Football out-battles the Warriors

Queen’s narrowly misses a punt block attempt en route to a 26-18 win over Waterloo.
Queen’s narrowly misses a punt block attempt en route to a 26-18 win over Waterloo.
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Photo courtesy of Jeff chan / pbase.com/goldengaelsphotos

Gaels football got their long-awaited second win of the season Saturday against the Waterloo Warriors and kept their playoff aspirations alive.

The team managed a gritty 26-18 win in Waterloo and improved on several of the problems that have been handicapping the team thus far.

The game got off to a slow start, as both teams played somewhat sloppy football and committed numerous penalties. Queen’s is second only to York in penalties committed this year in the OUA.

Things picked up offensively in the final minute of the half, with Queen’s leading 6-3 on a pair of Ryan Elger field goals. Queen’s fumbled the ball and on the ensuing possession the Warriors capitalized when quarterback John Morbey hit receiver Sean Cowie for a 27-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-6 Warriors. The major came with only 55 seconds left in the first half.

Queen’s has been plagued by late scoring drives by the opposition before halftime. In three consecutive games they have been scored on in the last minute of the half, and entered the break deflated and lacking momentum.

Queen’s responded right away to the Cowie touchdown, however. Rookie quarterback Danny Brannagan—who, in a rare occurrence, played the whole game—drove the Gaels down the field and found receiver Scott Valberg for an 18-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining, giving Queen’s a 13-10 halftime lead.

The momentum from this drive carried through to the third quarter, as Queen’s scored 10 points in that frame to stretch their lead. After Ryan Elger kicked his third field goal of the game, Brannagan and Valberg hooked up again—this time for a stunning 95-yard touchdown, the longest by the Gaels this season.

Elger kicked his fourth field goal of the afternoon in the fourth quarter to bring the score to 26-11, before Waterloo’s Darren Shock caught a late four-yard touchdown to narrow the gap. That was as close as Waterloo would come, and Queen’s improved to 2-4 on the season.

Brannagan’s resurgence was instrumental in the Gaels’ success. He played his best game since defeating York in week two, completing 13 of 21 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

The Gaels ground game was also strong, providing a balanced offence. Marty Gordon and Mike Giffin shared the load, rumbling for a combined total of 145 yards on 25 carries—82 by Gordon, and 63 by Giffin. Giffin added 42 yards receiving.

The Queen’s defenders stood out, as the rushing total of Gordon and Giffin fell 26 yards short of the Warriors’ total offence. Leading the way for the Gaels defensive corps was star linebacker Ian Hazlett, who registered 7.5 tackles and added a sack and an interception. He now leads the OUA in tackles and is third in the country.

Queen’s now prepares for a crucial game against the U of T Varsity Blues on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Richardson Stadium. The Blues have not won a game in more than four years, but they have come close this season.

A win would boost the Gaels’ record to 3-4 on the season. With the winless Blues and a Waterloo team that will likely win only two games, the Gaels may return to postseason play after missing the playoffs last year.

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