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Gaels thump hapless Waterloo; improve to 6-1

October 12, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

WATERLOO — It was just the kind of game the Queen’s Golden Gaels needed, not so much to impress anyone but themselves.

On a clear, calm, unseasonably warm night, the Gaels took it to the hapless Waterloo Warriors, beating them 78-21. No adjectives or colourful verbs are necessary for a contest where the score pretty much says all you need to know, but consider a few highlights:

• In improving its record to 6-1, Queen’s led 33-0 before the game was 12 minutes old; the Gaels punted only twice all night.

• Three of the four tailbacks Queen’s employed rushed for better than 100 yards apiece. The exception was starter Ryan Granberg, who had a paltry 93 yards when he came out of the game early in the second quarter.

• The Gaels rushed for 499 yards — 490 more than the Warriors — and had 800 yards of total offence. They sacked beleaguered Waterloo quarterback Brian Chris eight times.

• Dillon Wamsley tied a 34-year-old school record with a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter, matching the previous best, booted by Blaine Shore, in 1979.

The outcome might have been more severe had one of those two punts not been blocked at the Queen’s 10-yard line, and a Queen’s fumble at the Waterloo one-yard line not been returned 92 yards to set up the Warriors’ final touchdown.

Had Wamsley not missed two shorter field-goal attempts after his record-tying boot, and Jonah Pataki not fumbled on the one-yard line on his way into the end zone in the fourth quarter, the Gaels easily would have surpassed the team record for points in a game, 80, set in an 80-0 debacle at York in 2008.

As it was, the Gaels — with freshman Pataki rushing nine straight plays, for 72 yards — got to the Waterloo five-yard line with a little more than a minute to play in the game. Quarterback Ryan Mitchell dutifully took a knee three plays in a row to avoid scoring his team’s 11th touchdown of the game.

It was too little, too late, for some Waterloo fans, who were giving the Queen’s bench the business.

“What do you do?” Gaels coach Pat Sheahan mused. “We threw the ball 19 times and that was it. It was a ridiculous score … but you still have to do something. It’s a difficult spot. I like (Waterloo coach) Joe Paopao. He’s a good guy. You don’t want to be accused of rubbing it in, but you want your kids to play hard so they don’t get hurt. In this game at this level, if you don’t play hard, you’re going to get nicked.

“That’s what our kids did — they came down, they played hard, they took this game seriously, they were excited to play and they did a good job.”

Not to diminish the superb play of Granberg, Daniel Heslop (125 yards), Jesse Andrews (168 yards) and Jonah Pataki (118 yards) — the latter three all personal-best performances — it was a night when the principal’s pet turtle could have averaged seven yards a carry behind an inspired Queen’s offensive line.

On such a night it was suggested to Sheahan that his only failing as a coach was not to have a fifth tailback to put in the game.

Sheahan chuckled and said he resisted the urge to slip Granberg back onto the field long enough to surpass the 100-yard plateau, and make it 4-for-4 for 100-yard running backs, a rare achievement, indeed.

“I talked to him on the sideline and I said, ‘You know what? With my luck and your history, I’m not putting you back in,’” Sheahan said.

Granberg got hurt late in the final regular-season game last year and missed the playoffs.

Many people have been waiting for the Gaels to have their breakout game and there’s no question all facets had splendid displays Friday night. Queen’s first four touchdowns — scored in the first seven minutes of the game — came on a 42-yard run on a fake punt, a 63-yard pass, a 53-yard punt return and a fumble recovery near the Waterloo goal line.

Was this finally the Queen’s team everybody been expecting to see all year?

“We’re getting there,” said Sean Plumley, the only veteran linebacker healthy enough to play Friday night. “There is still some improvement that we can make, but we’re getting there.”

Jesse Andrews, who rushed for a career-best 168 yards on 10 carries in a little more than 10 minutes of the third quarter, agreed.

“It’s our seventh game in but I think this is the one that everyone wanted. It gave us a chance to show what we’re capable of.

“We have the talent. We have a lot of chemistry, too. It was just a matter of time in terms of throwing it all together and coming out as successfully as we did (tonight). It just seemed like every aspect of the game was finally clicking.”

Corby, who had a career-best three-touchdown game, was more to the point.

“This is the Queen’s team everybody’s been waiting to see,” he said. “There were a few mistakes we made here and there but other than that we were just flying. This is the team we’re going to be from here on out.

“With playoffs coming and Guelph next week this was a big game to try and get things going. We’re ready to go now.”

Even against an opponent as clearly over-matched as Waterloo, a 1-6 team floundering so badly Friday wasn’t even the first time this year they’ve allowed 78 points?

“That’s what teams said about Laurier, right?” Corby said, referring to last week’s game when another 1-5 team took the Gaels to overtime before losing. “You’ve got to be aware of every opponent.”

Plumley made note of the fact the Gaels were missing eight players who have started a game on defence this year.

“We were missing a lot of guys but some of the younger guys stepped up and played some good games. We had to get by this week and I think we did a pretty good job, as a team, outplaying our opponent for most of the game.

“We definitely needed it. This season we haven’t been able to bring it all together for one game. I think we can improve on this but it’s good to get everybody playing well. This will help our team gain some confidence.”

Andrews said it was difficult to identify a catalyst for the terrific performance, given that players have been vowing for a month it was time they collectively got their act together.

“The previous six games have been too close for our liking,” he said. “We just came together as a team and said it’s time to step up, it’s time to actually do the work, it’s time to show what we can do.

“It’s now or never. We’re in the playoffs, effectively.”

Indeed, Friday’s results — in addition to the Queen’s victory, Guelph survived an early scare at Carleton, where the Ravens had the Gryphons in a 10-10 tie early in the second quarter before ultimately losing 48-12 — ensure the Gaels’ final game next Saturday against undefeated Guelph will be a showdown for second place, and the prizes that go with it: A first-round playoff bye and a home game in the semifinals.

The second of Queen’s two Homecoming games, it has been sold out for weeks.

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