Despite a 13-0 blanking by the league-leading Montreal Carabins (7-1) at Saturday’s homecoming game, McGill Redmen Football (4-4) earned their first playoff berth since 2012.
Finding little success in their ground game, the Redmen relied heavily on quarterback Frederic Paquette-Perrault to move the ball through the air. Despite 233 yards passing, the Redmen couldn’t break through and find the endzone.
“[The] offence moved the ball well,” second-year linebacker Dane Wagner said. “We’ve just gotta finish when we get in the redzone.”
Early in the second quarter, Paquette-Perrault aired the ball out to freshman receiver Preston Bews for a 39-yard catch that was downed at the one-yard line. Paquette-Perrault tried to punch the ball in on consecutive quarterback sneaks, but the Carabin defence held tight and forced a turnover-on-downs.
“We were in position to make some plays,” Head Coach Ronald Hilaire said. “On the one-yard line there, if we scored there it’s a 7-6 game [….] I think we just have to finish our plays.”
Defensively, the Redmen held relatively tight all game. In the first half, they bent, but did not break, forcing the Carabins to settle for a pair of redzone field goals. Down by 13 at the half, the McGill defence never let Montreal pull away, shutting them out in the second half to keep the game within reach.
“I think we played them play-by-play,” Wagner said. “Defence played really well.”
Laval’s victory over Sherbrooke this weekend lifted McGill to a fourth-place divisional finish and the last spot in the playoffs. For most of the team’s seniors, this will be their first chance to represent McGill in the postseason.
“It feels amazing,” fourth-year offensive lineman Qadr Spooner said. “We have a good opportunity to take this and go further.”
The team has come a long way in the past few years. In 2014, the Redmen were unable to secure a single win all season long. Since then, they have undergone some major changes and become more cohesive as a team.
“Everyone plays great together,” said Spooner. “We have a great team atmosphere. The whole team together—we’re just meant to be. Coach [Hilaire] has done a great job in leading us this far, and he’s really done a good job in taking us from where we were in my first year to where we are now.”
It’s been a year and a half since Hilaire was appointed head coach. One of his main goals since then has been ensuring that his players know exactly what they’re capable of.
“All we had to do was find a direction, and really make them believe in what we’re trying to build here,” Hilaire said.
The Redmen realize they face a daunting rematch next week on Nov. 5 against the first-seed Carabins at Stade CEPSUM.
“We need to be sharper on the little things,” Wagner said. “[But] I think we’ll be ready to go when we play them next week.”
Stats Corner: It took five tie-breaking rules to separate Concordia and McGill (into third and fourth place, respectively).
Quotable: “We have a great football team, and we want a big upset next week.”—Freshman WR Joel Soussi.
Moment of the Game: Wide receiver Preston Bews caught a 39-yard pass to get his team a first down on Montreal’s 1-yard line.