Gaels taste revenge

Football defeats Laurier for the first time in five years

Queen’s running back Mike Giffin hurdles Laurier free safety Courtney Stephen Saturday as teammate Scott Stinson (83) looks on. The Gaels beat Laurier for the first time in five years.
Queen’s running back Mike Giffin hurdles Laurier free safety Courtney Stephen Saturday as teammate Scott Stinson (83) looks on. The Gaels beat Laurier for the first time in five years.

On Saturday, the football team tasted revenge courtesy of the Laurier Golden Hawks, a team they hadn’t beaten in five years. The match was a clash of top-10 titans, with Queen’s ranked fifth in Canada going into the game and Laurier ranked tenth. With their 41-7 victory, the Gaels improved to 3-0 on the season, while the Hawks fell to 1-2.

Queen’s held Laurier to just six first downs, 41 rushing yards and 121 net passing yards, while recording 29 first downs, 205 rushing yards and 438 net passing yards of their own. The defence sacked Laurier quarterbacks Ian Noble and Luke Thompson nine times.

Fourth-year defensive tackle Dee Sterling set a Queen’s record with five solo sacks and one assisted sack, and was named player of the game and the OUA male athlete of the week. He also added six solo tackles, four assisted tackles and six tackles for a loss, which combined for a loss of 37 yards. His five sacks Saturday were his first of the season, but they catapulted him into first place in sacks among CIS players.

Sterling said the Gaels were out to redeem themselves after being held off by Laurier for so long.

“We were hungry, man,” he said. “After five years of losing to Laurier, the defence worked their butts off this week.”

Sterling said the inexperience of Laurier’s interior offensive line allowed him to put up so many sacks.

“Their interior guys were rookies, not a whole lot of experience, so I just took advantage of it,” he said.

Hawks’ Head coach Gary Jeffries said his offensive line’s failure was the team’s Achilles heel.

“Our kids up front just got flat-out beaten,” he said. “We didn’t protect the quarterback and we couldn’t run the football, so you’re not going to beat good teams with that kind of offense we had today. … We had no offense whatsoever.”

Jeffries said losing by so much is a rare experience for Laurier.

“That doesn’t happen to us,” he said. “We’re in new territory right now and we’ve got to find a way to dig out. … We’re going to see the kind of character we’re made of.”

The Gaels started slowly and only put up four points on offence in the first quarter off a field goal and a single. Their defence forced Laurier to concede two safeties, though, and after another field goal, a 48-yard run from quarterback Dan Brannagan set up running back Mike Giffin for a two-yard touchdown run less than two minutes before the half. Giffin gained 115 net rushing yards on 25 carries Saturday, increasing his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to 13. He leads all CIS players with 472 rushing yards this season.

Laurier scored a touchdown of their own before the break, but after the half, it was all Queen’s. The Gaels added three more touchdowns off passes to receivers Scott Valberg and Scott Stinson, and their defence forced the Hawks into another safety, making the final score 41-7.

Valberg had a career-high 193 receiving yards on six catches, two of them for touchdowns. He now has 405 receiving yards on the season, second among CIS players and 12 yards behind Ottawa’s Ivan Birungi.

Brannagan completed 22 of 38 passes for 438 yards, just two below his career-high mark of 440, set last year against the University of Toronto. He leads all CIS quarterbacks with 1,163 passing yards, 210 more than Ottawa quarterback Josh Sacobie. Brannagan likely would have broken his yards record against Laurier, but was pulled out of the game and rested with five minutes to go.

Brannagan also threw three touchdown passes, but he was picked off four times and sacked twice more. He said he was more concerned with the win than his individual stats, though.

“Records are a great thing, but wins are bigger,” he said. “You want to play your best, but if I go out there and throw nine picks and we win the game, I’m not too upset. Obviously, personally, I want to get better and I want to play my best game every game but as long as I’m doing what I can and helping the team get a victory and I’m not hurting the cause with a loss, then I’m fine with it.”

Next week, the Gaels will go on the road to face the 2-1 University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who beat York 58-7 Saturday, only their second win after a 49-game losing streak. Valberg said Queen’s can’t take the Blues lightly.

“Obviously, they’re playing well and they’re on a high,” he said. “We’ve just got to do everything properly, and I’m sure that the coaches will have us prepared.”

Head coach Pat Sheahan said the team still has plenty of room to improve.

“They got a victory today, everyone’s happy about that, but everyone understands that there’s more work to do.”

Sheahan said he’ll make sure the team won’t be overconfident going into the Toronto game .

“The only history that matters is what they did last week.”

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