Losing streak ends with win at York

Gaels keep playoff hopes alive with dramatic overtime win in Toronto

Queen’s defenders take down Lions wide receiver Steven Hughes during their game at York last Saturday.
Queen’s defenders take down Lions wide receiver Steven Hughes during their game at York last Saturday.
Tom Barnett/The Excalibur

The football team ended its four-game losing streak with a 16-14 overtime win against the York Lions in Toronto last Saturday.

With the team’s playoff hopes on the line going into the match-up, defensive co-ordinator Pat Tracey said consistency and simplicity were key components of the Gaels’ game plan.

“The strategy had not changed,” he said. “We prepare each week like it’s a playoff game. [In this case] you just need to scale back a little.”

For example, he said, the defensive line usually enters a game with nine or 10 different plays prepared. For the game against York, the defence went in with six.

He said minimizing the volume of information players need to process and increasing repetition of the information allows the team to focus more closely on specific goals.

Wide receiver Brad Smith agreed that the team’s strategy is an effective one and said execution has been their only major problem throughout the season.

“There’s nothing wrong with the strategy; we just weren’t clicking like we were last year.”

He said each player is responsible for making sure they aren’t trying to do more than is their job.

In the first quarter Smith dropped a ball in the end zone after out-running his man. It was the first fumble in his 83-game career.

Later in the game, his 65-yard reception ended with a fumble on the York one-yard line.

On a reverse less than six minutes into the fourth quarter, Smith made first-down yardage only to fumble deep in his own end.

York scored their first touchdown on the following play.

Smith said it’s tough to refocus and avoid putting undue pressure on himself after mistakes.

“There’s always some anxiety when you’re against a team you feel like you should be beating and you aren’t.” The win against York has given the squad a much needed confidence boost, Smith said.

“When you have a few of your top stats-getters making huge mistakes, giving up three or four turnovers but you still win and comeback and it’s not just a couple of players, then it’s the whole team atmosphere, everyone together who won.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game against the Mustangs, both Tracey and Smith said the Western will pose a new challenge for the Gaels.

The Gaels play the Western Mustangs tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Richardson Stadium. The team needs to beat them to secure a playoff spot.

If they don’t win, Queen’s will still get a spot if either Waterloo or McMaster lose their next games.

Last Saturday, in the game against York, Queen’s kicker Ryan Elger opened the scoring with a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter. York answered with a field goal of their own late in the second to tie the game at 3-3 at halftime.

Another Elger field goal gave the Gaels the lead for a second time but a Queen’s fumble handed possession over to York and the Lions scored the first major of the game on a 21-yard run by Pearce Akpapta.

Queen’s wasn’t far behind, though, and five minutes later quarterback Danny Brannagan connected with Rob Bagg for a 43-yard touchdown, taking the lead for the third time at 13-10.

But York added a 36-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game.

A York single and another Elger field goal in overtime gave the Gaels the win.

Defensive co-ordinator Tracey said the level of experience of Queen’s top players had a lot to do with their ability to maintain focus and perform under pressure.

“Theses are all senior players who really stepped up and had extremely good games,” he said.

“York has a lot of really talented athletes … but Western plays a much more sound defensive system.” Smith said, adding that Western’s experienced players have a much better feel for their game than the younger Lions.

Tracey said the Mustangs play very smart, tactical football.

“If they need five yards they will run five yards. They won’t throw a 50-yard pass.”

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