Gaels in strong position as regular season winds down
The Queen’s Gaels football team is riding a wave of momentum heading into their final three games of the 2022 regular season. After winning four of their first five contests to start the season, the Gaels are sitting comfortably in second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football standings. Queen’s opened the 2022 campaign with a 47-25 victory over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on August 27.
The Gaels then added a second consecutive win the following weekend at the University of Ottawa, defeating the GeeGees 26-16. One week later in London, the team’s winning streak came to a halt, as Queen’s dropped a tough contest against their arch-rivals the Western Mustangs, losing 35-11. While a loss to Western is always a disappointment for Queen’s, the Gales’ performance in London was a much stronger showing than the previous time the two teams met — the 2021 Yates Cup championship game — which Queen’s lost 29-0.
This year, the Gaels are building on that disappointing end to 2021, as they cement their status as one of the top football programs in the country. After the loss to the Mustangs in early September, Queen’s secured back-to-back wins in their next two games, including a dominant victory on the road against Guelph this past weekend. Taking on the hometown Gryphons at a sold-out Alumni Stadium, Queen’s scored early and often, ultimately finishing the day with an impressive 62-11 win.
“We came out of the game in London thinking, ‘Okay, you know, we are a football team, we can catch up and we can do some things really well. But we have to get along better.’ And I think we identified the areas that we needed to get better at,” said Queen’s Head Coach Steve Snyder. “We made a conscious effort in practice, in meetings, and in game plans to address those issues, and then… we implemented that. We’ve [also] been able to play a little bit better offensively over the last two weeks, which has really helped.”
Queen’s football history was also made on Saturday afternoon in Guelph. Running back Anthony Soles tied the Queen’s football single-game scoring record, with four touchdowns on the day. (Four former Gaels players share this honour with him.) In total, Soles carried the ball for 244 yards, averaging an impressive 12.8 yards per carry.
“I had a pretty good game,” said the Pointe Claire, Quebec native, “but just the whole [offensive] line was impeccable. Everyone else on the team did their job. [Tying a program record] was great, but a lot of it was thanks to everyone else on my team.”
Besides making team history, Soles was also named this week’s OUA Offensive Player of the Week. This marked the second consecutive week that a member of the Gaels has been named one of the best payers in the province; Queen’s quarterback James Keenan earned the title the previous week. “It feels fantastic,” Soles said of the honour. “I think I’m always doing my family proud, but I think that was just an extra little bonus for being out here, far away. It shows… that it’s actually paying off.”
For Coach Snyder, these sorts of honours are representative of the strong overall team the organization has worked to build this season, which has ultimately allowed players like Soles and Keenan to shine. “Obviously they had stellar performances,” Snyder said, “but it’s really only possible because of the other people around them doing their job. In Anthony’s case, his offensive line, his H-backs, the way they were able to block and control the line of scrimmage really allowed him to go and have a great day.”
With their 4-1 record, the Gaels were once again named the fourth-best team in Canada when this week’s U Sports National Rankings were announced on Tuesday. Queen’s is currently slotted one place ahead of the fifth-placed Laval Rouge et Or and one place behind the University of Montreal Carabins. All teams are chasing the number-one ranked Western Mustangs. The reigning national champions have held onto the top spot all season, as they seek a second consecutive Vanier Cup title.
The Gaels will look to further climb the national ranking as they close out their home portion of the regular season with two consecutive games at Richardson Stadium. This Saturday, October 1, Queen’s will face the York Lions at 3 p.m. in a contest that should allow the team to once again show off its offensive dominance.
As for what the team needs to focus on heading into this weekend, Snyder said, “I think the key to success for us is to continue to trust our systems and our process of football, which is continuing to get better. We need to identify York’s strengths, because they do have a lot of them. They have some really good personnel [we] need to be ready for. And then we need to exploit their weaknesses.”
After a bye week over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Gaels will play their final regular season home game on October 15 against the McMaster Marauders. Queen’s will then travel to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo on October 22, as they close out the regular season against the Golden Hawks.
Should the Gaels continue their winning ways as the regular season comes to a close, the team has a strong chance of holding on to second place in the OUA, which would secure them home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. While the prospect of another lengthy post-season run is enticing, for now Coach Snyder and the rest of the organization are focused on ending the regular season on a positive note. The team is encouraging the community to come out and support the Gaels in their final two regular season home games.
“Right now, we have a very good football team,” said Snyder, “and I think our sports entertainment value is at an all-time high. I absolutely think it’s worth the price of admission. Our number one goal as a football program is to be the most respected team on campus and in the community. We want to provide an experience and an atmosphere where people from our community and students can come together and just celebrate… Our football team feeds off the energy in the stadium, so the more fans that are there, the more electric it feels.”
The Queen’s University Gaels take on the York Lions this Saturday at 3 p.m. at Richardson Stadium. Single-game tickets can be purchased through the Gaels’ website, or at the stadium box office on game day.