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It says here Queen’s will finish first in the OUA

August 24, 2013
CLAUDE SCILLEY Opinion

CLAUDE SCILLEY
Opinion

You don’t blow a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter of an important football game and have it not affect you. You don’t give up the game-winning touchdown in overtime of a playoff match you had in the bag and ever approach a football game the same way.

The Queen’s Golden Gaels have had nine months to contemplate the Massacre at Moo U. Now we get to find out how they dealt with it.

The Gaels are poised for a special season. They have tremendous depth, not just in numbers, but in talent and experience, and it’s prevalent throughout their lineup. They are groomed by some of the most respected and hard-working coaches in the land.

They also have perhaps the greatest thing a team could ever want: A second chance.

All but half a dozen of those Gaels are back, with a chance to turn that awful memory of last November at Guelph into a positive force that could drive them deep into this year’s playoffs. Much as the similarly humiliating debacle of the 1991 Churchill Bowl is now remembered as the impetus for Queen’s 1992 national championship season, they can render flashbacks to that horrible afternoon last autumn to a mere footnote to a successful campaign, instead of the epitaph to a disappointing one.

That’s why the Gaels will win the Yates Cup.

Two things can scuttle Queen’s bid for its second championship in five years: Quarterback Billy McPhee getting hurt — there’s a precipitous drop after No. 1 on the Gaels’ depth chart there — or we could discover the Gaels don’t have the requisite constitution for damming the adversity creek when it starts to rise.

We’ll see.

Meantime, Queen’s enters the season opener Sunday last in the league in question marks.

Guelph made a stunning rise from 2-6 in 2011 to 7-1 last year. Is Jazz Lindsey a championship quarterback? How badly will they miss an inspirational leader like graduated fifth-year man Mike Millar? How many of the guys whose career years fuelled that remarkable rise will be able to duplicate those performances?

McMaster lost a ton of talent from its two-time championship roster, but there’s still a lot there. Can Marshall Ferguson play well enough to keep the offence humming? How good were the guys stuck on the bench behind all those all-star linemen, who now have to play?

People may not like the Western Mustangs but only fools ever count them out. Their highly touted quarterback, Will Finch, enters just his second season. How quickly can he get to the level a championship quarterback needs to be? Does he have the receivers to complement a couple of superb running backs? How far can Western go with a ground game alone?

Does anyone else deserve to be in this conversation? A year ago nobody thought Guelph belonged there.

Some believe Windsor quarterback Austin Kennedy has potential one day to be a Hec Crighton candidate, but he could get his team no higher than 3-5 last year. York is on the rise but, well, not yet.

Ottawa? Laurier? Two good programs that may soon see better days but not that soon, as long as they’re both iffy at quarterback.

The rest? Throw a blanket over Waterloo, Toronto and prodigal son Carleton. At this point you may have to put them together to find enough good players to form a contending team.

Speaking of weak teams, did you notice that Queen’s has the toughest calendar in Ontario University Athletics? In the unbalanced, 11-team schedule the Gaels this year do not play Toronto or Carleton. The other contenders sidestep at least one top team.

If that wasn’t enough, the Gaels are the invited guests for the 100th anniversary Homecoming game at Western. That should be fun for the visitors.

Winning championships shouldn’t be easy, though, and one day the Gaels may look back proudly and think, ‘We did it, anyway.’

Then they can sit down and toast the ghost of collapses past and thank him for showing the way.

