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Gaels have their way with York

October 19, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

As Billy McPhee walked off the Richardson Stadium field for the final time Saturday—after completing the 462nd pass of the second-most prolific career in Queen’s football history—those who remained of a Homecoming crowd of 8,151 rose to give him a standing ovation.

A tip of the cap in response would have sufficed, but McPhee wanted to do more than just acknowledge the accolade. As he reached the sideline, the graduating quarterback responded in kind, raising his hands to applaud those in the alumni stands. He then turned to the student bleachers and did the same.

“I know it’s more of a European soccer thing to do,” McPhee said after the Golden Gaels defeated the York Lions 57-10, the 24th victory of his intercollegiate career, “but I truly am so grateful to every single one of them.

“We play football,” he continued. “In Canada, it’s not the No. 1 sport that kids grow up dreaming to play, but for me, for us, it’s what we wanted to play. To have people who care enough, whether it’s about the school or about us or for whatever reason, they decide to come out on a cold October day and support us; it’s mind-boggling. It’s unbelievably humbling.

“I wasn’t really sure if it made sense but I just felt the best way to show my gratitude, other than my words, was maybe a gesture like that, to applaud them, after all the cheering they’ve done for me and for a number of us over the years.”

With 386 yards passing and four touchdowns, it was a career game for McPhee, who purloined one of the game balls as a souvenir of his final home game and promptly gave it to his brother for safekeeping. (McPhee had 380 yards last week against Toronto, after an adjustment for a statistical error; he once had four TD passes in a game, against Laurier in 2011).

In an impassioned pre-game address, Gaels offensive co-ordinator Ryan Sheahan implored those in the room to remember that everyone one day will have a last game, and when you’re playing your last game at home you hope that your teammates rally around you and give you everything they’ve got.

During the week, Sheahan said he and McPhee talked about the emotional impact of playing one’s final game in his home stadium.

“(I said), ‘If you had to architect your last football game at a ball park, what would you want to be remembered for?’ and I thought his performance really lived up to that. He played like a fifth-year man. He looked really great, in front of his home crowd and he had a bunch of family here.

“I’m proud of him.”

Immediately after the game, McPhee said he hadn’t yet experienced the finality of an it’s-over moment.

“We still have another week,” he said, referring to Queen’s final game of the season next Saturday at Carleton, but he said Richardson Stadium “is the best place in the world.”

“I’ve had so much fun here over five years and … this is the best you can hope to go out, getting to see the alumni, playing in front of a huge crowd and playing with your best friends.

“It’s a little surreal but I’m at peace with it. It was a storybook ending for me and for one of my best friends, Alex Carroll. I’m so happy for him to have the game that he did.”

For the third game in a row Carroll, another of a handful of Gaels who played their final game at Richardson Stadium Saturday, established a new personal best, with 209 yards receiving from seven catches, three of them for touchdowns, another career best. His first catch, for an 85-yard touchdown, set the tone of the game in just its second minute.

“It was a great day for us to put on a show,” said Carroll, whose second-quarter touchdown at the back of the south end zone carried him into the stands, where he took an impromptu seat among some alumni.

“It’s been a trying year for some of us. We’re trying to end our careers with a bang, so we just wanted to perform, put on a show for the fans and for me, personally, to take it all in.”

The outcome Saturday was never in doubt, from the time Carroll scored his first touchdown, through the first quarter when York failed go gain first down as Queen’s built a 17-0 lead. Even though the Lions, 0-7, got their first touchdown of the season early in the second quarter, they couldn’t avoid being beaten for the 16th time in a row by the Gaels, a team York has never beaten.

Queen’s dominated in all facets. Besides McPhee’s career-best 386 yards passing, Jesse Andrews rushed for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The defence sacked York quarterback Jahmari Bennett eight times and six other times stopped a ball carrier for no gain or a loss. Queen’s had kick returns of 60, 32 and 46 yards.

It was the kind of performance that, even though a playoff berth is no longer within their grasp, is now one from which the seniors can depart with dignity.

“It’s been a really difficult and trying season,” McPhee said. “To rally around a certain small, select number of individuals put a lot of pressure on us. Without those other seniors in the room, I wouldn’t have been able to do it myself.

“(This season) has really been a great teacher of life, knowing that things don’t always go your way and you’re going to have to rally around people. You really find out who your friends are, and who the men are, because there were a few cowards on our team this year, to be completely honest, guys that really let the team down. There were a lot of men who stepped up … and they’re the guys I would go to war with any day of the week, because they stuck around for the hard part.”

Pat Sheahan said he’s proud of the way his graduating players performed Saturday.

“There are a lot of really good guys, and it was important for them to walk off with a win,” he said. “I’m sure it’s something they’re always going to remember. We talked about it all week and we put particular emphasis on it this morning … that we wanted our seniors to leave the field today with pride, and come off the field (after) an effort they could put their signature on, and I think they all did. They all had big games today.”

Notebook—Queen’s, now 2-5, led 43-7 at halftime. The Gaels got their other touchdown from Doug Corby, on a 19-yard pass from McPhee in the third quarter. Dillon Wamsley kicked field goals of 28, 31 and 39 yards, but he missed on kicks from the 32 and 39. … It’s been a remarkable month for Alex Carroll, who today stands as the leading receiver in Canada with 766 yards. He’s had 503 of those yards in his last three games. His 46 catches places him in a tie for eighth place, all-time, at Queen’s with Chris Ioannides, who caught that many balls in 2009. Through the first four years of an injury-plagued career Carroll had 34 catches for 496 yards. The most catches in a season by a Queen’s player is 63, by Craig Spear in 2003, a total that set the national record at the time. … It was a big day for Kingston-bred players. Luke Ball (Holy Cross) had two quarterback sacks and a tackle for loss; Matt Pendergast (Holy Cross) had an interception and a sack; Aaron Dowd (La Salle) forced a York fumble, blocked a punt and caught three passes for 54 yards. … York’s Joey Ricottone had the distinction of scoring the Lions’ first touchdown of the year, on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Jahmari Bennett early in the second quarter, during the 378th minute of their season.

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4 Comments
  1. John mac permalink

    Billy McPhee and classy fit rather nicely in the same sentence. Thx for the memories young man.

  2. John mac permalink

    And classy also works perfectly with Alex Carroll !

  3. Nice game by Billy but I wouldn’t say he had the second most prolific career at Queens though. Tom Denison was a lot better at quarterback and one could make an argument between him and Brannagan for number 1 to play QB at Queens.

    • I was writing in terms of most prolific in terms of No. of passes completed, though Denison compiled his numbers over three years, not five. Perhaps I could have been more specific. If you’re talking all-time great quarterbacks, you’d also have to throw fellows like Cal Connor and Tim Pendergast into the conversation, when you look at the success of the teams they quarterbacked. They both came along at a time when Queen’s was blessed with great running backs and the game wasn’t oriented to leaving them with terrific passing numbers.

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