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It ain't Western, but the Queen's rivalry with Ottawa has had its moments
Posted: September 4th, 2014 @ 8:31pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
While the old guard of the Queen's football faithful love to wax nostalgic about the old rivalries with Toronto and McGill, and those who currently reside in Gaels Nation love to hate Western, for generations in between the arch nemesis was none of the above.
This bunch loved to ask the rhetorical-and usually profane-question: What the (heck) is a Gee-Gee?
For players and fans of the Golden Gaels in their years in the Ontario-Quebec conference, the Ottawa Gee-Gees often provided the worst kind of opponent: They were tough, nasty and, annoyingly, often very good.
Of such angst are great rivalries born and this particular one will be renewed Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium, where the teams will clash at 1 o'clock.
The annual tiff between Ottawa and Queen's has had some noteworthy moments, many of them filled with poignancy, spectacular play or drama. Among them:
a 27-14 Queen's win in 1977, in the Gaels' first playoff game in six seasons;
a 21-20 loss to the Gee-Gees on the second game of the 1979 season, when the Gaels failed on a two-point convert at the end of the game, thus ending an 11-game winning streak that spanned the preceding national championship season;
a 13-12 loss to Ottawa in the conference final of 1980, when, on an icy, rainy field at Lansdowne Park, the Gaels failed to score three times from inside the Gee-Gees' 25-yard line in the final seven minutes of the game;
a come-from-behind 31-30 win over the Gee-Gees engineered by option quarterback Peter Harrison in the conference semifinal of 1982, after Ottawa had won both regular-season matches by a total of five points;
back-to-back ties with the Gee-Gees in 1983, a year when the Gaels had trouble with almost no one else on their way to the national final;
a 16-13 win in the first round of the 1988 playoffs, on a field goal in overtime by rookie Jamie Galloway, who had been a walk-on that fall after being cut from the rugby team;
a 49-15 Queen's win at Lansdowne in October, 1992, when Brad Elberg rushed for 284 yards, a conference record that stood for 15 years;
an 8-3 loss in the 1995 Dunsmore Cup game at Lansdowne Park, where a potential game-winning touchdown run by Paul Greenhow on the return of a missed field goal in the final minute was called back on a penalty (thus launching a string of five straight playoff eliminations at the hands of the Gee-Gees, followed by another Dunsmore Cup loss in 1997 and semifinal ousters in 2001, 2006 and 2008; the latter being particularly painful as it followed an undefeated regular season).
You get the idea.
"We love to talk about the Queen's-Western rivalry whenever we get the chance," Gaels coach Pat Sheahan said Thursday, "but Ottawa has been the source of some misery around here over the years. We'd be mindful to remember that at times like this. When you get the chance to beat them, you'd better beat them."
Both schools are similar in orientation, Sheahan said, with professional schools that provide both the fodder and the manifestation of the rivalry. He recalled the story once told to him by former Queen's great Ron Stewart, a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, who later worked in an Ottawa law firm.
"There were all these lawyers, some from Queen's, some from Ottawa U," Sheahan said, "and there were all these professional rivalries, who gets to wear the school tie the day after (the game)."
Gaels receiver Doug Corby confirmed the rivalry remains spirited.
"They're scrappy. They hit hard. They're a tough team," he said. "They're tough, feisty guys and they hate coming down here.
"They make sure it's known. They hate the grass."
The natural surface at Richardson Stadium is the only one left in the league, and Corby relishes the fact that playing on it vexes opponents. What self-respecting rivalry wouldn't include a few such irritants?
"It's a mental game with teams coming down here," he said. "They hate playing on the grass, so it's a big advantage for us."
After a dreadful 2012 season when the Gee-Gees lost-gulp-47-36 to York, Ottawa rebounded last year to finish 5-3, a record that included a 36-21 home-field loss to Queen's.
Both the Gaels and Gee-Gees lost some terrific players and both teams won their season-opening game last week; Queen's 39-30 at Windsor and Ottawa 51-7 over York, one that didn't necessarily reveal the best the Gee-Gees will have to offer this year.
"One would like to see a little bit of a tighter battle (on the game video) and have them get into their strategy book a little bit," Sheahan said. "They played it pretty vanilla on the front because they didn't have to do anything else. However, it was a hard-fought game against them last year. (They have) the same coordinator, the same staff-a lot of the stuff they did last year, they seem to be set up to do a lot of the same stuff."
One constant on the Ottawa defence is Ettore Latanzio, the defensive lineman who was the conference's nominee for the Metras Trophy and led the nation in quarterback sacks (10) in 2013.
"He is a difference maker, very pesky," Sheahan said. "He lined up at the nose most of the game against York but we have seen his impact when they move him around a little bit. You'll see him at nose, you will also see him coming off the edge. He's a very, very good defensive lineman - the kind of player who makes everybody else around him better.
"We would be well served to know where he's lined up on any given play."
Offensively, Sheahan said, he expects the Gee-Gees to run a CFL-style zone-read offence, an attack that provides many options. "You give (the ball) or pull it and attack the flank depending on what the end does," Sheahan said. "If the end crashes down to tackle the back the quarterback pulls the ball and attacks the flank. He either runs or dumps it off.
"They're executing that quite efficiently."
Leading the offence is Derek Wendel, a second-year quarterback from Shannonville who is a graduate of the Kingston Grenadiers club program. Wendel was 2-for-6 with an interception against Queen's last year as a replacement for the injured starter, Aaron Colbon. He threw for 341 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on Monday against York.
The Gee-Gees kicker, Lewis Ward, is also a familiar face. Another former Grenadier and a Bayridge Secondary School grad, Ward kicked a career-best 42-yard field goal last week against the Lions.
"Ottawa's been national champion; they've had a couple of good runs and they always produce a fairly tough team," Sheahan said. "It looks like they've got themselves organized and turned around; they're moving in the right direction. I thought they had sort of a turnaround season last year and they look like they're poised to be in the hunt this year.
"We realize what this game means. These are two teams that are very similar, probably being sized up as competing for one of the final four playoff spots. It's early season but a big game. Our kids know this is a big one."
Sheahan says he's buoyed by the performance of his team in its season-opening victory, one in which his team twice came from behind and one finally secured by a 14-0 fourth quarter.
"(There were) just under 1,000 yards of offence, which is not necessarily what all coaches appreciate," he said. "Both teams gave up opportunities for big plays; both teams made big plays.
"Overall it was a pretty good outing for our team, where they're at, their level of development. To go down there, after an eight-hour bus trip, to come out and play like we did, I was pretty pleased with the effort. Thirty-nine points on opening day (isn't bad) but if we'd cashed in on some really good opportunities earlier in the game it may have been out of reach early."
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