The teams

A team-by-team look at Ontario University Athletics football teams as they prepare for the 2013 season openers Sunday:

Carleton Ravens

Coach: Steve Sumarah (1st year, 7th year in CIS)

Last year: First year after a 15-year hiatus

Key returnees: Are actually returning from somebody else, such as QB Jesse Mills (.489 completion percentage, 840 yards, 4 TD, 6 Int in 2001 for Saint Mary’s), C Matt Lapointe (ex-Queen’s), DBs Nathaniel Hamlin, Tunde Adeleke (ex-St. Francis Xavier)

Recruits to watch: LB Leon Cenerini (LaSalle, Man.) was named best defensive player at the 2012 Canada Cup tournament; DL Emmanuel Adusei (London) played for Team Ontario at the International Bowl in Texas; WR Malcolm Carter (Toronto), WR Nate Behar (London Central), WR Dexter Brown (Sherwood Park, Alta.), OL Tyler Young (Ottawa), QB Nick Gorgichuk (St. Mark, Manotick), LB Elliott Nelson (Burnaby, B.C.), RB Matt Barkovich (Stoney Creek, Ont.)

Local content: OL Jason McGinn (Ernestown); ex-Queen’s player and coach Ryan Bechmanis is the defensive co-ordinator

They don’t play: Queen’s, Laurier

Last championship: 1985 (Dunsmore Cup)

Synopsis: The Ravens have been working hard for more than a year to rebuild the program and many of their recruits played at a high level of junior football with the Ottawa Sooners in 2012 so Carleton will compete with teams in the lower echelon. With 90 per cent of players getting their first taste of university ball this year (and a reported average age of under 19) it will be a tough slog against the big boys.

Prediction: 11th

Guelph Gryphons

Coach: Stu Lang (3rd year)

Last year: 7-1, second place; lost Yates Cup game to McMaster

Key returnees: RB Rob Farquharson was third in Canada in rushing in 2012; conference all-star WR Dillon Dimitroff; LB John Rush and DL Jeff Finley played in the East-West Bowl; all-star special teams players Cam Walker and A’dre Fraser; QB Jazz Lindsey

Key losses: Second-team conference all-stars T Matt Richardson, DE Mike Millar, DB Brian Dunjko

Recruits to watch: RBs Mason Swift (Sooke, B.C.), Johnny Augustine (Welland Notre Dame) and Bryson Dobush, a two-year starter for Alberta in the Canada Cup (Sherwood Park); DB Jadon Johnson (Brampton Marguerite D’Youville), defensive MVP in the 2012 Canada Cup tournament; DB Orion Edwards (Newmarket), LB Derek Drouillard (London St. Thomas Aquinas)

Local content: RB Rob Carnegie (Frontenac), LB Jacob Harpell (Holy Cross); Coach Lang played at Queen’s and is a member of the school’s Football Hall of Fame

They don’t play: Ottawa, Western

Last championship: 1996 (Yates Cup)

Synopsis: From 2-6 in 2011 to 7-1 a year later is a stunning improvement. If it’s built on a solid foundation and not just adrenaline the Gryphons could be a force this year, especially with potential to start as many as nine fifth-year players on offence. Let’s not forget that Guelph gave up an average of 37 points in five games against the other semifinalists in 2012, though — we need to see some improvement there before we book the parade.

Prediction: Second

McMaster Marauders

Coach: Stefan Ptaszek (8th year)

Last year: 8-0, first place; won Yates Cup, lost Vanier Cup to Laval

Key returnees: All-Canadians LB Aram Eisho, CB Joey Cupido, K Tyler Crapigna; IR Michael DiCroce, 2011 OUA MVP who missed 2012 with an injury; four-time conference all-star T Matt Sewell, all-star S Mike Daly; DL Adam Dickson played in the East-West Bowl; LB Nick Shortill

Key losses: Hec Crighton-winning QB Kyle Quinlan; all-Canadian G Jason Medeiros; Metras Trophy winner DE Ben D’Aguilar (now with Calgary in the CFL), conference all-stars IR Robert Babic and C Elliott Montag; DT Tanvir Bhangoo, LB Shane Beaton, WR Brad Fochesato

Recruits to watch: OL Nick Firlit (Burlington M.M. Robinson), WR Mitch O’Connor (Kingston Frontenac), DL Michael Brouwers (Norwood), LB Eric Messalira (Stoney Creek Cardinal Newman), DL Mark Mackie (London Saunders)

Local content: QB Marshall Ferguson, WR Ben O’Connor, QB Tyler Filson, WR Mitch O’Connor (all Frontenac)

They don’t play: Toronto, Windsor

Last championship: 2012 (Yates Cup), 2011 (Vanier Cup)

Synopsis: There’s lots of quality left on this roster but you don’t lose two all-stars off the offensive line and two national award winners without feeling some pain. If Marshall Ferguson plays as well as a No.1 as he has over three years as a sub, the Marauders will be in good hands, but their championship years may be behind them.

