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Grenadiers set to host playoff game Saturday

July 26, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

As pregame orations go, Bob Mullen’s message to the Kingston Grenadiers Thursday night was a trifle unorthodox.

“I said to the guys, ‘Our record flatters us,’” the Grenadiers coach said.

On the eve of an opening-round Ontario Varsity Football League playoff match Saturday with the Oshawa Hawkeyes, such talk may not seem particularly inspiring. It was doubtless designed to remind.

The Grenadiers got off to what looked at the time as a torrid start — five straight wins, three shutouts, just nine points allowed. As it turned out, however, that 5-0 start was compiled at the expense of teams that finished the season a collective 8-32.

Then came a loss to the 2-3 Metro Toronto Wildcats, followed by a 76-28 debacle at Ottawa. The Grenadiers’ only victory all season over a team ahead of them in the standings, a come-from-behind 20-17 win over Cornwall, came thanks to a stirring, penalty-fuelled drive in the final 20 seconds of the game.

If you were the Oshawa Hawkeyes — the only one of Kingston’s early season victims to finish with a .500 record — you might be thinking an upset this week is within grasp, a 28-0 loss to the Grenadiers in the regular year notwithstanding.

With his post-practice epistle Thursday, Mullen hopes his charges won’t be caught basking in the superficial glow of a 6-2 record, or forget that the terrific comeback of a week ago was made necessary by some dismal football in the early part of the game.

If nothing else, Mullen said, he hopes the cautionary message helps the players remember what made them successful in the early part of the schedule.

“We’re not outstanding in anything we do,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to be on. When we’re on and playing together, we’re a whole lot better than we are alone. The whole is better than the sum of the parts.”

“That’s the beauty of the game. It’s why a team that isn’t necessarily as talented as another can beat a more talented group of athletes, if you’re playing together, disciplined, structured and with enthusiasm.”

Mullen said it’s that collective play, evident in the early part of the season, that has been missing lately

“We just need to get back to executing our assignments reliably and trusting each other a little bit more, because that’s what we’re good at.

“The (Ottawa) game was a struggle for us. That was not a pleasant afternoon. Cornwall … was a good team win for us last week but certainly in the first half we were out of character, still. We were just not trusting each other, and you’ve got to trust. You’ve got to trust that the guy beside you will do his job, and if I do mine then together we’re going to take care of business. If we don’t, holes rip open, people go uncovered and big plays happen.”

Mullen said Oshawa has had a similar type of season as the Grenadiers, in that they lost their starting quarterback to injury early in the campaign and have had him recently return. A running back, Ryan Dixon, rushed for almost 1,000 yards this year — though just 19 against Kingston in June — but he did not play in the Hawkeyes’ 28-0 win last week against Niagara.

“We have a general idea what to expect,” Mullen said. “(The quarterback) is back now but we haven’t seen him. We don’t know if (Dixon) was hurt or if he’s going to be back, so there’s a little bit of not really being sure what we’re going to see.

“I just said to the kids they’ve got nothing to lose. It’s the playoffs, so you either play well and move on or you don’t play well and don’t move on, and that’s the way it should be.”

Game time Saturday at Loyalist Collegiate is 1 p.m.

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