Football clinging to playoff hopes

Gaels riding on outcomes of other OUA games this weekend to secure postseason berth

Gaels leading touchdown receiver Chris Osei-Kusi.
Gaels leading touchdown receiver Chris Osei-Kusi.

Queen’s football have their sights set on the playoffs — but they’ll need their fair share of luck along the way.  

Going into this Saturday’s game on the road against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, the Gaels are cautiously optimisitic about their shot at the postseason. 

“We’ve gotten backed into a corner early in the season,” head coach Pat Sheahan acknowledged in a mid-week press conference. “There’s several other scenarios that have to happen. It’s not entirely contingent on our performance.” 

After starting the season 0-4, Queen’s has climbed out of last place in the OUA with three straight wins. Even though they’re riding the high of this winning streak, their hopes of making the playoffs will depend on more than just a win this weekend. 

The Carleton Ravens (3-4) hold the tiebreaker over the Gaels, so a Ravens win against the Guelph Gryphons (4-3) — who play this weekend in Ottawa — would remove Queen’s from their playoff spot. If the Gaels manage to win over the Blues and the Ravens suffer a loss, they would effectively ensure themselves a postseason berth. 

“We will be listening to the scores as they come in, but not focused on them,” Sheahan said, adding the “coaches and players are focused on taking care of our own business.”  

According to the head coach, if a few plays went the other way throughout the season, the Gaels would be playing in a different game this weekend. “The outcome of a season can be evaluated on three or four plays going the other way,” he said.  

He cited their week one matchup against the Ravens, in which his team — leading for much of the game — conceded a last-minute touchdown to lose. If the Gaels had won that game, they’d currently be holding the tiebreaker over Carleton. 

Sheahan said Queen’s slow start to the campaign gave them problems early. 

“We had some issues we had to deal with,” he commented, noting “protection on offense” and “establishing a consistent running game” were key areas which the team had been working to fix earlier on in the season. 

Since turning it around after their four losses, Sheahan said the team is confident going forward. The Blues are a longtime rival, so he’s expecting a high-energy atmosphere on Saturday. He said his team is up to the challenge.

In terms of the team’s spirits thus far, Sheahan said that keeping motivated hasn’t been an issue for Queen’s. 

“[O]ur guys understood the gravity of the challenge,” he said on the Gaels’ healthy morale through their up-and-down season. “Every loss carries with it a great deal of weight, but our guys have been resilient, they have been persistent, and they have refused to quit,” he added.  

Jake Puskas — who’s filled in for the injured Jonah Pataki since the starter suffered an injury in Week 5 — has been a boost to the Gaels’ offense as their new running back. For Sheahan, the incumbent starter “has been able to run the ball, and add something to our offense that’s pretty significant,” the coach said.

Speaking on his team’s performance thus far, Puskas said the Gaels had “realized the sense of urgency” in the outcome of their last few games, and especially in their upcoming final match of the regular season. 

The team will play their very best on Saturday — everything beyond that isn’t up to them. That much, to Puskas, is clear.

“There’s only so many things we can control, so we’re looking at it, like, ‘We need to take care of our business and pray that the football gods will take care of the rest,’” Puskas said.  

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