Prediction: Third

Ottawa Gee-Gees

Coach: Dr. Jamie Barresi (1st year)

Last year: 2-6, ninth place, did not make playoffs

Key returnees: RB Brendan Gillanders, DE Ettore Lattanzio, C Shavin Fernando, WR Simon LeMarquand, WR Maxime Mireault, QB Aaron Colbon, LB Rob Griffiths, DB Matt Bond, DB Soonbum Cha, DB Ty Rusznak, K Matt Falvo

Key losses: DE Tyler Sawyer, LB Chris Daly

Local content: Rec Ben Fisher (Sydenham), LB Josh Hill (Frontenac), OL Devan Millar (Regi), K Lewis Ward (Bayridge)

They don’t play: Guelph, Laurier

Last championship: 2006 (Yates Cup)

Synopsis: The good news? Eighteen starters return from last year, including all of the offensive line. The bad news? Those 18 guys were the biggest part of a 2-6 team. There’s widespread belief that unburdened of Gary Etcheverry’s controversial double-wing offence, with a more conventional attack the Gee-Gees can again be a force in the league. That assumes the talent was there all along, and we need more evidence of that, specifically that Aaron Colbon can do better than his lifetime .522 pass-completion rate.

Prediction: Seventh

Queen’s Golden Gaels

Coach: Pat Sheahan (14th year, 25th in CIS)

Last year: 6-2, third place; lost to Guelph in conference semifinal

Key returnees: All-Canadian DB Tijani Chase-Dunawa, second-team all-Canadians RB Ryan Granberg, DL John Miniaci, LB Sam Sabourin; OUA all-stars G Derek Morris, WR Giovanni Aprile, DL Derek Wiggan, CB Andrew Lue; fourth-year QB Billy McPhee

Key losses: LB Steve Laporte, DB Ben D’Andrea, DB Josh Sultana, C Mike Sullivan

Recruits to watch: RB Brendan Morgan (ex-Virginia), RB Daniel Heslop (ex-Savannah State), RB Jonah Pataki (Wallaceburg) played for Team Ontario in Texas; DL Chance Spencer (Johnstown, Ont.), LB Nick Dowd (Kingston La Salle)

Local content: Rec Aaron Gazendam, FB Nick Dodwell, T Josh Prinsen, DL Luke Ball, DB Matt Pendergast, DL Corey Flude (Holy Cross), FB Aaron Dowd, LB Nick Dowd (La Salle), DL Cory Dyer (Gananoque),  G Derek Morris (Napanee), OL Mackenzie George (Trinity), OL Brendan Ginn (Niagara Academy)

They don’t play: Carleton, Toronto

Last championship: 2009 (Vanier Cup)

Synopsis: The misfortune of the 22-point second-half collapse in the fourth quarter of the semifinal game at Guelph has filled this group with steadfast resolve. The talent, experience and coaching acumen are all championship calibre. This team can only be beaten by itself.

