Photo: Remi Yuan.
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Team rebounds from Panda performance with win under Friday night lights

After a less than impressive outing in the Panda Game on Oct. 1, the ninth-ranked Gee-Gees football team rebounded and made light work of the York Lions in a 54–20 win.

With the Lions clawing to remain in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoff race, they utilized their bye week and jumped out to an early lead on the Gee-Gees.

With six new starters in the lineup there was a learning curve for the team, particularly as York’s offence moved the ball at will on the Gees early.

After settling in, fifth-year quarterback Derek Wendel torched the Lion defence, airing his frustrations from the prior weekend to the tune of 556 combined passing and rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Throughout the second half Wendel routinely found his favourite receiver, fellow fifth-year Mitch Baines, who is well on his path to being named an All-Canadian at the end of the year.

Baines shredded the Lions for a jaw dropping 215 yards and two touchdowns, extending his lead as top receiver in the OUA in three separate statistical categories: receptions, yards, and yards per game.

For the receiver, personal accolades come only after the team’s success. Winning big and keeping the Gee-Gees’ season on track for playoffs is much more important.

“We wanted to come out and show that we’re one of the best teams in the OUA,” said Baines. “At the start of the game we came out a little soft. I don’t know if it was a little hangover from last week’s game, but coach got us riled up at half.”

Last season, the Gee-Gees didn’t do so well in shaking off the Panda Game loss, getting ramrodded by Laurier the following weekend.

This year, the team was able to battle through an early lull, eventually executing fully on both sides of the ball.

Star third-year linebacker Khadim Mbaye knew the wall his team and defensive unit had to climb after the emotional loss just six days prior.

“Last week, we were playing like it was the Super Bowl,” said Mbaye. “This week, we just had fun. We showed it more in the second half, we had some good hits, and people were cheering and that’s our true identity.”

Mbaye may be the team’s “on-field coach” from his position at middle linebacker, but from the sidelines Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi was just as pleased in his team’s response.

“We had something to prove here a little bit,” said Barresi, noting the team’s anger in their performance the prior week. “I was concerned about (the team’s injuries), but I’m really proud of the way it worked out for them … it was back and forth at the beginning, but we managed to sustain it.”

Next for the Gee-Gees is a monster matchup with the Western Mustangs, a team that’s ranked third in the nation and tied for top spot in the OUA with Laurier, McMaster, and the Gees themselves.

“They’re just a juggernaut,” said Barresi. “We’re going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight.”

A win against Western vastly improves the Gees’ chances at a first round playoff bye and home field advantage, while a loss tosses the team deeper in the muck of an eventual final standing tiebreaking nightmare.

“We don’t fear anybody,” said Mbaye confidently. “If they play power football, we have to be physical. We did it against McMaster and that’s why we got the win.”

Kickoff against Western is at 1 p.m. on Oct. 15 at Gee-Gees Field. Tickets are available at