Gaels battle Windsor, weather

Queen’s overcomes in home opener

Queen’s community celebrates a Vanier Cup win and a victory over the Windsor Lancers at Richardson Stadium on Sunday
Queen’s community celebrates a Vanier Cup win and a victory over the Windsor Lancers at Richardson Stadium on Sunday
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Receiver Devan Sheahan catches a pass at Richardson Stadium on Sunday. The Gael’s home opener began with the raising of the 2009 Vanier Cup championship banner and appearences by former Gaels Danny Brannagan and Osie Ukwuoma.
Receiver Devan Sheahan catches a pass at Richardson Stadium on Sunday. The Gael’s home opener began with the raising of the 2009 Vanier Cup championship banner and appearences by former Gaels Danny Brannagan and Osie Ukwuoma.
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The football team salutes Gaels fans who stuck it out to watch the team win in a rain-filled affair. Over 4,000 students packed Richardson Stadium to watch quarterback Justin Chapdelaine dominate the Windsor Lancers in a 40-7 win.
The football team salutes Gaels fans who stuck it out to watch the team win in a rain-filled affair. Over 4,000 students packed Richardson Stadium to watch quarterback Justin Chapdelaine dominate the Windsor Lancers in a 40-7 win.
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Despite 40 km/h winds, driving rain and 16-degree temperatures, 5,427 fans braved the weather to see the Gaels trounce the Windsor Lancers 40-7 in their home opener at Richardson Stadium.

With Frosh Week coming to an end and the Vanier Cup banner raised, Windsor Lancers head coach Mike Morencie spent time preparing his team for what he expected from Queen’s: a loud, large and boisterous crowd.

“It’s tough coming out to a place like this,” he said. “It’s just like going to play against Duke basketball when you come to Queen’s.”

The Kingston community was well-represented on the alumni side but the surprise was across the field. Four-thousand fans packed into the student side to cheer on the Vanier Cup champions. Although surprised by the turnout, receiver Devan Sheahan and his teammates appreciated the support.

“I thought it was great,” he said. “Especially with the weather, I didn’t think that many would come out. It was a great crowd and a lot of people stayed. It was great to see.”

The fans’ participation in the game always makes an impact. From the witty chants targeted at Windsor to the building anticipation and noise before a kick-off, the Gaels football team feeds off of the excitement of the crowd.

“You notice it when somebody made a big play,” Sheahan said. “It pumps you up a bit ... and jacks you up for the next play.”

One such play that got the crowd cheering was a block by receiver Giovani Aprile at the end of the second quarter which Sheahan said was a game-changer.

“We were playing well as a group but that was a turning point,” he said. “I think we were starting to beat up on them at that point.”

With Vanier Cup quarterback Danny Brannagan in attendance and the championship banner being raised before the game, the 2009 team winning season was not far from anyone’s minds. Sheahan said he knows that Brannagan’s experience and composure are irreplaceable but that Chapdelaine has been a great competitor for the team.

“Danny’s a tough guy to replace and Justin’s doing a great job,” he said. “He’s finding open receivers. He reads the defence really well ... You never know where he’s going to go and he always gets that extra yard.”

Having been asked questions about Brannagan and his legacy all summer, Chapdelaine said that it’s no longer on his mind. He said he is focused on his strengths, rather than the differences in their styles of play.

“I think of myself as a dual-threat quarterback,” he said. “I can pass the ball and I can run. Anything that the coaches give me, I feel like I can do.”

The conditions were anything but ideal. With strong winds and rain that poured down through the first half, Chapdelaine had to stick to short, quick plays to keep the game from succumbing to Windsor and the weather.

“With the start, we had the wind against our faces,” he said. “Our game plan was just to [do] short passes, running the ball. Our offensive line stepped up and did well in the first half.”

When the game was out of reach from the Lancers, Head Coach Pat Sheahan brought in rookie quarterback Billy McPhee to give his starter some rest. McPhee, who came in late in the fourth quarter, set up kicker Dan Village for an 18-yard field goal, bringing Queen’s to 40 points.

Chapdelaine said he didn’t feel any more pressure after watching McPhee’s solid play.

“[McPhee’s] a great quarterback,” Chapdelaine said. “He’s got a strong arm. It pumps us up. It just shows that if I got injured, we can rely on another quarterback.”

Head coach Pat Sheahan said he was impressed by McPhee’s play in his first university football game.

“[McPhee] showed great poise today,” he said. “Those were his first snaps of the year. He looked pretty relaxed and calm out there. He’s got a strong arm, covered the field.”

Sheahan still expected more out of the team, including more disciplined play.

“I thought that the score could have been higher,” he said. “We left a couple points on the table today. The conditions weren’t the best to throwing a football. Even when you had the wind, it wasn’t great because the ball carried a little bit.”

Even with the weather, the game was never out of hand for the Gaels. With the loss of the Lancers’ third-year quarterback Sam Malian to an injury during their win against the University of Toronto, the Lancers had to start rookie quarterback Austin Kennedy. Although both teams were impressed with the young quarterback’s play, he was no match for the Gaels’ defensive line. Sheahan said that the result was what he expected.

“What’s good about the game is you come out with the victory,” he said. “Our guys got open consistently. I expected us to come out of the block hard, being the home opener and having dropped the first [game]. We got some productive offense [and] we got some big play defence.”

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