Football looks to heal old wounds

The Gaels prepare to take on the team that twice crushed their playoff dreams

The Gaels had some soul-searching to do after dropping a 23-13 decision to the Gee-Gees in last year’s Nov. 1 semifinal at Richardson Stadium.
The Gaels had some soul-searching to do after dropping a 23-13 decision to the Gee-Gees in last year’s Nov. 1 semifinal at Richardson Stadium.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
Running back Jimmy Therrien will be looking to lead the Gaels to victory this time around in Ottawa after the Gee-Gees put an end to Queen’s perfect season last year.
Running back Jimmy Therrien will be looking to lead the Gaels to victory this time around in Ottawa after the Gee-Gees put an end to Queen’s perfect season last year.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

When the football team travels north to Frank Clair Stadium to visit the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday, the scars of the past few years will travel with them.

It was the Gee-Gees who knocked the Gaels of 2006 out of the playoffs, and the Gee-Gees again who put an end to last year’s undefeated season with a win at Richardson Stadium eliminating a Gaels team ranked second-best in the country.

Head coach Pat Sheahan said those losses should give his team some extra motivation against the team that always seems to have their number.

“We’ve only beaten Ottawa twice in the last decade,” he said. “They beat us in 2001 and then last year will be very fresh in everybody’s mind, so the challenge for the guys is to get fired up and to line up against a team that beat you out last year.”

Ottawa’s offence so far this season has been balanced and deadly. Their first-year running back Jordan Wilson-Ross, who has competed on Canada’s U-17, U-18 and U-19 rugby teams, amassed 232 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Waterloo last weekend. Third-year quarterback Bradley Sinopoli has racked up 560 passing yards in two games.

Sheahan said the Gaels shouldn’t be too strained in maintaining control on the Gee-Gees.

“We’ve had pretty good success stopping the run in the first two weeks,” Sheahan said. “This’ll probably be our toughest running back yet but we’ve done a pretty good job of shutting down the run. We have a veteran secondary [to deal with the pass] so in terms of how we match up against them, not too bad.”

As for Queen’s own CIS record-chasing quarterback, Danny Brannagan, Sheahan said he wasn’t sure whether he’d play on Saturday after going out injured during last week’s 8-7 win over the McMaster Marauders.

“He hasn’t taken all the reps [in practice],” he said. “But he has been given a clean bill of health, so we’ll see how that one plays out.

“We’d joked about it for a couple of weeks, ‘What happens if number one quarterback goes down?’ but we didn’t even want to fathom it at that point, didn’t want to go there,” he said.

If Brannagan sits, Sheahan said he’s aware of the risk in starting rookie quarterback Justin Chapdelaine, but the Gaels won’t reshape their offensive plan.

“His ability to make Danny Brannagan-like throws in a ball game is not there yet,” he said. “This offence that we’re currently in is a Danny Brannagan offence. It’s been architected that way and we don’t see any reason to make any radical shifts in our offensive philosophy at the moment.”

After two extremely tight games to start the season, one the 52-49 shootout against Guelph and the other last week’s narrow victory over McMaster, Sheahan said he doesn’t know what to expect against Ottawa.

“I didn’t expect a shootout in week one and I didn’t expect a stalemate in week two,” he said. “The good news is that we’ve had both in two weeks and I think our guys have been in the line of fire. They probably know how to handle themselves better in either situation at this point.”

Although the Gaels are ranked sixth nationally, Sheahan said he draws little comfort from it.

“That’s a nice motivating thing, a nice marketing feature, but we need to stay focused on the week-to-week challenges that we face,” he said. “It’s a nice place to be, a happy place to be, but it’s going to have no bearing on what’s going to happen in Ottawa this Saturday.”

The Gaels face the Gee-Gees tomorrow in Ottawa at 1 p.m.

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