Young defence shows promise in preseason defeat
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Does the outcome of an exhibition football game matter?
It didn’t even matter that much to the guy whose team won Sunday afternoon.
“To be honest with you, our goal wasn’t to come in and win,” Concordia Stingers coach Mickey Donovan said after his team defeated the Queen’s Golden Gaels 25-18 at Richardson Stadium.
“Our goal was to come in and execute, work hard, play tough and not give up,” he said. “The whole preseason we were talking about finishing—finishing the play, doing the job, and that’s what we did today.”
He could have added ‘be opportunistic’ to the things his team achieved in Sunday’s game, contested on a hot, humid day under a brilliantly sunny sky.
That’s because most of his team’s points could be traced to Queen’s turnovers: interceptions returned for touchdowns by Michael Asare and Kris Robertson and a fumble recovery that led to a field goal.
A Queen’s defence that dressed eight rookie linemen in its first game under new defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall hardly needed to be spectacular against a team that was 0-8 last year, but it performed capably and it looked promising for the time when Derek Wiggan, Luke Ball and Corey Flude, none of whom played Sunday, return.
At no time did the Queen’s defence perform better than it did early in the fourth quarter, when the Stingers, trailing 15-10, had the ball at the Queen’s one-yard line, with first down. The Gaels denied first running back Gunner Tatum and then quarterback Colin Sequeira, before Sequeira finally put the ball into the end zone on third down.
Such promise renders the outcome moot from the Queen’s point of view, as well.
“We allowed 11 points, and that’s pretty good for Game 1,” said veteran lineman Derek Wiggan. “We have a really talented rookie group at D line. I had no doubt they’d play well. No doubt.”
Wiggan spoke of how well the rookies adapted to the speed and physicality of the play. Even the ones who have been with the team for a year or two may not have been in a competitive game since high school. Indeed, five of the rookie linemen were playing in their first intercollegiate game.
“Going from high school to university it’s a different beast, and they were able to compete out there,” Wiggan said. “Some of these guys have been in maybe a couple of plays the last couple of years and they had to step in.
“This is going to help them down the road. They’ve had their first taste of it. Hopefully injuries don’t hurt us later on in the year but (if they do) now they’ve got some experience.”
Nick Dowd, the La Salle Secondary School grad beginning his second year with the club, started one game last year at linebacker.
“It didn’t really compare to this,” he said. “I had a bunch of all-stars on the D line in front of me so I wasn’t making plays like I was today. If you don’t have John Miniaci and Cory Dyer lining up in front of you it changes the aspect of the game a little bit.”
To compensate, Dowd said he decided just to play the game.
“It was almost like a high school game,” he said, “do anything you could to get your hands on the ball carrier and get in the passing lanes.
“Coach Marshall is doing a good job. Everybody’s on the same page because he kept it simple this fall. There’s no mind games going on in the defensive playbook. That’s nice. It’s good for the rookies, even the vets, too. Keeping it simple helps you play, because when you’re thinking, you’re not playing.”
Dowd found himself playing defensive end Monday, and evidently so impressed his coach he might have found himself a new home.
“As long as it gets me on the field, I’m happy with that,” Dowd said. “It’s a simple task, compared to linebacker. You don’t have to do the cover job on the running backs and receivers, but you have the quarterback to contain, which is tough against a quarterback who can run like that.”
That quarterback was the No. 3 Stingers pivot, Mario Porreca. He came into the game in the third quarter and ended it with 71 yards rushing, one of the bright spots for Donovan, who was making his head-coaching debut.
“The great thing for today is our guys got to play against a great team … and we were able to take some good things from this,” he said.
“There were a couple of times where we fumbled the ball and the defence came back out and didn’t get down. This team, maybe back in the day, would have gotten down on each other but they’re sticking together and we’re working through all the bumps.”
In a game that was played about as well as you’d expect of two teams that have had barely a week of practice—the teams combined to turn the ball over eight times, and there were 24 penalties—Dillon Wamsley’s 26-yard field goal was the only scoring play of the first quarter.
Asare’s 20-yard return of Nate Hobbs’s first intercollegiate pass gave the visitors a 7-3 lead late in the second quarter and after the Stingers conceded a safety the score was 7-5 at halftime.
Queen’s regained the lead when Billy McPhee and Peter Hannon connected for a 17-yard touchdown pass in the seventh minute of the third quarter, after which Keegan Treloar, from 22 yards, and Wamsley, from 35 yards, traded field goals.
The Gaels led 15-10 when Sequeira scored on third-and-goal, and three plays later Max Townsend threw an interception that Robertson took 42 yards for another touchdown. A single on the subsequent kickoff gave the Stingers 15 points in just 70 seconds and a lead that proved to be insurmountable.
Wamsley’s third field goal of the game, this one from 14 yards, brought the Gaels to within seven points of Concordia but though Queen’s mounted a splendid drive in the final minute and a bit—marching 94 yards from its own eight-yard line to the Concordia eight in seven plays—the Gaels couldn’t get the tying score. McPhee’s pass to Alex Carroll at the back of the end zone was batted away at the last second by Kevin Prempeh to preserve the Stingers’ win.
Jesse Andrews’ 99 yards rushing was the biggest single element of Queen’s 462 yards of total offence. McPhee completed 15 of 25 attempts for 202 yards. He was sacked three times but he did not throw an interception.