Prediction: First

Toronto Blues

Coach: Greg Gary (3rd year)

Last year: 2-6, 10th place, did not make the playoffs

Key returnees: WR Paul de Pass has been among the nation’s top five receivers in yards per catch three years in a row; return specialist Kevin Bradfield led the nation in kick-return yards and the OUA in punt-return yards; WR Alex Pierzchalski played in the East-West Bowl; also OL Aaron Wheaton, DL Everton Williams, LB Dylan Gordon, DB John Connors

Key losses: K Andrew Lomasney, DL James Bodanis, LB Broc Elliott, FB Stephen Boroniec

Recruits to watch: OL Danny Sprukulis (Oakville Holy Trinity) was a tournament all-star at the 2012 Canada Cup; K Stephan Pallota is a provincial-class soccer player; LB Brittley Mokube, DB Paul Kozachuck (London Oakridge)

Local content: FB Dylan Howes (Smiths Falls) played junior ball with the Grenadiers

They don’t play: Queen’s, McMaster

Last championship: 1993 (Vanier Cup)

Synopsis: Toronto did not have a single player on either the first or second conference all-star team in 2012; only four teams in Canada scored fewer points. It’s asking a lot of sophomore QB Chris Jukovic, with just two games experience, to do much better while surrounded by a cast that is either similarly inexperienced or heretofore undistinguished.

Prediction: Ninth

Waterloo Warriors

Coach: Joe Paopao (2nd year)

Last year: 2-6, seventh place, did not make the playoffs

Key returnees: All-Canadian WR Nick Anapolsky had 63 receptions; DBs Christian Mahler and Harrison Mair were 1-2 in Canada in interceptions; OL Matt Vonk was the 38th choice in the CFL draft and bypassed an offer to stay on the practice roster in Saskatchewan; OL Matthew Kielo played in the East-West Bowl; DL Djordje Gavrolivic

Key losses: RB Marco Visintin, LB Corey Dawson

Recruits to watch: LB Rhys Mahler and DB Jordan Hoover both transferred from Windsor; QB Kyle Ross (Sarnia Northern), RB Micah Hesman (Windsor Sandwich), OL Mark Janozeski (Burlington Corpus Christi)

Local content: P-K Alex Cowie (Napanee), OL Matthew Kielo (Frontenac), DB Jeff Kuipers (Frontenac)

They don’t play: Western, York

Last championship: 1999 (Yates Cup)

Synopsis: Aside from completing passes to Anapolsky, two young quarterbacks, Jamie Cook and Brian Chris, were unable to establish themselves last year and the best running back was 46th in the CIS in rushing. The Warriors gave up an average of 534 yards per game, 84 more than the next-worst defence in the conference. There appears to be little reason to believe the Warriors can make the requisite strides to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Prediction: Tenth

Western Mustangs

Coach: Greg Marshall (7th year, 11th in CIS)

Last year: 5-3, fourth place, lost conference semifinal to McMaster

Key returnees: All-Canadian RB Garret Sanvido was the nation’s only 1,000-yard rusher in 2012, fifth-year K Lirim Hajrullahu, WR Brian Marshall; DE Dylan Ainsworth; QB Will Finch; conference rookie of the year RB Yannick Harou

Key losses: OL Shane Bergman (now with Calgary in the CFL), conference all-star DB Harold Mutobola, QB Donnie Marshall

Recruits to watch: DB Jesse McNair (London Thomas Aquinas), DB Nick Vanin (London Catholic Central), Rec Brian Dowds (Victoria, B.C.), OL Eddie Meredith (ex-Boston College), WR David Mackie (Jackson’s Point)

Local content: Unknown.

They don’t play: Guelph, Waterloo

Last championship: 2010 (Yates Cup)

Synopsis: The Mustangs scored the second-most points in the league and allowed the third-fewest, but they finished fourth because they pounded the poorer teams but couldn’t get it done against three teams that ultimately finished ahead of them. They lost those games by seven, six and three points, however, so they weren’t far off. If Finch begins to fulfill the promise predicted before appendicitis interrupted his freshman season, look out.

Prediction: Fourth

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks

Coach: Michael Faulds (1st year)

Last year: 3-5, sixth place, lost conference quarter-final to Queen’s

Key returnees: FB Isaac Dell was selected by Hamilton in the CFL draft; Rec Greg Nyhof had 18 catches last year as a rookie; DL Asante Mizan, LB Chris Ackie moves from safety; DB Felix Odum

Key losses: Rec Alex Anthony, QB Steve Fantham, RB Anton Bennett; LB Drew Galpin, conference all-star LB Mitchell Bosch was the school’s all-time leading tackler.

