Win keeps football playoff hopes alive

Gaels receiver Brad Smith heads downfield en route to 210 yards receiving.
Gaels receiver Brad Smith heads downfield en route to 210 yards receiving.
Lukasz Rygielski
RB Marty Gordon plants a stiff-arm on a Blues defender.
RB Marty Gordon plants a stiff-arm on a Blues defender.
Lukasz Rygielski

After seven weeks of OUA football, the Golden Gaels’ playoff fate comes down to a trip to the University of Western Ontario this weekend after a win last Saturday. The Gaels improved their record to 3-4 with a convincing 37-0 win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

The Gaels now need to shift their focus to a must-win game against the Western Mustangs to secure a place in the OUA playoffs. The Mustangs come into the game at 5-2 after their overtime loss last week to Ottawa.

The Gaels were in the same situation last year, needing to beat Western in their last game, but came up short and lost 49-24.

Fifth-year defensive tackle Craig Thompson had the game of his career Saturday, racking up 2.5 sacks in the game and nearly another as he ran Toronto quarterback Mark Stinson out of bounds. Thompson was instrumental in slowing down the U of T running attack led by Marc Gaudett. “I come out and play hard, like every game,” Thompson said. “I went hard on every play. My success was a result of the other 11 guys doing their jobs.”

Thompson also said that one of the keys to the victory was to treat Toronto—who have not won an OUA game in five years—like any other team.

“We prepare for U of T like they were the best team in the league,” he said.

The Gaels defence pitched their first shutout of the season Saturday and have now not given up a point to the Varsity Blues in more than three years. The coaching staff awarded the defence the game ball for their success against the Blues.

Ian Hazlett, an OUA all-star for the Gaels and the leading tackler in the OUA, said he was happy with Saturday’s performance.

“It was tough running out there—the field was soft,” he said. “Overall we shut down the primary running game. We executed our assignments.”

The great execution on defence was not coupled with great execution on offence, however. The offence struggled to put up points in the first half, leading only 11-0 going into the half.

However, in each of the three Queen’s wins this season, Danny Brannagan has thrown for more 250 yards. On Saturday, he threw for 392 yards and a touchdown and now sits second in the OUA in passing yards.

Running back Marty Gordon had another good performance, running for 156 yards and his first career touchdown.

“It was great to finally get into the end zone,” he said. “I came out fired up and was mentally prepared to play the game.” Brad Smith was one of two Gael receivers—along with Alex Vanags—to have more than 100 yards receiving and had the biggest play of the game: a 75-yard touchdown catch for his fifth touchdown of the year. Despite playing with an injured hamstring, Smith had 210 yards receiving. Smith said he was happy about the victory but is wary of the challenge coming this weekend versus the Mustangs.

“On the whole, we have to improve so much,” he said. “Execution is not up to par.” If the Gaels are to win this crucial game next week, balance will also be key, Smith said.

“We need a total team game,” he said. “The defence always plays well. The offence seems a little behind.”

Hazlett said another key to beating Western will be slowing down the three Mustangs running backs. DJ Bennett, Randy McAuley, and Jay Akindolire all have more than 400 yards on the ground this year.

“[They’re] having a hell of a season, their three running backs,” he said. “The main objective is to shut down the run.” Mustangs’ wide receiver Andy Fantuz—only three receptions away from breaking the all-time CIS record for career catches—could also be a threat.

If Queen’s does not win, they will need help from some combination of the results for Waterloo, York and Windsor, who are the other teams trying to slip into the playoffs.

The game will be played at Western at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and will be broadcast on CFRC radio, 101.9 FM.

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