Hungry like the wolf shark

Queen’s last line of defence feeds off crowd support and sudden chemistry

Queen’s defensive backs have adopted the persona of the wolf shark, characterized by the on-field gesture and slogan: “Fins up.”
Queen’s defensive backs have adopted the persona of the wolf shark, characterized by the on-field gesture and slogan: “Fins up.”
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The wolf and the shark unite at Richardson Stadium.

Both apex predators come together to form the “wolf shark,” an accurate symbol for the Queen’s Gaels’ secondary.

Visualized on-field by the “fins up” gesture — extending an elbow and bringing the hand to the forehead — the Gaels’ defensive backs are a hungry group who look to make the big, impact play whenever possible.

“We characterize our play around a pack mentality,” said defensive back Andrew Lue. “We’re out there hunting all game.

“When the ball’s in the air, it’s our ball and we’re not afraid to rough up the opposing team.”

Made up of versatile athletes, the Gaels’ secondary is a fluid group that can easily transition between defensive back and safety.

Starting backs Lue, TJ Chase-Dunawa and Yann Dika-Balotoken are joined by safeties Brendan Morgan and Matt Webster. Rounding out the starters is Justin Baronaitis, a unique player with the ability to play both defensive back and linebacker.

The welcoming atmosphere fostered by the defensive backs eased the transition for Morgan, a transfer from the University of Virginia. His athleticism, coupled with quick learning, vaulted him to a starting position when Webster went down with an injury in September.

A veteran pack, much of the secondary’s success hinges on knowing each other’s tendencies and predicting how teammates will react in specific situations.

New additions have no difficulties fitting into a group that can already read minds. “Across the board, there’s some good chemistry,” Lue said. “We do everything together.”

With a stout run defence in the front seven, the secondary can play aggressively and take risks in passing situations.

Dika-Balotoken leads the group in ball-hawking this season, having broken up six passes and snagging four interceptions. He returned two for touchdowns in a pivotal September win over the McMaster Marauders.

Baronaitis is the group’s anchor, leading the team with 39.5 tackles, good for sixth in the OUA. His ability to cover players in the slot allows the outside backs to focus on one-on-one matchups.

“We all have a set of goals hung up in our lockers … that we look to meet every game,” Lue said. “We figured if we do that, we’ll come out with a [win].”

That’s mostly been the case so far this season. Queen’s is in third place at 5-1 in the top-heavy OUA, while the defence is second in points allowed.

Despite their exemplary work ethic, being a Gaels defensive back isn’t all work and no play. The group enjoys watching professional sports, from football to basketball and soccer.

One would think they’d have little time for other games, but they’re all fans, of course, of the Madden NFL video game franchise. Across the board, their go-to move was the right-side rollout with quarterback Michael Vick.

With three-quarters of the OUA season completed and the playoffs looming, the secondary knows it’s their time to step up and make the plays expected of them.

Seeing a packed house and hearing the crowd roar on a big defensive play, a common sight at Richardson Stadium, only increases the wolf sharks’ appetite.

“We appreciate the support and all the fanfare behind [the team],” Lue said. “And always keep those fins up.”

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