Cup for grabs in London

After falling to Western in September, Queen’s is back for Yates

The Yates Cup isn’t all Queen’s will play for tomorrow. They also have the chance to avenge a 50-31 road loss to Western earlier this year.
The Yates Cup isn’t all Queen’s will play for tomorrow. They also have the chance to avenge a 50-31 road loss to Western earlier this year.
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Running back Daniel Heslop ran for just four yards last week against Guelph, but had an 87-yard catch against Western on Sept. 28.
Running back Daniel Heslop ran for just four yards last week against Guelph, but had an 87-yard catch against Western on Sept. 28.
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Receiver Alex Carroll had three receptions for 19 yards against Guelph.
Receiver Alex Carroll had three receptions for 19 yards against Guelph.
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Four years after their last Yates Cup appearance, Queen’s will again face off against the archrival Western Mustangs in the OUA championship game.

Little else but the two teams involved remains the same from the 2009 Yates Cup, which had the Gaels defeat the Mustangs 43-39 in a thriller at Richardson Stadium.

Tomorrow’s game will be played in London, with Billy McPhee and Will Finch having replaced legendary quarterbacks Danny Brannagan and Michael Faulds.

Everything went according to script this year — the OUA final four featured the top four seeds, and the Yates Cup is a matchup of the two best squads in Ontario.

In their only meeting earlier this season, Western jumped to an early 23-0 lead and never looked back as they cruised to a 50-31 victory.

“This will be another round in which has been an ongoing battle between these two schools,” said Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan.

The number one ranked Mustangs are favoured to win tomorrow — and with good reason. Led by Finch under centre, the team features one of the country’s most explosive offences.

Western averaged an impressive 57 points per game, and was held under 50 just once.

Finch capped off his second CIS season by breaking the all-time single season passing record, throwing for 3,047 yards and 21 touchdowns, with only six interceptions.

Playmakers at the skill positions, like running back Yannick Harou and receiver George Johnson, make Western a threat to score every possession, regardless of their starting field position.

The Mustangs are ruthless with their rush game, rarely facing second-and-long, and forcing opponents to stack the line of scrimmage as they run Harou downfield.

Finch benefits from all the high-percentage passing situations, taking his shots at single coverage when the opportunity arises.

“If they can hold onto the ball and run 75 to 80 plays on you, there’s no defence that’s going to stop a team that many times — especially a team with that many weapons,” Sheahan said.

“The best thing to do against a great offensive team is to keep them on the sidelines for as long as possible.”

To achieve this goal, feature running back Ryan Granberg will have to continue his excellent regular season.

Granberg and fellow backs Jesse Andrews, Daniel Heslop and Jonah Pataki combined for almost 200 rushing yards in the teams’ first meeting, a figure they’ll need to surpass if they hope to beat the Mustangs.

Despite an obvious necessity to use their rotating backfield, winning the game will still fall into the hands of quarterback McPhee.

The opportunity to have the standout game of his career isn’t coming at a better time for McPhee, who’s been on a tear over his previous 12 quarters of football.

In that time span, he’s thrown for 799 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception.

Taking shots downfield will be necessary, but the game will be decided on the Gaels’ short-to-medium passing game.

If McPhee can unload the ball to go-to receivers Justin Chapdelaine and Scott Macdonell, Queen’s should wear down the Western defence.

The Gaels’ defence will have their work cut out for them, and will need to win the battles in the trenches to slow down Western’s offensive juggernaut.

Defensive linemen John Miniaci and Derek Wiggan will need to disguise their pass-rushing looks and get Western’s massive offensive line to second-guess assignments.

“We always talk about making the [offensive lineman] move and see how he does against the speed rush,” Miniaci said.

Though the task ahead is arduous, the Gaels have the ability to win this football game.

Long, sustained drives that keep Western’s offence off the field are a necessity, and if the front seven can goad Finch into difficult passes, Queen’s voracious secondary will get its opportunities for turnovers.

When the dust settles, one team will come away as the Yates Cup champion. For all those involved, the opening kickoff can’t come any sooner.

Gaels blow past Guelph in semi-final

The Gaels are Yates Cup bound after defeating the Guelph Gryphons 34-17 in the OUA semi-finals.

Playing in difficult weather conditions, the Gaels leaned heavily on their defence and running back Ryan Granberg, who finished the game with 113 yards rushing and two touchdowns, as well as 27 yards receiving.

Granberg was the best player on the field, making excellent cuts and using his extra jump from a noticeably lighter workload this season due to Queen’s strong rotating backfield.

“Usually this late in the season I have about 12 small nagging injuries,” Granberg said. “I definitely felt a lot fresher.”

Five minutes into the contest Granberg opened the game’s scoring with a one-yard touchdown rush. Three minutes later, Guelph answered as Jazz Lindsey hit his brother, Saxon, for a 17-yard score.

Dillon Wamsley connected on three field goals in the first half, while Guelph added a field goal of their own and a 32-yard touchdown pass to A’dre Fraser to lead 17-16 at half.

Fraser made a gesture that appeared to be mocking the Gaels’ “fins up” during his touchdown celebration, but it was Queen’s defence who had the last laugh, shutting Guelph out in the second half, intercepting Lindsey twice and bottling up the run game.

“[Defensive coordinator Pat] Tracey did an excellent job of making some adjustments, moving guys around,” linebacker Sam Sabourin said. “Ultimately, I’m just so proud of my guys.”

Quarterback Billy McPhee was under pressure from Guelph’s strong front seven all game, getting sacked six times. He finished the game 15 of 28 for 228 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

McPhee had a clutch 33-yard fourth quarter scramble to bring the ball down to the one-yard line. Granberg punched it in for a touchdown, putting Queen’s ahead 27-17.

His mistake-free performance earned a rave review from Gaels’ head coach Pat Sheahan.

“[McPhee] was almost so determined not to make a mistake that it was driving me nuts … but he was right and he played very poised.”

Confident they could score, the Gryphons gave up two third-quarter safeties, surrendering the lead to the Gaels.

The move would prove costly for Guelph as the Gaels’ stagnant offence caught fire late in the game.

Leading 20-17 heading into the fourth, the Gaels pulled away after Granberg’s touchdown. Receiver Scott Macdonell’s 39-yard catch-and-run touchdown sealed the win for Queen’s.

“It’s a slap in the face,” McPhee said about the Gryphons’ conceded safeties. “They’re saying ‘we’re going to give you the lead, and we’ll take it back.’”

The Gaels will face the Western Mustangs tomorrow in London with the 106th Yates Cup on the line. Western defeated Queen’s 50-31 in their regular season matchup, and a shot at revenge is exactly what the Gaels want.

After blowing two fourth-quarter leads to Guelph in 2012, a showdown with their most heated rival is just what the Gaels need for this potential championship season.

Josh Burton

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