Until late in the fourth quarter of the Gee-Gees football Home Opener, it looked as though the team’s offensive struggles were going to cost them their first loss of the season.
Instead, it was a play on special teams that led them to a 14-13 win over the Queen’s Gaels. With 1:46 left in the game, third-year defensive back Jackson Bennett saved the day with a 99-yard kickoff return for the game’s only touchdown.
Just like their win against Guelph the week prior, the team executed in key moments and relied heavily on their defence to seal the win.
The play was similar to the first time Bennett had the ball in his hands in his rookie season, when he ran a kick back 101 yards for a touchdown at Toronto.
“The crease just opened and I saw daylight,” said Bennett, who also had 5 tackles and a pass break up on defence. “Back in my first-year at Toronto, I remember celebrating with [Tyler] McLaren and back in the end zone this time we did the same thing.”
When it mattered most, the Gee-Gees defence held strong and closed out the win. Defensive end Alain Pae, a Master’s student from the Czech Republic, came up big time in the game.
Pae led the defence with 4 of the team’s 9 sacks in his second ever Canadian football game after playing American rules in Europe. Two of his sacks were on the last two plays of the game.
“We’re a new unit, and with time we’ll be even better,” said Pae. “Our offence needs time, and with a rookie QB we need to support him … After Jackson’s touchdown we knew needed to keep going and stop them. We returned back to the game and finished them.”
First-year quarterback Alex Lavric, started his first game ever for the Gee-Gees after playing for the second half of last week’s game. The Mississauga, ON native was able to control the offence well at times, but was hindered by a strong Queen’s defence, weather conditions, and a multitude of penalties that derailed drives. He finished with 225 yards on 19-28 passing, 7 of those passes were caught by third-year receiver Carter Matheson, who finished with a career-high 105 yards.
“We played a lot of young kids,” said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi. “The thing that I’m most proud of is the fact that they were really fighting. It was close, the defence kept us in it, and the special teams made a play. We’re not far away from being an explosive team again.”
Although his offence has yet to find the end zone against two strong defences, Barresi is optimistic about the play of his young quarterback.
“We’re holding him back a little bit and despite my play calling, he managed to overcome,” joked Barresi. “He did pretty well, I was proud of him.”
At the end of the game, team MVPs were named in the honour of former Gee-Gee and Gael Mike O’Connor who passed away tragically in 1995. For Ottawa, the MVP was running back Bryce Vieira and for Queen’s, it was kicker Kurtis Schaefer.
The team will now have a short week of preparation before taking on the winless York Lions in Toronto on Saturday. They will take to the road again the following weekend and play McMaster before their next home game.
As of now, the team will take their two unorthodox wins and try to build towards more well-rounded performances in the future. The pieces seem to be there for the Gee-Gees, they just need to figure out how to put it all together.
“The most important thing is this game coming up,” said Barresi. “We can’t be talking about Mac, or Windsor, or Carleton. This is the game right now, we need to focus on that and iron out a lot of the things we did.”
Kickoff at York is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be live streamed on OUA.tv