Despite Coach Pat Sheahan's optimism at a press conference on Thursday, August 25, as well as a 18-16 first-half lead, the Gaels lost their opener to the Laurier Golden Hawks 37-18 in Waterloo on Sunday.
The Gaels had a strong start at University Stadium in front of a crowd of over 1000 with some solid performances from the defensive line. However, it was a very tight game with few scoring opportunities; the Queen’s offense was unable to gain momentum early on against Laurier’s impressive backline. The Golden Hawks outpaced the Gaels in total offence (287-203) and net yard passing (187-158). The Gaels also gave up four sacks – with a total loss of 53 yards.
The Golden Hawks made it 8 – 0 near the end of the first quarter with a pair of field goals (49 and 40) and a safety courtesy of Nathan Mesher. The second quarter saw the Gaels play more cohesively, tying it up with a Jonah Pataki touchdown and a Nick Liberatore single, but the Hawks regained the lead with a Mesher rouge with only a few seconds remaining.
A touchdown connection from Nate Hobbs to Matteo Del Brocco put the Gaels in front 15 – 9 halfway through the third quarter. The Gaels didn’t sustain the lead for long though as John and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. put the Hawks back on top with a hook up resulting in a 31-yard TD pass later in the third quarter. A 31-yard field goal from rookie kicker Liberatore put the Gaels up 18 - 16, however this was the last time Queen's lead the scoreboard. The Gaels lost momentum and suffered from some costly turnovers in what would be a devastating fourth quarter.
With the Gaels leading 18 – 16 in the fourth quarter, Onyeka picked off a questionable pass, returning it for a touchdown making the score 23 – 18 for Laurier. With roughly 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter the Hawks extended their lead when quarterback Villamizar received a 27-yard TD pass from Julien John. The scoring was finished with 2:25 left as Eric Guiltanen rushed in from 7 yards.
Despite a disappointing opening loss, the Gaels were up against an arguably more skilled side. The Gaels defense shown through and contributed a lot of great plays. Rookie Nick Liberatore proved himself with some fantastic kicks in what must have been an overwhelming experience for the first year. Phoenix Grouse also put in a solid performance on defense and Chris Osei-Kusi made a large impact on offence with 8 catches for 74 yards and the first touchdown drive. All three players were named Queen’s University players of the week.
The Gaels will take on the Guelph Gryphons on September 10 in what should be an exciting matchup. Stay tuned for more football coverage at cfrc.ca!