Playoff implications abound for football on Homecoming

Gaels ‘not in a conversation about a loss,’ says head coach Sheahan ahead of game against Ottawa

Head coach Pat Sheahan spoke to season ticket holders at a press conference on Thursday.
Head coach Pat Sheahan spoke to season ticket holders at a press conference on Thursday.
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Coaches rarely utter the phrase, “Winning is everything.”

This weekend is the exception for the Queen’s football team (3-4), who are slated to host the UOttawa Gee-Gees (5-2) in their final game of the regular season on Homecoming Saturday. 

A win gives them a shot at making the postseason. A loss would signify the official end to their 2018-19 campaign.

“The message [to the players], quite frankly, is that a win over Ottawa is the only thing that sort of gets us into the conversation [of making the playoffs],” head coach Pat Sheahan said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Aside from needing a win on Saturday, the Gaels’ playoff hopes are also hinging on three games that would put them into the postseason. If they beat Ottawa, their winning formula is as such: Windsor (1-6) beats McMaster (4-3), Western (7-0) defeats Laurier (4-3), and Guelph (4-3) wins over Waterloo (4-3).

Sheahan knows it’s a tall order—plenty of emotions will be swirling for every team playing on Saturday. Because of this, he’s asked the league-wide scores not be put up on the scoreboard at Richardson Stadium on Saturday.

“We don’t want any distractions in the game for the boys,” he said.

It’s been a season of highs and lows for the Gaels. Their most recent loss came against McMaster in a devastating 27-24 game over Thanksgiving weekend. It was their fourth consecutive game decided by three points or less—three of which they’ve lost. All four games, won or lost, have largely been decided by field goals, tight calls, and comebacks.

“It’s been [about] who makes that one play on the given day,” Sheahan said. “You would just like to see [Queen’s players] rewarded but we’re not the only ones that work hard and get the bad bounces, so, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be grown up about it.”

“You’ve got to live and move on.”

The Gaels’ game against McMaster was abnormal in many regards—an 11 a.m. start time on Friday morning was a massive factor. The game also came a short five days after Queen’s 26-23 loss to Western, giving them minimal recovery time. Meanwhile, McMaster enjoyed a two-week preparation period after having the prior week off due to a bye.

“I don’t think the conditions were ideal,” Sheahan said. “There’s no question we probably weren’t as sharp as we could’ve been had we been at home or if we’d had a couple days to prepare.”

UOttawa, their opponent on Saturday, has been one of the 2018-19 season’s biggest surprises. Currently second in the OUA, they’ve put up strong performances in tight games against Carleton, Guelph, and McMaster—all teams who’ve given Queen’s trouble this season.

Sheahan is viewing Ottawa’s defence as one of the pivotal aspects of Saturday’s game. He said Ottawa has a defence that likes to take risks—something he sees as a game of checks and balances.

“When they play a ramble-and-gamble defensive style on you, they’ll make some plays and they’ll give up some plays,” he said.

Ottawa will come into the game hungry for a win as much as Queen’s. They also have significant playoff implications on the line. A win would lock them into second place, but a loss could see them drop to fourth or fifth in the conference.

Regardless of the weekend’s scenarios, Sheahan is continuing to drill one sentiment into his team.

“We are not in a conversation about a loss to Ottawa. All of our efforts are directed to that goal.”

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