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No need to worry about these Gaels getting complacent, veteran says
Posted: September 6th, 2013 @ 6:41pm
A sage football man once proclaimed that fifth-year players "are a pain in the ass." He was, of course, talking about those who return for the final year of intercollegiate eligibility largely because they have nothing better to do. You can't discourage them, he reasoned, because their experience and physical maturity potentially make them tremendous assets. Often, though, he discovered that by their fifth year in university, their pro aspirations were gone, their youthful enthusiasm had waned and, well, you couldn't tell them much. They'd heard it all before.
So, one wonders, with a boatload of experience unbefitting a running game stuck in low gear, might the Queen's Golden Gaels be experiencing the symptoms of such malady?
Not a chance, Scott Macdonell says.
"We've been like this before, where our offence wasn't really firing on all cylinders," the Gaels slotback said. "We thought we were, but we weren't."
That was in Macdonell's second year, 2011. The Gaels had scored eight points in their first two games, with nary a touchdown in eight quarters of football, when the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks came to visit.
"We came into that game and we were hungry," he recalled. "We wanted to show people that, 'Hey, listen, this offence can be a big part of the team, and it's not just about the Queen's defence.' "
That afternoon the Gaels dumped 58 points on Laurier, launching a seven-game winning streak that didn't end until the conference semifinal.
"We had a huge offensive day, and that was a team that was not nearly as veteran and only had a second-year quarterback who was in his third start," Macdonell said. "A little more desire and a little more emphasis on execution and I think we should be fine."
Of course, the Gaels' current situation isn't exactly dire. They're unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in Canada, but because they are more veteran and led by a quarterback now in his fourth year, expectations are amplified. A running attack that's averaging 120 yards per game, therefore, is judged mediocre. "Some teams are pleased to go out and have a 50 per cent (pass) completion rate," coach Pat Sheahan said. "We aren't. We think we're better than that."
Macdonell says no one need worry about veterans being so comfortable in their skin they assume their talent and experience will get them by. No one, he said, is taking it for granted that things will get better by themselves.
"I do think there were times at Queen's when there was a sense of entitlement, that 'We're veterans, we've just won the Vanier Cup in recent years,' but after last season's disappointment we realize that we can't take stuff for granted.
"(Our experience) gives us confidence to go out and play because we do think we have the ability, but I don't think there's going to be any letdown from anyone just because we are an older team. There might be times when you get a little content but we're a real hungry team. We've had disappointing results the last two years and we realize this is our chance to do something big. I don't think there should be too much contentment slipping into the locker room."
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Windsor Lancers, the Gaels' opponent Saturday at Richardson Stadium, come to town on the heels of an exciting - but not necessarily fulfilling - game at Guelph on Monday, where the Gryphons won 24-23 on a field goal with three seconds left. Poised for an upset, the Lancers had Guelph pinned inside its own 10-yard line with just over a minute to play before the Gryphons executed their game-winning drive.
Coming so close to defeating the Yates Cup finalists on their home turf might be considered a bit of a coup for a team striving to improve from a 3-5 campaign a year ago.
"I'm not really into the moral victories," Lancers coach Joe D'Amore said. "Maybe in 2011, if we had this conversation when I took over, it was about trying to get these kids to believe in winning. Three years later, they do believe it. Every week they believe, truly believe, that they can to out and win football games against anyone."
That includes Queen's.
"The last couple of years, despite not beating Queen's, have we played well against them? Yeah, we have. Have we struggled offensively against them? Yeah, we have. I thought defensively over the last couple of years we've done well against them. We've just struggled putting points on the board."
For Windsor, who the schedule makers excused from playing McMaster this year, back-to-back road games against Guelph and Queen's represent the most difficult part of the campaign.
"As a coach you want to win both games," D'Amore said. "If you can split you're in good shape. You don't want to come out 0-2. (Guelph) was a game that would have been nice to have, it would have put us in a good spot for implications, playoff-wise.
"We've got to go up to Queen's and play a real good football team in what we know is going to be a tough environment."
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Queen's coach Pat Sheahan always holds his cards close to his chest when it comes to injuries and this week was no exception.
"The body count is going up on a daily basis - there's a few question marks but most of the troops look like they're coming around at this point," he told a news gathering Thursday.
Of course, in the coaching vernacular "coming around" could mean anything from he's fit as a fiddle to the body is accepting the organ transplant nicely, thank you.
Several Gaels went out of the lineup against McMaster. Most, like John Miniaci, Sam Sabourin and Giovanni Aprile, returned. Others, like Andrew Lue, Matt Kendrick and Cory Dyer, didn't.
John Meenagh filled in for Kendrick at centre. "He went in there, the snaps were good and he managed himself quite well," Sheahan said. "It was tough but he played pretty well."
Dyer's absence came at a position, defensive end, where the Gaels were already playing without Andrew Sauer, who was hurt in the season-opener at York. Dyer, characterized by Sheahan as "a big-play guy," led the team in quarterback sacks in 2012. He and one against York and against McMaster had already sacked Marshall Ferguson once and knocked down one of his passes before he was forced out of the game.
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Windsor will be short a key player Saturday. Free safety Josh Burns went out of the Guelph game and it was discovered afterwards that he'd suffered a collapsed lung.
"He got hit, we thought it was a broken rib, but the lung was deflated," D'Amore said. The coach added Burns is doing all right, but he's looking at about a five-week recovery period.
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So shorthanded in the defensive secondary were the Gaels by the time Lue went out of the game Monday, slotback Justin Chapdelaine had to go back on the field and play defence for the final few plays.
Chapdelaine, who played both ways in high school in British Columbia - six years ago - joins a very short list of Gaels in the modern era who have played on both offence and defence in the same game. Bob Mullen (quarterback and defensive back) did so in 1979 and Bryce Ivanchuk played on both the offensive and defensive lines in 1993.
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Ryan Granberg is getting within sight of becoming Queen's all-time rushing leader. With 81 yards in his first two games this year, he now has 2,823 yards, fourth all-time and 12 yards behind No. 3 Paul Correale. Still ahead are Larry Mohr, the 1985 Hec Crighton award winner, at 3,015 yards, and Mike Giffin, who ended his career in 2008 with 3,035 yards.
Granberg is one of only two backs in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1,068 in 2011) and he has two of Queen's top eight single-game rushing performances, 265 yards (No. 4) and 240 yards (No. 8), achieved in back-to-back games, Oct. 5-18, 2011, against Windsor and Waterloo, respectively.
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Four Kingston-area players will be in the lineup Saturday for St. Francis Xavier when the X-Men open their Atlantic University Sport season at home against Mount Allison.
Holy Cross grad Will Lefort, in his fourth year at Antigonish, is the starting centre. Also starting will be Sydenham High School grads Chris Shibley of Yarker at free safety and Hayden Peters of Inverary at safety. Peters will also be handling the punting chores.
Freshman Aaron Brownlee, also from Holy Cross, is dressing for his first intercollegiate game as a backup linebacker.
X is a vewritable enclave for Kingston ex-pat football players this year. Also in the program are fourth-year defensive tackle Tyler Grant, freshman receiver Nathan Kellar and rookie defensive lineman Kyle Sovie (Holy Cross) and freshman linebacker Ryan Richardson (Frontenac).
Bob Mullen, defensive co-ordinator at Queen's for many years and most recently varsity coach of the junior Kingston Grenadiers, is in his first year co-ordinating the St. F.X. defence. Bob Howes, former head coach and offensive co-ordinator at Queen's, is working with the X-Men offensive linemen.
The X-Men dropped a 19-15 decision to defending conference champion Acadia in an exhibiton game last weekend.
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