Bye to the bye

Gaels surrender fast route to OUA semi-finals

For nearly two full quarters on Saturday, Queen’s was on the verge of locking down second place in the OUA. Then it all fell apart.

The Guelph Gryphons scored four straight touchdowns to erase an early 25-point deficit, topping the Gaels 33-28. Queen’s didn’t score in the second half, committing five turnovers in the process.

With the victory, Guelph (6-1) clinched a bye to the OUA semi-finals, where they’ll have home-field advantage. The Gaels (5-2) will be forced to play a quarter-final game on Oct. 27.

“No points in the second half was a real disappointment,” said head coach Pat Sheahan. “We let them crawl back into it, and they capitalized on our mistakes.”

The Gryphons’ comeback was kick-started late in the second quarter on a special-teams miscue. Guelph recovered a blocked punt in the Gaels’ red zone, eventually leading to a four-yard touchdown rush from running back Robert Farquharson.

Gaels quarterback Billy McPhee threw four second-half interceptions. Gryphons defensive back MacKenzie Myers returned one 76 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Five minutes after Myers’ score, Farquharson added another four-yard touchdown run, giving the Gryphons their first lead of the game.

“Overall, we just didn’t play well enough in the second half to win a big football game,” Sheahan said.

The Gaels’ early performance was a complete departure from previous weeks. After failing to record a first-half offensive touchdown in three straight games, they raced to a 28-3 lead, with several points coming in unorthodox fashion.

Defensive tackle Andrew Sauer scored the Gaels’ first defensive touchdown of the season in the second quarter, pouncing on a fumble in the Gryphons’ end zone.

Later in the quarter, Queen’s capitalized on a fake field goal, with holder Justin Chapdelaine sprinting through the middle of the line for a 34-yard score.

McPhee threw for two touchdowns in the first quarter, highlighted by a 75-yard bomb to receiver Giovanni Aprile — his longest completion of the season.

“We threw the ball extremely well [at the start],” Sheahan said. “The guys really came ready to perform.”

Queen’s will face the Toronto Varsity Blues (2-5) at home on Oct. 20 in their regular season finale, before hosting a quarter-final the following week.

If they prevail, they’ll return to Guelph on Nov. 3 to meet the Gryphons in the OUA semi-final.

Sheahan pointed to what needs to change for the Gaels to redeem themselves.

“You can’t commit five turnovers,” he said. “We’ll look ourselves in the mirror, try to shore that up, play better and be more precise under pressure.”

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