Recruits to watch: WR Marcus Arkarakas (North York/Markham Raiders) was the leading receiver in the OVFL; DE Kwaku Boateng (Milton Bishop Reding), DB William Pitt-Doe (Mississauga Joan of Arc), OL Edward Cadougan (Toronto Sen. O’Connor), OL Luke Reeves (London Oakridge)

Local content: None

They don’t play: Carleton, Ottawa

Last championship: 2005 (Vanier Cup)

Synopsis: Faulds, the former Western QB who graduated as the all-time Canadian university passing leader, will no doubt strive to revive a moribund offence that scored just 109 points last year, worst in the OUA. Whether he can do that with a pair of untested quarterbacks — Julien John and James Fracas — and a young defence that may not provide much room for error is doubtful.

Prediction: Eighth

Windsor Lancers

Coach: Joe D’Amore (3rd year)

Last year: 3-5, fifth place, lost conference quarter-final to Western

Key returnees: Second team OUA all-stars Austin Kennedy, P Dan Cerino; WR Evan Poszczonak; DL Tai Pham had 7.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss in 2012; LB Frank Renaud, WR Josh Burns has moved to offence from linebacker; RB Mitch Dender

Key losses: All-Canadian WR Jordan Brescacin, second-team OUA all-star DBs Matt McGarva, Shea Pierre

Recruits to watch: WR Beau Lumley (Windsor Herman), RB Nigel Applewhaite (Hamilton Westdale), OL Brett Boersma (Sarnia Northern), DB Matt Gayer (Aurora Cardinal Carter)

Local content: None

They don’t play: McMaster, York

Last championship: 1975 (Yates Cup)

Synopsis: Kennedy led the nation in passing yardage in 2012, though he was hobbled by a leg injury for much of the season. Brescacin’s loss will be felt but if Kennedy is healthy and can restore the running game to his repertoire he has potential to have one of the truly great seasons in CIS history.

Prediction: Fifth

York Lions

Coach: Warren Craney (4th year)

Last year: 2-6, eighth place, did not make the playoffs

Key returnees: QB Myles Gibbon was ninth in Canada in passing yardage; WR William Austin was a second-team conference all-star; LB Hussein Hazime has started every game since he arrived at York; DB Josh Smail had three interceptions as a rookie, DE James Tuck (6.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss) played in the East-West Bowl; DE Michael Livingston returns after a year playing junior football; OL Max Sullivan

Key losses: RB Kyle Exume, DE Patrick Russell, DB Andrew Collymore

Recruits to watch: RB Connor Anderson (Newmarket Huron Heights via West Virginia Wesleyan College); R Damone Williams transfers from St. Francis Xavier; OL Trevor King (Regina); WR Jarrett Carson (Brossard, Que., John Abbott College), WR Jason Charland (Quebec City CEGEP Saint-Louis), DB Samir Boulazreg (Mississauga Lorne Park), DL Cole Austen (Barrie Bear Creek)

Local content: None

They don’t play: Waterloo, Windsor

Last championship: York has never won a football championship

Synopsis: The Lions averaged 411 yards of offence per game last year, third-best in the conference and of their six losses, three were by a total of nine points. If York’s defence can improve sufficiently — only two teams in the league allowed more points in 2012 — York could return to the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Prediction: Sixth

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One Comment
  1. vcvet permalink

    Good summary. Finch didn’t miss a game after his appendectomy. I like the rankings (regular season?) – although Western #2 and that assumes Queen’s beats them in London.

    Jeff Chan Growth Alchemy Group Focused on Growth Strategy and Organizational Performance Toronto, ON, Canada Tel: 1-647-283-2444 Email: jeffachan@gmail.com

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