the ball well, with a solid thud, followed by a second thud.

A second thud is the sound you never want to hear as a kicker. The Golden Hawks had succeeded in blocking the field goal, and Ayo Ajayi returned the ball to the Laurier 31-yard line. 

On the Golden Hawks’ next drive, things went from bad to worse for the Gaels. Laurier running back Levondre Gordon rushed for nine yards, then for 10 yards, and then Hawks quarterback Connor Carusello connected with receiver Romy Simpson for a 60-yard touchdown to put the Hawks up early in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Laurier kicker Nathan Mesher sent a booming kick out of the back of the end zone for the rouge. The Gaels had a good defensive stop after that, forcing a safety.

Following the safety, the Gaels’ offence would once again flicker before flaming out, with Ben Hadley missing a 35-yard field goal after a promising 47-yard drive. It still counted as a rouge, and so the first quarter ended with a Laurier lead of 8-3.

The next quarter was dominated by the Golden Hawks, who hung up a demoralizing 24 points on the Gaels in the second stanza alone. It started when Levondre Gordon broke free and gashed the Gaels with a 52-yard touchdown run.

Then, on the Gaels’ third offensive drive of the quarter, Licandro fired a bullet pass intended for Richard Burton. The pass went off of Burton’s fingertips and into the hands of Laurier defensive back Will Amoah, who returned the interception 37 yards for the touchdown.

The Hawks would add another rushing touchdown and a field goal before the quarter was through. 

With two minutes left in the second quarter, some light finally started to shine on the Gaels. Veteran wide receiver Ben Arhen received a Laurier kickoff and weaved his way through a flurry of purple jerseys on his way to the end zone for a 100-yard touchdown return. Arhen earned OUA Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.

The first half would end 32-10 in favour of Laurier. 

Queen’s couldn’t match Laurier in the second half. Laurier added another 20 points, while the Gaels scored just six points on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Burton. Laurier blocked the extra point attempt. 

It wasn’t all negative for the Gaels—they still managed to move the ball down the field with eight passing first downs, and individual players were still making great plays.

The Gaels are heading into a bye week before their final two games, both to be played at Richardson Stadium.

With a tough matchup on Oct. 10 against the nationally-ranked fourth Guelph Gryphons, it’s a timely extra week of rest and preparation for the Golden Gaels.

The Gaels have their work cut out for them heading into their upcoming matchup against the Gryphons, who they beat 33-32 last season. 

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