One & done

The defending Vanier Cup champions lose in the OUA quarterfinals to the seventh ranked McMaster Marauders in Hamilton

Gaels running back Jimmy Therrien tries to fend off a barage of McMaster Marauders.
Gaels running back Jimmy Therrien tries to fend off a barage of McMaster Marauders.
Photo: 
The Gaels are eliminated from the playoffs after their loss to the McMaster Marauders over the weekend.
The Gaels are eliminated from the playoffs after their loss to the McMaster Marauders over the weekend.
Photo: 

The Queen’s Gaels may have struck first in Hamilton on Saturday but the McMaster Marauders had the final word, overpowering the Gaels 40-19. This was the Gaels’ second loss to the Marauders this season and eliminated them from the OUA playoffs.

The first quarter saw the Gaels take the lead with a field goal by Queen’s kicker Dan Village. The Gaels, however, were unable to overcome the steep 30-point deficit created during the second and third quarters. Quarterback Justin Chapdelaine threw 12 completions for 25 attempts with 125 yards.

The Gaels went into the second half optimistic that they could keep the game under control. Head coach Pat Sheahan said he thought the possibility of coming back was very real and noted that nagging mistakes like turnovers were a factor in the loss.

“It was a disappointing finish to be fair,” he said. “In a game with so much at stake, I don’t think you can afford to have any unforced errors that way.

“Turnovers have a real potential to change the momentum. I thought we had a couple opportunities to seize the lead especially in the first half and maybe even go to the locker room ahead 10-0. Instead we ended up down 14-3 [and] that kind of changed the whole complexion of the game.”

The Gaels suffered seven turnovers in the game, which Sheahan said the team can blame on their inexperience.

“Moving forward, the elimination of turnovers will be one of our goals,” he said. “The evidence of turnovers is a sign of youth and inexperience. This is our highest amount of turnovers in about 10 years so we’ve got to fix that moving forward.”

The Gaels were familiar with McMaster, having lost to the Marauders 23-18 in their first game of the season. Sheahan said the Gaels weren’t surprised by the Marauders play.

“They’re a fairly physical team, they’ve got an experienced quarterback who stepped up and delivered,” he said. “I don’t think there was too much that happened in the game that I would say was a real surprise; other than our own mistakes [which] were a bit of a surprise.”

The Marauders took advantage of the Gaels’ unravelling game in the third quarter, scoring 16 points. They put themselves too far ahead for Queen’s to play catch up even, with a 16 point offensive effort in the fourth by the Gaels.

“We needed a much more tight effort in terms of the errors,” Sheahan said. “I think the places we have errors are places we know that we need to improve. Good football teams at this time of year will exploit you where you’re weak or where you’re vulnerable and that’s exactly what they did.”

The Gaels were a young team living with the pressure of being the defending Vanier Cup champions. With the graduation of players like quarterback Danny Brannagan, wide receiver Scott Valberg and defensive end Shomari Williams, the Gaels lost a core of experience and a group of players who were heavily relied upon in the run to the Vanier Cup last season. With only seven seniors returning, Sheahan said the turnover of players was immense.

“This team was very much in transition,” he said. “With the experience and an older group, everything’s much more stable. Once you reach a level of expertise, they become very difficult to replace. The returning seniors had a big task. There weren’t as many of them around and they had to basically make up for the graduation of some of the best players in the country. It was a tall, tall order.”

There will be no captivating playoff run this season but the Queen’s Gaels can now look to the future.

“With each passing year, the nucleus of the team gains more experience,” Sheahan said. “Another year of transition and we should be a strong team again in two years.”

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