It’s go time

Football, rugby to host OUA

This weekend, Queen’s campus is set to come alive with OUA playoff fever.

For the first time since 2003, both the men’s football and rugby teams will host provincial quarter-finals this weekend.

The top-seeded rugby team hosts the Trent Excalibur, whom they defeated 78-0 in the first week of the season, while third-place football plays sixth-seeded University of Western Ontario Mustangs, a team they beat 26-20 in overtime in week one.

Western beat Waterloo last weekend to secure the OUA’s final playoff berth.

Gaels’ head coach Pat Sheahan said his team is ready for tomorrow’s game.

“We feel that we’re very competitive and we have a chance,” he said. “There’s no question that if we show up and play our game then we have a chance.”

Western didn’t have to play second-seeded Wilfred Laurier University, giving them an easier regular season and a better shot at a playoff spot, Sheahan said.

“Had they had to play Laurier this year they might not be a playoff team.”

The Mustangs’ main threat is running back Randy McAuley, who, like his Gaels’ counterpart Mike Giffin, ran for more than 1,000 yards this season.

Sheahan said neutralizing McAuley will be the team’s main challenge.

“A challenge for our defence is going to be to slow him down,” he said. “We cannot have him come in here and run roughshod all over us and expect to be successful.”

The weather forecast calls for rain on Saturday, which Sheahan said shouldn’t matter.

“If you’ve got guys on your team that can only function when it’s nice and warm and they’re on a nice artificial surface … I’m afraid you’re playing football in the wrong country,” he said. “I guarantee you that you’re going to have to win at least one game in the mud, or on the ice or in the snow to get to where you want to go.”

Gaels’ offensive lineman Mitchell Carkner said the team should thrive in rainy weather.

“We have the big [running] back,” he said. “If we had the small speedy guy that’s what I’d be worried about, but we’ve got a 240-pounder who can run guys over rain or shine.”

Carkner is one of several fifth-year players whose careers would be over should the Gaels lose. He said he hasn’t even thought about it.

“I don’t want to think like that because that’s not the right mindset to be in within the game.”

While the football team attempts to stall the Mustangs, the rugby team will be at Kingston field playing a quarter-final of their own.

Coach Peter Huigenbos said the team’s mindset has changed since last week.

“Guys have been focused coming to practice and there just seems to be an extra skip in everybody’s step,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see a danger of complacency in his team.

“The leaders … have been stressing all week that we need to go out there and play the best rugby game we can,” he said. “There’s no looking ahead.”

Fullback Colin Alexander said the team feels very confident.

“It’s a relaxed confidence,” he said. “We can play well as long as we come out strong, which should produce a good score on Saturday.”

Alexander said having a home playoff game encourages the team to play better.

“It makes a huge difference, especially times when the game might be swinging in their favour,” he said. “You want to play well for your team and the fans who came out to support you.”

In the event of a Queen’s victory, the Gaels will host a semifinal game the following weekend for the first time since 2001.

Both teams are hoping for large crowd turnouts.

Sheahan said the crowd can play a huge role in the playoffs.

“I hope that Queen’s students and alumni and the Kingston community are going to show up and be the 13th man, because in the playoffs having enthusiasm and support behind you can keep the adrenaline moving.”

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