Gaels hit crunch time Friday against McMaster

Sheahan calls matchup with McMaster a 'very big weekend'

Pat Sheahan said the Gaels have a positive mindset going into their last two games of the regular season.
Pat Sheahan said the Gaels have a positive mindset going into their last two games of the regular season.

Headed into their second-last game of the season, the football team is grappling to find routine amidst a week many would call chaotic.

“We need to be mentally ready to deal with the elements,” head coach Pat Sheahan said in a press conference on Wednesday.

After nearly shocking the OUA with a tight 26-23 loss to the Western Mustangs last Saturday, the Gaels have to deal with a shortened schedule because of Thanksgiving weekend. As a result, they’re set to play the McMaster Marauders at 11 a.m. on Friday morning in Hamilton, giving them five days to prepare.

“The schedule has thrown a bit of a wrench in the system here,” Sheahan said. “It’s caused a little bit of an issue with our travel schedule.”

On the other side of the field, McMaster has no reason to rush into their game against Queen’s. After having the week off last weekend, they head into Saturday’s game after 12 days of rest.

In addition, the competitive climate will be nothing short of tense for nearly every OUA team competing this weekend. At the moment, Waterloo and Guelph tie Queen’s record of 3-3, while McMaster is sitting at 3-2 and Laurier at 2-3. Laurier will be facing Carleton (4-2) this weekend as well.

Sheahan noted with the OUA’s league parity at an all-time high, his main focus is sending a positive message to his team.

“We’re talking about a bunch of us who are all in the same pot and relatively equal,” he said. “It’s boiling down to who comes up with a big game on that day. We don’t feel outmatched.”

From a statistical standpoint, the Gaels looking stronger than the Marauders despite the situational factors at play.

Queen’s has facilitated one of the OUA’s most threatening offences, amassing 198 points in their six games while McMaster has only landed but 100. Further, the Gaels severely outmatch the Marauders in total receiving yards with 1,950 yards of their own compared to their opponent’s 761.

But there’s no sugarcoating the stakes this weekend: a loss would leave Queen’s with one chance to end the season with an even 4-4 record, which would come at homecoming against the UOttawa Gee-Gee’s (4-1).

Sheahan said this scenario—ending the season .500—isn’t even a conversation in the Gaels’ locker room.

“We’re looking at this positively. We could still finish second in the standings,” he said.

Ultimately, Sheahan said he’s been trying to toughen his team’s mindset with the final stretch in sight. With 19 years of experience and a successful Vanier Cup run under his belt, the coach knows what it takes for a team to make it into the postseason and beyond.

“I told the players this week, ‘What are you going to have to do to win the championship? You’re probably going to have to win a tough game on the road,’” Sheahan said.

“We can sit here and reflect on all the negatives we want but the reality is, this is a tremendous opportunity for our team here.”

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