With visions of Thanksgiving dinner in their heads, the Ottawa Gee-Gees entered their Week Four matchup, likely imagining feasting on the York Lions at their new home for 2021. By the end of the night, the Gee-Gees were certainly giving thanks, but only to be able to squeeze out a much tighter than expected win.
The Gee-Gees entered the afternoon on a positive note, after winning the 2021 Panda Game 19-17 over Carleton on Oct. 2 and taking residence in their temporary home for 2021 at TD Place.
“We’re grateful the REDBLACKS and OSEG have allowed us to play here,” said coach Marcel Beulfueille, “The players really enjoy it.”
The Lions, by their standards, came into the day with momentum. Despite losing 30-17 to Carleton in their home opener on Sept. 25, the Lions potted all 17 points in the fourth quarter. York’s have had well document struggles outside of the fourth quarter this season. Heading into the afternoon, York had scored all 23 of their points this season in the final fifteen minutes of their games.
That positive momentum carried the Lions through the start of the afternoon. After a recovery on a punt return fumble by Ottawa, Noah Craney handed off to Darnell Jarrett, who hit the endzone to give York the lead and their first lead of 2021. The rest of the first half went by at a snail’s pace, as a York safety and a pair of Ottawa field goals represented the only other offence by halftime.
The hero of Panda Game 2021, Campbell Fair, hit two field goals in the first half to finish 4/6 on the afternoon. The rookie kicker was left wanting more post-game despite his team coming out on top. “I’m just gonna look at the two kicks I missed, find out what I did wrong and work on the mechanics this week and next week,” said Fair.
After two more Ottawa field goals in the third quarter to push the game to 12-9 for the Gee-Gees, the night finally saw a spark in the fourth quarter. A tipped pass from Ben Maracle landed in the hands of York defensive back Mack Bannatyne who took it 64 yards for the pick-six to give the Lions a 17-12 lead.
It appeared the Lions were heading for their first win of 2021 until once again, on the last drive of the night, the Gee-Gees had to pull out a win.
Starting on their own 36 with four and a minutes to go, Ben Maracle led Ottawa downfield until finally, with just over a minute to play, on third and goal, he with Nicholas Gendron for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Third down, we had to get five yards to the end zone, we’ve been in the situation before, we’re calm we know we were going to execute, so we were just gonna make another play,” said Gendron.
Not to be outdone, Maracle subsequently found Nathan Walker for the two-point conversion to finish off the game at 20-17 for the Gee-Gees.
Post-game, Maracle enjoyed his shot at being the hero for the Gee-Gees.
“Last week it was my roommate Soup [who made the winning play], this week I thought I’d take a turn,” said Maracle, chuckling.
After a pair of down-to-the-wire games, Coach Bellefeuille is grateful to see his team evening their record, but with each win requiring a late comeback, not exactly pleased with the way it has happened.
“I told the team I was happy they were learning how to be resilient, which is great, but on the flip side, we have to eliminate penalties and a lot of execution mistakes,” said Bellefeuille. “That part has to get fixed, so we’re not always playing in drama.”
At the same time, though, in the Gee-Gees locker room, the last seven days have seemingly established the Garnet and Gray’s identity in 2021.
“These two wins are huge; they put an identity on who we are, we’re clutch, under pressure we execute,” said Gendron.
The Gee-Gees have twelve days off before a home matchup against the OUA East leading Queen’s Gaels on Oct. 21. The Lions will head back to Toronto for a Saturday afternoon matchup at Varsity Stadium on Oct. 16.
The Queen’s Gaels lead the OUA East at 4-0, but the Gee-Gees do not lack confidence after a pair of dramatic victories.
“They’re currently four and zero, they play well, they know how to execute the small things, but I still think we’re way better than them, we’ve got better athletes better coaching,” said Gendron.
Confidence is certainly something to be thankful for.
COVER PHOTO: @GeeGeesFootball on Instagram