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Gaels survive game with makeshift defence

October 6, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

It was a day, Queen’s coach Pat Sheahan said, of modest expectations.

Missing four starters on defence, Sheahan said, made it “one of those days where the coaching staff decided that to try and gut this one out, just get through it.”

The Gaels defeated the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 40-34 in overtime Saturday, despite not having defensive back Matt Webster (broken collarbone), safety Brendan Morgan, defensive end Andrew Sauer or linebackers Sam Sabourin (shoulder) or Ryan Farrell (knee) in the lineup. Linebacker Jesse Topley, who also has started this year, was similarly not available.

Luke McQuilkin, who started in Sabourin’s place, went out of the game with an injury and the Gaels didn’t have defensive tackle John Miniaci available until the second quarter. He was busy Saturday morning writing his law school admissions test.

The announcement that the splendid Sabourin would not be dressing sent murmurs through the Richardson Stadium crowd, and no doubt brought smiles to the faces of the Laurier coaching staff.

“He’s going to be fine,” defensive co-ordinator Pat Tracey said of Sabourin. “He just couldn’t play today.”

When McQuilkin, a reserve making his first varsity start, got hurt, Mike Leroux was pressed into service. “He hasn’t played a game since Grade 12,” Tracey said, but that didn’t prevent him from making a couple of sparkling plays.

His sack of Laurier quarterback James Fracas late in the fourth quarter ultimately led to Laurier punting into the wind from the end zone, giving Queen’s the ball in a position from where the Gaels promptly scored the go-ahead touchdown.

He was also part of a three-man golden gang who sacked Fracas on Laurier’s first play in overtime.

“He’s a very intelligent, hard-hitting kid,” Tracey said of a sophomore who would probably rank sixth or seventh among the team’s linebackers on a day when they’re all healthy. “He’s just what you want and he got a chance to play and I’m pleased for him.

“The game goes pretty fast but Michael is a pretty heady kid. He comes to every meeting. He sits at the front and he takes notes.”

And after Saturday’s game, he was grateful for having had the chance to play.

“Despite the fact that you don’t really get many reps with the starting (defence) in practice … you still have to give it your all and any opportunity you get, you have to grasp it,” Leroux said.

“I was very fortunate. I was given a great opportunity. I can’t let that chance fly. I’ve been training in the off-season, I’ve been spending as much time as I can preparing for that moment and that moment came today. The only thing I can do is give it 100 per cent.”

His dearth of linebackers — there are also three rookies who are unable to practise due to injury — has caused Tracey some concern.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to replace so many guys who have missed because of injuries it’s been a real challenge to practise, not only play the games,” he said. “How do you practise when you’re not quite sure who’s going to be in there? That’s been the most frustrating challenge. Just to play the most basic defence with 12 guys who might play the game has been a real struggle.”

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