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Gaels treating season finale ‘like a playoff game’

October 24, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

They don’t sound like a bunch that’s playing out the string.

“It’s the last game of the season. You treat it like a playoff game,” Queen’s Golden Gaels defensive back Colton Ballou was saying yesterday.

“After this, the season’s over. You want to bring your best effort.”

Such is the attitude of the Gaels, who will finish a disappointing Ontario University Athletics football season Saturday in Ottawa against the fledgling Carleton Ravens. It will be the third game Queen’s has had to play since an 0-5 start officially rendered the Gaels playoff spectators.

You’d think whatever enthusiasm remained at that point would have evaporated by now, but weeks after clinching eighth place became their only tangible objective, the players long to do more than spoil Carleton’s first playoff bid in more than 20 years. What the game means to the Ravens is immaterial, receiver Curtis Carmichael said. “Our mentality is just about us.”

“We know they’re going to put out a lot of effort because they’re still in playoff contention,” he said, “but for us this game means a lot more in terms of pride.

“We were honest with where we were at. We never actually denied what was happening this year. We faced it and tried to come out of it and we’ve been successful.”

The Gaels have won their last two games handily, against traditionally weak Toronto and York. They insist it’s important to continue that string of success, however modest it may be.

“We’ve got to keep the momentum going for next season,” said Corey Flude, the defensive lineman from Holy Cross. “We can’t let this season drag us down. We’ve got to take some positives out of it.”

To that end, Gaels coach Pat Sheahan said the team has rehearsed for this game like any other.

“We didn’t give all the veteran players a handshake after the Homecoming win and tell them to take the week off, because we’re going to put all the kids in this week,” he said. “We have enough kids in the lineup, anyway, we didn’t have to do that,” he chuckled, “but it’s important to them and it’s important to the program … that our seniors walk off the field with a victory.

“Also, the underclassmen who are going to be returning need to understand that Carleton is one of the up-and-comers. This is a team that, for the next three or four years, is going to be challenging for a top-six spot, a top-four spot, and if one (team) is coming in, that means that one is going to be out. What we need to do is make sure we’re not the team that’s moving out (of the top echelon).”

In just its second year back in the OUA, Carleton is 4-3 and very much in the hunt for a playoff berth, one that would be its first since 1996.

Sheahan said his team needs to be wary of the Ravens’ deep passing threat from veteran quarterback Jesse Mills, the Saint Mary’s transfer, and sophomore Nick Gorgichuk, the former Ottawa Myers Riders star whose father, Steve, is in the Regiopolis Notre Dame Hall of Fame and had a fine career at St. Francis Xavier University, and whose uncle, Eugene, was a top athlete at Queen Elizabeth Collegiate.

“One of the things that has plagued us is an area where this team is strong,” Sheahan said, “and that’s the big, vertical plays up the field. We want to challenge their capacity to make consistent yardage gains, (make them) make pinpoint passes in the short to medium range, and not give them any easy ones up the field.

“We want to cover those kids just long enough so our good defensive front can be disruptive.”

Sheahan said his team’s play in the past two games leads him to believe it can achieve those objectives.

“The quality of our opponent has enabled us to gain some confidence and with that you play better,” he said.

He spoke of putting the Queen’s season into a greater perspective.

“Our goal here is to win the national championship, and winning a national championship is done on a continuum,” Sheahan said. “Normally there’s a progression and the progression has a starting point … and a middle and an end. We are moving ever forward, so these three games, if they are victories, they become the foundation for what happens over the next two years.”

If, one day, people look back and look at the end of the 2014 season as the start of such a renaissance, no doubt the members of this team will look at their early-season woes in a different light.

“We faced some adversity at the start of the season and we’ve got a bit of a run going,” Ballou said. “To me and the team (this game) is about finishing on a good note. It’s one last game … and it’s important that we come out there to play.

“Winning’s fun. We want to keep that going.”

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