Gaels fall to Mustangs in much-anticipated home opener

0-3 record sees team in "must-win" scenario

Receiver Chris Osei-Kusi makes a catch during Saturday's game
Receiver Chris Osei-Kusi makes a catch during Saturday's game

Early buzz at the revitalized Richardson Stadium was met by a disappointing output from the Gaels, and, much to the fans’ disliking, a fair bit of rain.

A 27-13 loss at the hands of the fifth-ranked Western Mustangs leaves the winless Gaels struggling mid-season, picking up their third loss in a row.

The Gaels failed to gain a lead or record a touchdown, although they hung around for much of the game. According to linebacker Michael Moore’s assessment, the team was just a “couple of plays” short from running away with a win.

The Gaels started the game slow, dialling down the otherwise energetic crowd, but picked it up towards the latter half of the first quarter. After trailing 11-0, the team found themselves within two and headed into the half down 14-10.

Unfortunately this would be the closest the Gaels got to upsetting their long-time rivals.

Midway through the third quarter, a Mustangs fumble recovered by Moore had the Gaels riding a wave of momentum and it looked as if they could turn it around, but the subsequent series saw the offense go three-and-out and punt.

For starting quarterback Nate Hobbs, those swings of momentum are the missing ingredients in the Gaels’ search for their first win.

“Once we get that chance or opportunity, that’s what we’ve been missing — that click. It’s just about seizing it and blowing the game wide open … it seems like we’re inching closer and closer each week,” he said.

Their misfortune continued into the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Gambling on a third and one from the Mustangs’ 40-yardline, running back Jonah Pataki found daylight through the middle and took it to endzone.

The rained-out energy from the crowd grew, and it seemed as if the Gaels were again on the verge of mounting a comeback.

Unfortunately, Queen’s was called for holding, negating the touchdown and the team settled for a field goal, bringing the score to 19-13.

Their next two offensive series were followed by back-to-back interceptions from Hobbs, and on the ensuing Mustangs possession, Western’s 20-yard passing touchdown all but decided the game.

Earlier in the week, head coach Pat Sheahan mentioned during a media conference that it would take a near perfect game to beat the Mustangs and he stood by his comments on Saturday evening.

“Opportunities were there. Our guys definitely have some real disappointment today,” he said of the loss. “What we needed to do was seize control of the last ten minutes of the game and keep them hemmed in – we didn’t do that.”  

Even with the loss, talk was focused on the revitalized Richardson stadium.

According to Moore, the players were in awe of their playing space, but it didn’t really affect the result of the game.

“It’s beautiful, but the important part of the game was trying to calm down and let the theatrics play out … I think we did that pretty well.”

Hobbs agreed, “at the end of the day that’s all we were doing – playing a football game.”

At 0-0-3, the Gaels are in a predicament they are rather familiar with: nearly every week until the playoffs will be a must-win scenario.

“When Toronto comes in next week, it’s a playoff game for us, it’s a must win. Waterloo the following week, again, a must-win, and the rest of the games really follow suit,” Sheahan said.

The Gaels have shown flashes of being a very good football team, and they’ve shown it by keeping games close with some of the best teams in country. However, there plainly isn’t more time left for experimentation — it’s time to win now, Sheahan said.

“There’s an argument that we’re about five-to-six plays away from being 3-0-0, but we’ve got to eliminate these mistakes, these fourth quarter blunders for us to win. Excuses are useless at this point.”

 “The way forward is not impossible,” Sheahan added, “but it’s going to take a whole lot of work.”

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