Script flipped in semis

Fifty-two weeks ago, Guelph stunned Queen’s in the OUA playoffs. Tomorrow is the Gaels’ chance for total revenge

Queen’s scored 30 unanswered points in their 37-23 regular-season win over Guelph on Oct. 19.
Queen’s scored 30 unanswered points in their 37-23 regular-season win over Guelph on Oct. 19.
Guelph erased a 22-point deficit in last year’s playoff game, then won in overtime.
Guelph erased a 22-point deficit in last year’s playoff game, then won in overtime.

The location has changed since last year, but the stakes are the same.

After a busy week off, Queen’s is ready to face the Guelph Gryphons at Richardson Stadium again.

The Gaels defeated the Gryphons 37-23 in the final game of the regular season two weeks ago, dealing Guelph their first loss and ensuring the Gaels finished the season 7-1, obtaining a first-round bye.

Tomorrow, they’ll face off at Richardson in the OUA semi-finals, after Guelph defeated the Windsor Lancers 31-21 last Saturday.

This season’s matchup against Guelph was in stark contrast to 2012, when the Gaels squandered a chance at home-field advantage by blowing a late fourth quarter lead to the Gryphons in the regular season.

In a horrifying episode of déjà vu, the Gaels were eventually eliminated by Guelph in the semis after giving up a 22-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Saturday’s showdown will be the teams’ fourth meeting in two years. According to Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan, both sides may still have a trick or two up their sleeves.

“It becomes a little bit more of a chess game,” said Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan. “There has to be a curveball or two in there so you have to try and anticipate where your opponent will strike next.

“The old adage ‘don’t coach against ghosts’ works most of the time, but in the playoffs, you’re going to see a few wrinkles.”

In order to advance to the Yates Cup, the Gaels will need to stick to the game that brought them success this season: run the ball well and use quarterback Billy McPhee’s elite arm strength to take shots downfield.

Slot receiver Scott Macdonell will likely be instrumental to Queen’s success. The towering receiver gives the Gaels a serious mismatch in the centre of the field, as he’s too fast for linebackers to keep up with but too big for a safety to easily bring down.

Getting the ball and scoring early and often will allow the Gaels’ defence to take chances for the ball and to look for interceptions.

“Under pressure, you want to be able to go out there and deliver an effort that you put your signature on,” Sheahan said.

Experience is on Queen’s side. Most Gaels starters are fourth- or fifth-years who are used to playing in high-pressure situations.

The relatively healthy veteran group is finally looking like the team their talent level would suggest, which doesn’t bode well for the Gryphons.

The Gaels are the superior team on paper, and have only struggled this season when they haven’t played to their potential. With a Yates Cup berth on the line, Queen’s needs to show they’re the better team and squash any chance for an upset early in the game.

If the Gaels can control the time of possession, run the ball well to open up the vertical passing game and get big plays from their defense, there’s nothing that should stop a Yates Cup matchup in London with the Western Mustangs.

Sheahan knows his team must play their best football under pressure, an ability all championship teams have.

“That’s why championship teams only happen every now and again,” he said. “Everyone is waiting to see what our team brings to the ballpark.”

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