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Team still smarting from Western whipping presents challenge for Gaels

September 20, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

When you’re the next opponent for a team whose most recent contest ended with having 83 points scored against it, what exactly is the expectation?

Do you lick your lips in anticipation of being next in line for that buffet? Or do you fear the angry guy who’s preparing it?

That’s the question facing the Queen’s Golden Gaels as they get ready for Saturday’s Ontario University Athletics football game with the Ottawa Gee-Gees, a team that was blitzed 83-27 by the Western Mustangs last Saturday in London.

Gaels coach Pat Sheahan said scores of such magnitude must be digested “with a grain of salt.”

“It was a close game for a while,” he said, “and then they found themselves unable to keep up with the pace of the game.

“Some of their key guys were not playing last Saturday,” he continued. “We expect them to be full-bore.”

Sheahan, whose team is one of just three in Ontario yet to taste defeat, said the biggest risk to a team facing an opponent so badly spanked in its most recent outing is you’re never really sure what you’re about to deal with.

“Western had a lot of big plays,” he said, “but the thing about big plays is … when you’re having a day when a team is exploding on you with big plays, typically you take measures the following week to shore that up.

“Our coaches have been very focused on personnel matchups, where we think we can win, what our own vulnerabilities are against then. There are some things you have to take away from them. I tend to think they’re a lot better than they showed last Saturday.”

Even in such a resounding defeat, Ottawa had 491 yards of offence, and with an average of 582 total yards per game, the Gee-Gees, though just 2-2, rank second in Canada. “They even passed the ball for more than 300 yards against McMaster,” Sheahan said. “This team has a knack of hanging around.”

It’s not exactly a case of deja-vu, but the Gaels have been in this type of situation not that long ago.

The Gee-Gees came to Kingston last year an 0-4 team, in the midst of failing miserably with what Sheahan called “a radical throwback” double-wing offence, a system designed around a formation with two tight ends and three men in the backfield. All that was missing was the leather helmets.

Instead of succumbing meekly, however, Ottawa had its best defensive game to that point, blocked two kicks and came within seven points of upsetting a Queen’s team that was ranked fifth in Canada.

The next day, coach Gary Etcheverry was fired.

For the remainder of the year the Gee-Gees worked to install a more typical Canadian-style spread offence. It wasn’t enough to get Ottawa into the playoffs but it seemed to capture the fancy of a group of players who were unable — or unwilling — to digest the double wing.

Ottawa’s new offence allows the quarterback more freedom on the field, Sheahan said, and within that framework Aaron Colbon is thriving. “The quarterback is executing at a much higher level,” he said.

Jamie Barresi, a former Gee-Gees quarterback who coached in the NCAA with Penn State, Florida and Wake Forest and was later offensive co-ordinator with Hamilton and Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League, was appointed Ottawa’s coach in January.

“Like any transition time they were late replacing the head coach so I think this year’s recruiting class was limited,” Sheahan said. “They have been significantly affected by graduation. They’re trying to get by with a core of guys who are good athletes. Their depth is an issue, so if they get good guys hurt, they’re not necessarily replacing them with players of the same calibre.

For the Gee-Gees, who played their home games last year 40 minutes out of town in Beckwith Township, this will be the second game in the new Gee-Gees Field on the main campus on Lees Avenue. Built primarily as a recreational facility, it has seating capacity for just 3,400 — attendance at Queen’s last game at Lansdowne Park in 2011 was 5,367 — and there is no parking on site.

The game will be broadcast live on the Streaming Sports Network, with Queen’s alumnus and Ernestown Secondary School grad Neate Seager in his third season doing the play-by-play. The game is at 1 p.m. and it may be seen at: http://www.ssncanada.ca/game/5307/

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