Big challenge ahead of Richardson opener

0-2 Gaels face No. 5 Western

Richardson Stadium received a $20.57 million makeover this summer.
Richardson Stadium received a $20.57 million makeover this summer.

In preparation for a football game that’s been a year in the making, head coach Pat Sheahan spoke positively of the football team’s upcoming game against the rival Western Mustangs taking place as the official grand opening of the newly revitalized Richardson Stadium. 

At a press conference and meet-and-greet held Thursday afternoon at the Grizzly Grill, Sheahan, in his 17th year as head coach of the team, met with a crowd of approximately 40 season ticket holders, many of them alumni and other community members. Fielding questions and mingling with the team’s supporters, emotions were mixed about the new stadium.

There were some changes met from the general public with negativity, ranging from a reduced student section, the removal of the Alumni Parade from Homecoming and a turf field replacing the traditional grass.

On the flip side, there’s been changes met with positivity, such as a new ticketing system, the removal of a track from the outer ring of the field and better parking facilities.

With the Mustangs as Queen’s biggest rival, expectations are high that it’ll be an exciting event, with many of the traditions of Gaels football — for example, pre-game ceremonies honouring alumni and performances from Queen’s Bands, Queen’s Pom and the Cheerleading team — set to make their way to the new stadium.

“We’re preparing for the pageantry that is associated with college football,” Sheahan said. “It’s what college football should be about.”

Unfortunately for the Gaels, with all the emotions around the opening of the new stadium, the team’s on-field performance hasn’t quite stacked up. 

The Gaels sit 0-2 through their first two games, a stark contrast to the Mustangs, who come in at 2-1 and ranked fifth in the country.

Western has scored 22 touchdowns over just three games this season, eight more than any other team in the OUA. Their blemish came by way of a 38-31 loss on the road against Carleton in the second week of the season. 

“Western’s not going to hand you a victory,” Sheahan said. “They’re not going to come in here and fumble the ball 10 times.”

While Carleton has shown that Western is beatable, the other two games they’ve played tell a much different story. They beat Windsor 78-6 and Waterloo 75-14, shows  the elite capabilities of a team that went 8-0 in the regular season last year.

However, Sheahan believes crowd noise can play a major factor in Queen’s favour. “There’s going to be a tremendous ambience,” he said. “It’s difficult to concentrate in those environments.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Sheahan went through some video footage of last week’s 38-29 loss at Guelph. Emphasizing minimizing turnovers and better offensive blocking as key areas of improvement, Sheahan said execution will be just as important as preparation.

While on paper, the Gaels face a steep challenge, second-year receiver Chris Osei-Kusi maintains that the team’s hopeful they’ll be able to compete against the Mustangs.

“I wouldn’t say we’re scared,” he said. “But we definitely respect them.” 

Both Sheahan and his accompanying players — Osei-Kusi, first-year kicker Nick Liberatore and third-year defensive back James Donald —  held the viewpoint that the team has just been unlucky this year and face an entirely new challenge this week. 

If the game does end up coming down to the wire, Liberatore understands the game may be determined by his impact in the kicking game. 

“I have a big job to fill as a freshman, it’s definitely a lot of pressure,” he said. “But it’s the kind of pressure you want.”

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