Football starts in high gear

Gaels defeat Western to open season

Queen’s restored their age-old rivalry with McGill in an August 26 game at Richardson Stadium.
Queen’s restored their age-old rivalry with McGill in an August 26 game at Richardson Stadium.

The Queen’s Golden Gaels kicked off the new season with a bang Monday, defeating the Western Mustangs 26-20 in the Labour Day season opener.

Fullback Mike Giffin had a career-best 156 yards on 24 carries for the Gaels. Giffin also scored two touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime.

Head coach Pat Sheahan said he was impressed with Giffin’s play. “Mike Giffin was one of the bright spots, certainly in the first half,” he said. “Overall, I would say that Mike Giffin had a great day.”

The game started auspiciously for Western, who held the Queen’s offence scoreless through the first quarter while scoring a field goal of their own. In the second quarter, Western running back Randy McAuley rumbled six yards for a touchdown, part of his game-high 214 yards. Western added two field goals and Queen’s hit one, leaving the Mustangs with a 13-3 lead at the half.

In the second half, Dan Village hit a field goal for Queen’s, but McAuley added another touchdown for Western, making the score 20-6. Touchdowns by Scott Stinson and Marty Gordon tied the game for Queen’s and forced overtime.

Overtime rules mean that each team has a chance to score, starting from the opposition’s 35-yard line. Western went first, but Schiavone’s field goal attempt was blocked.

Queen’s then took possession on the Western 35-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Giffin ran for 12 yards and a first down. On the next play, he carried the ball again, and ran 23 yards for both the game-winning touchdown and his longest run of the night.

Sheahan said the comeback was highly emotional.

“To come from behind in overtime, it was an outpouring of cliché. I thought the team never quit, they battled back, they got down, refused to submit, came back, and just did enough to win, I would say.” Sheahan attributed the victory to his defence, special teams, and offensive line. Queen’s linebacker Thaine Carter was the OUA nominee for the CIS player of the week, based on his performance against Western.

The win came on the heels of a 39-20 thrashing of the McGill Redmen in an August 26 preseason game at Richardson Stadium. Defence prevailed early on for both squads, but Queen’s scored 31 points in the second quarter, and the Redmen never really looked like they were in the game.

Rookie quarterback Janson Shrubb had a strong game, including touchdown passes to Rob Bagg and Chris Ioannides. Running backs Giffin and Izzy Malik consistently racked up big yardage, while Brannagan threw a 102-yard touchdown strike to Devin Sheahan and linebacker Nick Sirski returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown.

Coach Sheahan said the win over McGill was an important warm-up for the team. “I think that the McGill exhibition game accelerated every aspect of our preparation,” he said, adding that it particularly helped their special teams, such as the kick returning, punting, and field goal teams.

“That’s an area where we looked like we were way ahead of Western, and that’s not typically the case. Typically, Western is a well-coached and well-performing special teams program, but we were way ahead of them this week. Special teams was clearly a difference.” The team’s next game is Sunday, when they will host Guelph at Richardson Stadium. Sheahan said the key to victory will be to shut down Guelph’s quarterback, Justin Dunk.

“The Guelph quarterback is a tremendous athlete. Obviously, what we’re going to have to do defensively is limit his productivity. A guy like that can give you fits, so we have to keep him in check,” he said.

Sheahan said that keeping the team’s spirits high will be key.

“The team finished the [Western] game with a victory, and it was a tremendous high. For every high, there’s always a fall back. We have to hope that there’s no letdown.”

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