A tale of two cities

Ascendant football Gaels beat Ottawa for the first time in six years

Gaels’ defensive back David Rooney knocks down a pass intended for Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli.
Gaels’ defensive back David Rooney knocks down a pass intended for Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli.
Supplied Photo by Jeff Chan
Queen’s linebacker Chris Smith tackles Ottawa’s Chayce Elliot Saturday as Stephen Laporte (45) comes to help.
Queen’s linebacker Chris Smith tackles Ottawa’s Chayce Elliot Saturday as Stephen Laporte (45) comes to help.
Supplied Photo By Jeff Chan
Gaels’ running back Mike Giffin hurdles defenders.
Gaels’ running back Mike Giffin hurdles defenders.
Supplied Photo By Jeff Chan

Saturday’s football game was a tale of two programs. The 6-0 Gaels were off to their best start in ages and ranked second in the country, while the 3-3 Ottawa Gee-Gees were a former powerhouse in sharp decline.

Queen’s helped Ottawa continue their slide from pre-season favourites to a team struggling to make the playoffs, beating the Gee-Gees 38-16. It was the first time Queen’s beat Ottawa since Sept. 7, 2002.

Fifth-year running back Marty Gordon said beating the Gee-Gees was important for the Gaels, considering the history involved.

“It was a big game,” he said. “I had never beat them, so it was an accomplishment I was happy to get.”

Gordon said this year’s Gaels squad is the best he’s played on.

“I think we have a stronger team,” he said. “We have really good cohesion; all the guys are friends outside the locker room and we all hang out. I think that’s been really good for us; we all trust each other.”

The Gaels were strong out of the gate, posting 21 points in the first quarter and keeping Ottawa off the scoreboard until they conceded a safety midway through the third quarter. Both of Ottawa’s touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, long after the game was decided.

Head coach Pat Sheahan said the Gaels still haven’t played to their full potential, though.

“I thought we had a pretty good outing against a solid team,” he said. “I think it was a good game for us. I don’t think it was a peak performance. We had a few opportunities missed that really could have demonstrated our dominance at this point in the season, and they just sort of slipped through our fingers. Anyway, the good news is we can get better and we’re working hard to do that.”

The Gaels also broke numerous Queen’s records. Quarterback Danny Brannagan completed 21 of 33 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns, passing two-time Hec Creighton winner Tommy Dennison as Queen’s all-time leader in passing yards. Brannagan now has 7,792 career yards against the 7,592 Dennison racked up from 2001-2003.

Running back Mike Giffin ran for 72 yards on 21 attempts, recording his second consecutive season with more than 1,000 rushing yards and passing Larry Mohr as Queen’s all-time rushing leader. Giffin now has 3,018 career yards to Mohr’s 3,015. He leads the CIS in two categories with 1,045 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns this season.

Kicker Dan Village also set the Queen’s record for most successful point-after attempts in a season, converting all five of his opportunities to increase his season conversion tally to 41.

Sheahan said he isn’t too concerned with individual records, although they do reflect well on the team.

“When things are going well, records are bound to be broken,” he said. “The fact that we’ve been able to coach kids up and see them perform to a level where they’re passing some of the greats of the past is very satisfying. It speaks to the level of skill that we have in the program, but to be honest with you, breaking records is something that we hardly ever talk about.”

The Gaels finish their regular-season campaign with a road trip to play the 2-5 Waterloo Warriors this Saturday. Sheahan said they can’t take Waterloo for granted, though.

“They do play with lots of heart and enthusiasm,” he said. “We want to go down there and play this game hard, we want to play it well, and we want to come out of it with as few injuries as possible.”

Sheahan said he’d like to see the team finish the regular season with an undefeated record.

“Our team has worked hard. They’re a proud bunch,” he said. “There are enough proud

individuals here on our team that want to leave their signature on the program, and I think this undefeated season would be a fitting tribute to their accomplishments. It’s important, it’s a mark we all want to get and the players are pretty excited about it.”

Village said the perfect record isn’t the top goal for the team, though.

“Getting the undefeated record would be nice, but I think it’s more important if we can show that we can minimize our mistakes while doing so and maximize our opportunities,” he said.

“The goal is to go out and execute every game and be consistent. I think so far we’ve done a pretty good job of that, but there’s always room for improvement.”

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