CIS

Photo: Marta Kierkus.

Ahead of a make or break season, the team has high hopes for 2016

Strapped up in an average of 20 lbs worth of equipment, the Gee-Gees football team takes to the field at Lees Campus in the beating sun to evaluate and condition for their upcoming year.

After an intense two-week period starting Aug. 14, consisting of two-a-day practices, along with multiple team meetings per day, Gee-Gees training camp has proven to be a very gruelling task for both the players and coaches.

The already difficult camp has been extended by a week for the past two years. Due to a bye in the first week of the season, getting a later debut means more time for work—and the team makes the most of it.

“As a player, training camp can be both physically and mentally demanding,” said four-year veteran defensive lineman Sam Randazzo, who understands the grind well. “Halfway through camp, you definitely start to feel tired and fatigued.”

With the Gee-Gees football team in the thick of their training camp, all attention is now shifting to their highly anticipated 2016 season.

Last year’s 3-5 record alone does not tell the whole story of the team’s season.

Not only did they fall just short of a playoff spot due to a tie-breaking procedure in the standings, but they experienced a record breaking season from a statistical standpoint.

Gee-Gees quarterback Derek Wendel broke the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) passing record with 3,136 yards in the season, many of which were thrown to wide receiver Ian Stewart, who became the first Gee-Gee to ever reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Unsurprisingly, the offence as a unit was a juggernaut, producing over 36 points a game. Despite the loss of Stewart to graduation, the offence looks primed and ready to go for the new season.

Defensively, the Gee-Gees were nothing short of atrocious. For a team that was so dominant on offence, the defence was an issue all year, with the Garnet and Grey giving up 41.7 points and 505 yards per game on average.

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Such an impressive offensive campaign without a playoff appearance to show for it makes the 2015 season a disappointment to say the least.

The 2015 season also illuminates the team’s upside potential this year, which makes this summer’s training camp all the more momentous.

Adding to its importance, this camp will give a new fleet of coaches hired for the 2016 season their first real opportunity to work with the players in action.

The Gee-Gees made several key additions to their coaching staff this off-season, hiring new special teams, offensive line, recruiting, and defensive coordinators.

Most notable of the hirings is defensive coordinator Jean-Vincent Posy-Audette, who formerly worked on the Montreal Alouettes staff.

Randazzo also notes the competitiveness that comes with such an intense camp, especially since no starting job is safe when a team is facing a make-or-break year.

“You have to constantly remind yourself that this is a highly competitive environment, and that all the players on the team have the potential to play.”

As demanding and competitive as it may be, the long haul of training camp can definitely bring teammates together. Recently, the team has injected some fun and special guests into camp to ease the pressure.

Last week, players took to the pools at Montpetit for a cool down and diving competition. On Aug. 28, the team welcomed Wally Buono, the head coach and general manager of the BC Lions to speak to the team as they prepare for their next step.

“You really learn to rely on your teammates. They become a support system and almost a second family,” said Randazzo.

With a revamped coaching staff, an explosive offence, and an offseason of heavy recruitment, the Gee-Gees are finally putting it all together in their final days of training camp. Will they build off of last year’s record-breaking season and take the next step into the playoffs this time around?

Randazzo thinks so, and is confident in his team’s chances.

“We have the potential to be a very dominant team.”

The Gee-Gees’ 2016 campaign kicks off on Sept. 5 on the road in Waterloo facing the 0-1 Warriors. The game will be live streamed on OUA.tv starting at 1 p.m.

On Sept. 10, the team will host McMaster for their home opener at Gee-Gees Field. Tickets available at tickets.geegees.ca.