Gaels fall short in the capital

Football almost upsets Ottawa in 13-12 thriller

Mike Giffin, the OUA’s leading rusher, gets ready to plow through the Ottawa defence in the Gaels’ 13-12 loss Saturday.
Mike Giffin, the OUA’s leading rusher, gets ready to plow through the Ottawa defence in the Gaels’ 13-12 loss Saturday.
Supplied By George Ngo/Ottawa Fulcrum

The Gaels’ football team got a taste of their own medicine last Saturday as the Ottawa Gee-Gees took a page from Queen’s playbook and came from behind with just over two minutes left to record a 13-12 win.

Gaels’ head coach Pat Sheahan said it was tough for the team to lose such a close game.

“It was a heartbreaker,” he said. “There was no question that it was there for the taking.”

Queen’s led 12-7 midway through the fourth quarter and could have extended the lead out of Ottawa’s reach. A 14-yard pass to wide receiver Scott Stinson left the Gaels on third down with less than a yard to go on Ottawa’s 30-yard line, inside field goal range.

The Gaels went for the first down and quarterback Danny Brannagan fumbled the snap. Although he recovered, Queen’s turned the ball over to Ottawa on downs.

Sheahan said Queen’s was already in range for a field goal before Brannagan’s fumble, but they chose to run the ball to give Ottawa less time to try to score again.

“It would have been a 37-yard field goal, and it was with the wind,” he said. “I wasn’t afraid to kick the field goal, but I wanted to gobble up more time off the clock, and I felt, with less than a yard, let’s get the first down.”

Sheahan said he thought the team should have been awarded the first down on the pass to Stinson, which might have eliminated the critical fumble.

“On Stinson’s catch I thought he had a first down,” he said. “That would have been such a huge play in the game, because I’m afraid it was a domino effect after that.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Ottawa quarterback Josh Sacobie—Canada’s leader in passing yards and a front-runner for the Hec Creighton Trophy, which is given annually to the most valuable player in the CIS—threw a long pass to wide receiver Cyril Adjeity, who broke a tackle from Gaels’ defensive back Addison Rich and sprinted to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown to put the Gee-Gees ahead 13-12.

Despite the late touchdown, the Gaels still had hope. Ottawa missed a two-point conversion attempt, which meant Queen’s could win with a field goal. Gaels’ running back Mike Giffin, the OUA leader in both touchdowns and rushing yards, led the Gaels deep into Ottawa territory with a kickoff return and two running plays, but he fumbled on the next play and the Gee-Gees recovered.

The Gaels had one last chance to tie the game on the last play when wide receiver Scott Valberg punted the ball downfield, but they were unable to recover the ball and get into the end zone.

The Gaels move to 4-2 with the loss. The Gee-Gees are 6-0.

Sheahan said the team needs to improve its performance at crucial points in the game.

“Our team played hard, they played tough against a really good football team here, but there’s still one last measure,” he said. “That’s the level of competitive excellence that you need when the game’s on the line to go out there and

make plays.”

Giffin said the Gaels played well, but the loss came down to a few errors.

“We played a good game; we played a good team,” he said. “[There were] a couple crucial plays in the game. My fumble there at the end, I never really got good control of it, but I should have.”

Giffin ran for 163 yards and was named the Queen’s player of the game. He said the award was no consolation for the critical fumble.

“I just care if we win at this point in the year,” he said.

The Gaels’ points came from a one-yard touchdown run by Giffin, a conversion and a field goal by kicker Dan Village, and a safety conceded by Ottawa.

For the game’s first three quarters, the Gaels held Sacobie and the Gee-Gees to only four points.

“He’s good, but we thought we had a good scheme for him,” said defensive back Jimmy Allin, who had an outstanding game with five solo tackles, three blocked passes and an interception.

“We did a good job for most of the game, but he got us on a couple plays … A few bad plays made the difference for them.”

Gaels’ linebacker D.J. Mulholland said the team gained little satisfaction from coming close against a highly-ranked team.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of staying with them,” he said. “That was our game to win or lose, and we handed it away. They didn’t even really click … They throw one pass for a bomb, and it ended up being a touchdown. There’s nothing we can do to defend that, it’s an individual play, and they didn’t really get anything together—they just got lucky.” Defensive lineman Osie Ukwuoma said errors were the difference between the teams. “We played them hard for 49/50ths of the game,” he said. “There were mistakes here and there, and we kept them in the game for too long. Good teams will take advantage of that, so we’ve just got to cut down on our mistakes.”

The team faces the Waterloo Warriors in this weekend’s Homecoming game. The Warriors started the season with three straight wins but have lost their last three games. They defeated the Gaels 14-13 last year.

Brannagan said the Gaels can’t take Waterloo lightly.

“You can’t underestimate any team,” he said. “We lost last year on the last play of the game. That’s still fresh in everyone’s minds. It’s keeping us hungry.”

Linebacker Mike Walker said the team is eager to avenge last year’s defeat.

“It was a heartbreaker last year, so it would be nice to come out and take it to them this year and get a little payback,” he said.

Walker said the Homecoming atmosphere puts more pressure on the Gaels.

“Everyone would really like to win, especially in front of 10,000 people,” he said. “It puts a little pressure on the guys, but we try and treat it like every other game.”

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