By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Queen’s Golden Gaels can clinch a playoff berth Saturday afternoon when they visit the York Lions in an Ontario University Athletics football game in Toronto.
A win would give the Gaels, 4-2, five victories, and not only put themselves out of reach of the bottom five teams in the league, but put them on the cusp of clinching a home date for their first playoff game.
A second-place finish—still possible, but unlikely for Queen’s—would mean a semifinal match at Richardson Stadium. Finishing third or fourth would put the Gaels at home for a quarter-final match.
Behind the undefeated Western Mustangs are three teams that already have five victories: McMaster and Guelph, both 5-1, and Carleton, 5-2. What makes the Queen’s situation favourable is the Gaels have the advantage in any tie-breaking scenario with two of those teams, by virtue of victories this year over Carleton and Guelph.
Which brings us to the foe that could prove to be the most formidable for the Gaels Saturday: complacency.
Three things aren’t necessarily working in the Gaels’ favour as they prepared this week to face the Lions: Queen’s has never lost to York, a 34-year-old winning streak that reached 16 games with a 57-10 victory last year; the Gaels are coming off a terrific 23-15 upset victory over previously unbeaten Guelph, and with the bye last week, they’ve had almost a fortnight to feel good about it.
Against an imposing foe, that kind of backdrop can be invaluable to a young team still marshaling confidence; when the impending opponent hasn’t held you to less than 48 points in nine years, however, it could just fuel the unconscious tendency to take the win for granted.
The season began reasonably well for York, a team that has had four winless seasons in the last seven, and a record of 7-65 since 2006, the year they last threw a scare into Queen’s, which need overtime to prevail that year, 16-14. After the best recruiting year in a long time, the Lions played Laurier tough, with more than 400 yards of offence; and after getting throttled by Western they scored 22 points against Guelph in a game that was within reach until the final five minutes. Then they beat Waterloo, finishing the first half of the season 1-3.
Since then, though, it’s been the same old Lions, getting smoked by McMaster, Toronto and Carleton— 67-10, 40-3 and 52-0, respectively—reaching rock bottom with just 165 total yards against the Ravens. In that stretch, they had just 80 yards rushing against McMaster, and only 91 yards passing against Carleton.
When it comes down to it, there’s very little there to suggest an upset in the final game of York’s season might be imminent.
Because of that, chances are good Jesse Andrews, the Gaels superb running back, will be sitting this one out. Andrews missed the Guelph game and, though the team is tight lipped about the nature or severity of his injury, if he’s anything less than 100 per cent, you can be sure he won’t be in the lineup.
(Andrews appears on the 55-man lineup the team must submit to the league 24 hours before the game, but eight players have to be deleted by game time, and Andrews is one of four running backs listed on the Gaels’ preliminary depth chart.)
The Lions hope to have quarterack Brett Hunchak back in the lineup. One of York’s prized recruits, out of Calgary, Hunchak missed the Lions’ last game with injury. The freshman has completed a little less than 50 per cent of his passes—and he’s thrown six interceptions in 94 attempts—but the Lions still have high hopes for hiim and his brother, Colton, who both played for York coach Warren Craney on Canadian teams at International Bowls in 2014 and 2015.
Game time is 1 p.m.