Comeback kids strike again

Gaels beat Marauders at Richardson

Mark Surya returns a kick Saturday in the Gaels’ 24-20 victory over McMaster.
Mark Surya returns a kick Saturday in the Gaels’ 24-20 victory over McMaster.
Gael lineman Neil Puffer makes a tackle in Saturday’s game.
Gael lineman Neil Puffer makes a tackle in Saturday’s game.

The Gaels’ football team came from behind to win for the third straight game on Saturday, beating the McMaster Marauders 24-20 at Richardson Stadium.

Kicker Dan Village said the late comeback was nerve-wracking for the team.

“The game was an emotional roller-coaster, that’s for sure,” he said. “It feels great, just knowing that we can be clutch sometimes, but it would be better if we could come out in the first half and put them away earlier.”

Head coach Pat Sheahan said the recent late comebacks have left him on edge.

“If we have many more of them, I don’t think I’m going to make it to 65,” he said.

Sheahan said the win illustrated his squad’s depth.

“At this point in the season, we’re still gathering momentum and still making plays. There’s different guys stepping up and making plays every week, so that speaks to the character and the depth of the team.”

Queen’s took the lead early on, earning nine points with a field goal and a 74-yard touchdown by Mike Giffin, but failing on a two-point conversion attempt.

McMaster then stormed back with two field goals and a touchdown pass, leaving the Gaels with a 13-9 deficit at halftime.

Quarterback Dan Brannagan said the Gaels used the half-time break to settle down.

“We all decided to take a deep breath. We knew that we weren’t in over our heads, and we came out and started making a few plays,” he said.

The third quarter was largely a defensive battle, with neither team able to score. Near the end of the quarter, wide receiver Mark Surya fumbled the ball on a punt return, giving the Marauders the ball on the Queen’s eight-yard line. McMaster capitalized with a touchdown pass thrown by quarterback and Kingston native Adam Archibald, and the Marauders were up 20-9 with less than 15 minutes to go.

Sheahan said the turnover made things especially tough for the Gaels.

“If you take that fumbled punt away, we would have had some open water, but we like to do things in a difficult fashion,” he said.

The Gaels then began their own comeback a few minutes into the fourth quarter, with Matt Vickers returning the kickoff to Queen’s 43-yard line. On the next play, running back Mike Giffin ran for a gain of 37 yards, putting the Gaels in scoring position. The drive ended with Giffin punching the ball into the end zone on a one-yard run. Village hit the convert, cutting the lead to four points.

Giffin praised the play of his blockers on his long run.

“The line blocked it off real well, and I just hit the hole and it was wide open.” The Gaels’ defence then shut down McMaster after the kickoff, forcing them to punt.

Queen’s took over possession, and Brannagan threw a 13-yard pass to Surya for his first pass reception of the day, giving Queen’s a vital first down.

On the next play, Giffin caught a pass from Brannagan at the one-yard line and bulled past two defenders into the corner of the end zone for his third touchdown of the game.

Village made the conversion, putting the Gaels up 23-20. He later added another point with a punt through the end zone, making the score 24-20.

Surya said he was excited to redeem himself with the crucial catch.

“It felt good: we needed a big catch. I dropped a punt earlier, fumbled the ball and tried to do something to make up for it. It’s just one of those things where I got a chance to make a reception, so I took the opportunity.”

Sheahan said he was impressed with Surya’s recovery.

“He made a big play on the next series. Winners are supposed to do that. You’re not supposed to dwell on mistakes, so around here when someone makes a mistake, we challenge them to make a play the very next time.”

The Gaels travel to Windsor Saturday to play the Lancers. The game, which begins at 7 p.m., will be televised live nationally on The Score.

The Lancers feature one of the best running backs in the CIS, Daryl Stephenson, who is only 167 yards away from breaking Jesse Lumsden’s OUA record for career rushing yards.

Sheahan said Windsor will give the Gaels a difficult challenge.

“We’re going to have a tough game. They’ve got a tremendous running back, so we’ll have to get fired up.”

Giffin said the team is excited for their upcoming game.

“We feel confident, we feel good. It’s our time. We’re finally going to start getting some credit around here, from the league at least. The Gaels are for real this year.”

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