Gaels prepare to meet Gee-Gees in OUA semifinal

Football makes first semifinal appearance since the Tommy Denison era of 2003

A Queen’s defender makes a tackle in last weekend’s game.
A Queen’s defender makes a tackle in last weekend’s game.

For the first time since 2003, the Queen’s Golden Gaels football team will compete in the Ontario
University Athletics semifinals tomorrow in Ottawa.

The Gee-Gees finished the regular season with a 7-1 record, good enough for first in Ontario and third in the country. Queen’s and Ottawa met only once during the regular season, playing at Richardson Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend.

Ottawa came out on top, beating Queen’s 34-13. The good news for the Gaels is that the Gee-Gees’ only loss came at the hands of the McMaster Marauders, whom the Gaels defeated last Saturday.
Despite winning the final two games of the regular season to secure a respectable 4-4 record the Gaels feel they’ve only fulfilled half of their potential.

“We’re still only playing at about 50 per cent,” receiver Brad Smith said after the Gaels beat Western
on Oct. 21. Offensive co-ordinator Warren Goldie said the same thing after the team’s win in Hamilton
last Saturday.

“We left a lot of points on the board, definitely.” Given the lacklustre performance of the Queen’s offence during the middle four games of the season, Smith and running back Mike Giffin have both credited the defence with getting the Gaels back on track.

After last Saturday’s game, Gaels’ head coach Pat Sheahan said that consistency, especially on the offensive side of the ball, has been one of the team’s biggest problems. “Our offence is a bit unpredictable,” he said. “You never know when we’re going to come up with some big plays.”

But he said the team will only get better as the post-season continues. “The more these kids get a chance to play the better they will do.” The Gaels will be looking to try to shake things up in Ottawa with some new plays but, for the most part, will stick with the game plan that has led them this far.
During the last few games of the regular season the Gaels began moving the ball on the ground more than in the air, taking advantage of the size of their running backs. The team also changed their offensive formation to give the quarterback better protection and more time in the pocket.

The Gee-Gees, coached by Denis Piche, have competed in five Vanier Cup finals since 1967 and have won the title twice, once in 1975 and again in 2000. In 2002, Queen’s lost the Yates Cup (OUA final) to McMaster, and, in 2003, Queen’s was eliminated in the final seconds of their semifinal game at Richardson by the Laurier Golden Hawks.

In 2005, Queen’s starting quarterback Danny Brannagan finished second in Ontario and fourth in Canada with 1,860 yards. This year he threw 1,744 yards during eight regular season games, good for third in the OUA and ninth in the CIS. Queen’s finished ninth in the OUA in 2004 and seventh in 2005,
just missing out on a playoff spot after losing the final game of the season to the Western Mustangs.

This year, the Gaels 4-4 record is a one-win improvement over last year.

Smith is optimistic about tomorrow’s game but said the team will have to play to the best of its ability to win. “Hopefully we can stand on our defence again and hope our offence does what it can do.”

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