CIS

Photo: Remi Yuan.

Rain soaked battle pushes team to 3-0 for the first time in six years

Despite the pouring rain, the Gee-Gees football team dug in their heels and ground out their toughest and most telling win of 2016. The 31-28 victory in double overtime speaks to the quality of this year’s Garnet and Grey.

The Gee-Gees came into their second home game of the season with a fresh eighth-ranking in the nation. The opposing Guelph Gryphons had just slipped out of the Top 10.

Guelph is still a very strong team coming fresh from a Yates Cup championship last season, falling only one game short of an appearance in the Vanier Cup.

The Gee-Gees got out to a slow start in the first quarter, allowing Guelph to rack up two field goals before forcing them to concede a safety. Before halftime, the Gees offence erupted with two touchdowns to take the lead and spark some fear into the Gryphons.

The first touchdown play was highlighted by a flabbergasting run by second-year receiver Kalem Beaver as he shimmied through the Guelph defence for six. The second TD was a tight pass from quarterback Derek Wendel to his favourite target Mitchell Baines for the 30-yard major.

As minutes ticked by on the clock, Guelph mounted their comeback. The Gryphons scored the first touchdown on the Gee-Gees defence this season on a third quarter pass that was set up after muffed punt by the Gees.

Following a last minute touchdown by Guelph, the Gee-Gees got the ball back and marched downfield to try to win the game in regulation. A failed deep pass attempt set up a long field goal chance for one of the best kickers in the nation.

Ottawa’s Lewis Ward lined up with less than a minute on the clock and powered through a 51-yard field goal to tie the game at 22-22 and send it to overtime. The kick was the longest of the fourth-year’s career in garnet and grey.

“Once I hit it, I knew,” said Ward. “It’s kinda like a golf swing; when you hit that perfect shot it just goes and you know what you’re going to get.”

In the first overtime, Ward kicked another field goal to put the Gees on top. When the Gee-Gees defence took the field, fifth-year defensive lineman Sam Randazzo took over. Randazzo registered every tackle for the Gee-Gees in overtime, including a drive stopping sack that set Guelph back nine yards.

“It’s awesome. Each play fed off of the next for me,” said Randazzo. “After that first play happened, it literally felt like an avalanche, just energy on energy.”

Guelph’s kicker countered stellar defence by the Gee-Gees twice in overtime, one to tie the first overtime, and one to open the second.

When the Gee-Gees offence took the field for the last time, they had to score a touchdown to win. After an incomplete pass on first down, running back Bryce Vieira ripped off an 11-yard run to extend the drive.

On the next play, Wendel pump faked and floated the ball to a wide open Trevor Kennedy on his way into the endzone for the walkoff Gee-Gees win.

“I think it says our team is willing to grind,” said Wendel. “In a game where it rains the whole four quarters and it’s not pleasant to play in, we worked hard and came up with play calls that would work on their defence and our defence really stood their ground.”

The win gave the Gee-Gees their first 3-0 start to the season since the 2010 season, one that ended in a Yates Cup loss. The defence and offence both seem to be clicking at the right time, leading the Gees to the top of the standings.

“In order for us to take the step forward, we had to play in a game like this,” said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi. “We had to understand what it’s like to be in a heavyweight fight, get knocked down and come back and I’m proud of the way they did that.”

There was clear elation among players after the game, since it seems four years of rebuilding is finally paying dividends.

“I can’t even explain it right now. We haven’t been 3-0 since I’ve been here and this is my fifth-year, so that really says something,” said Wendel.

It seems like the Gee-Gees are actually a force again, what that means for down the road is still unclear, but their roaring start surely means something.

The team will travel to Windsor to take on the 1-2 Windsor Lancers on Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. The game will stream at OUA.tv. The following weekend is the annual Panda Game against Carleton at TD Place.