In The Huddle: A perfect fit

Photo by Queen's Gaels
Photo by Queen's Gaels

Burlington, Ont. (by Mike Hogan) - Imagine you’re able to secure a job where you can combine your two passions. For Steve Snyder that fantasy became a reality in early January when he was hired to become the head coach of the Queen’s Gaels.

Snyder loves football, and he loves history, so being able to lead one of the most storied programs in Canadian football was a perfect fit.

“I’m loving it, it’s a dream come true,” Snyder told In The Huddle. “I’ve always wanted to lead a program with such a great tradition. It’s cool to introduce alumni with championships and bring legends back to the program.”

The coach is truly a fan of the Tricolour’s tradition. He was a history major at St. Francis Xavier, and was like a kid in a candy store when he was browsing through some of the historical artifacts on display at the program’s Gael Force fund-raising dinner.

He became a part of that heritage when he became just the fifth head coach the Gaels have employed since the legendary Frank Tindall took over in 1948. Tindall coached until 1975 when Doug Hargreaves took over, leading the program until 1994. Bob Howes coached between 1995 and 1999, giving way to Pat Sheahan, who was head coach from 2000 until the end of last season.

Snyder has entered an extremely exclusive club, but knows there’s a lot to do before he gets his team to the level achieved by his predecessors.

“There is a rebuilding process,” he admitted to OUA.ca. “We had big expectations at the beginning of the season, but that’s not the reality. We’re 2-4, not 4-2.”

That doesn’t mean that there’s despair at the West Campus facilities.

“We’re not discouraged,” said Snyder. “Everyone has really been focused, competitive, and energetic. We have good leadership, and it comes from different guys at every practice. We’re just not there yet.”

There’s little doubt that the Gaels have a ton of young talent on the team, including a pair of prospects at quarterback – both from Ottawa – who have seen virtually equal playing time this season. James Keenan is a second-year player, while Ryan Licandro was one of the program’s top recruits this year.

“We like them both,” said Snyder. “They’re a little different, but they’re both highly skilled and both of them have shown that their inexperience is still there. The only way to defeat that is to get them experience.”

The coach realizes that in this era of football, you need more than one quarterback, so if one of them goes down late in a season, the other is ready to step in without being overwhelmed.

He’s also hopeful that the days of full houses at Richardson Stadium return. The Gaels have one of the true jewels of U SPORTS football at their disposal, but while alumni and local fans are showing up at the same rate, there’s been a problem getting students to walk a couple of kilometres west from the main campus to the stadium.

“It all starts with our athletic department,” explained the coach. “We have strong social media content, which is important because it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ We had a strong Tackle Hunger campaign, something you can now count on us doing every year.”

Snyder understands the big picture, from the perspective of the on-field product, how to strengthen the team off the field, and where his program fits into the Kingston community. He also has a deep appreciation for the history of Queen’s football.

When the on-field product catches up, Snyder may be in for a lengthy run as head coach, just like the legendary coaches who preceded him.

THE O-ZONE:

McMASTER 16, TORONTO 8

The Marauders were able to contain the Blues high-flying offence in a nail-biter at Varsity Stadium. The Blues longest pass completion of the day was just 16 yards, while their longest rush went for nine – stunning based on how many big plays their offence has produced this year. Clay Sequeira passed for just 189 yards, no TDs, and two interceptions, by far his least-productive game of the season. Mac’s Noah Hallett set the tone on the game’s second play when he picked off Sequeira. Hallett would lead all defenders with eight tackles. Marauders QB Andreas Dueck also threw two interceptions, but finished with 290 yards and a TD pass. Xander Tachinski scored the only major of the afternoon on a 49-yard reception.

WESTERN 45, WATERLOO 42

In what was undoubtedly the most exciting game of the U SPORTS season so far, Western kicked two field goals in the final 22 seconds to beat the Warriors. The game featured 87 points, eight lead changes, 1,027 yards of offence, and a last-second field goal for the win. A Tre Ford QB sneak gave Waterloo a 42-39 lead with 2:19 left. The Mustangs would tie it with a Marc Liegghio 15-yard FG with 22 seconds left. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors handed the ball off to Dion Pellerin, but Tony Rossi forced the ball out, and Zach Lindley recovered it at the Waterloo 36. One play later, Liegghio kicked a 27-yarder for the win and would be named the OUA Special Teams Player of the Week as a result. Chris Merchant passed for 349 yards and three TDs for Western, with Brett Ellerman hauling in nine catches for 177 yards and a pair of TDs. Ford passed for 252 and rushed for 101 more with two touchdowns. Pellerin had three rushing TDs for the second straight game and 141 yards on the ground. Trey Humes rushed for 109 yards for the ‘Stangs. Daeshaun Jupiter-Deane returned an interception 91 yards for a pick-six. Kurtis Gray had 12 tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss for Waterloo. Sign In The Huddle up for wanting to see a playoff rematch.

OTTAWA 32, CARLETON 10

Ottawa’s defence led the way to victory in the annual Panda Game in front of an announced crowd of 24,000. The Gee-Gee defence scored 16 points, shutout Carleton in the second half, and limited the Ravens to just four first downs after the break. Ottawa’s offence, meanwhile, posted just 186 net yards, but it was enough. Tanner DeJong moved the ball well but threw three interceptions. Quinton Soares had 105 receiving yards for Carleton on five catches, including the game’s only offensive TD. Jack Cassar was a defensive force for Carleton with two sacks and three tackles for loss, but took a late targeting penalty that kept the late TD drive alive that essentially put the game out of reach. Réshaan Davis had a sack, two TFLs, and forced a fumble for Ottawa.

LAURIER 52, WINDSOR 10

OUA Offensive Player of the Week Connor Carusello threw for 374 yards and four TDs in the Hawks win at Windsor. Ente Eguavoen caught eight passes for 157 yards and TD, while Nick Petermann finished with 110 yards on nine catches and also scored a touchdown. Laurier held the ball for 35:14. Sam Girard completed just 8 of 24 pass attempts for 121 yards. Daniel Metcalfe had 11 tackles for the Lancers.

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