For the sixth-consecutive season, the Gee-Gees football team was victorious in their Home Opener at Gee-Gees Field, this time defeating U SPORTS seventh-ranked McMaster 18-11 on Sunday afternoon.
"I was very impressed by the resilience of the team, they hung in there," said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi.
"Sawyer and Bryce gave us a spark, but we left some things on the field again. I thought the defence did a good job, they had their backs against the wall and they were strong. At the same time, it's a team effort, we had to make some plays when needed them and we finally got them."
Mother Nature made her presence known early in the game, with the rain causing troubles for both offences. The Gee-Gees defence held strong early, not allowing the Marauders to earn a first down on their first five possessions.
A 38-yard field goal by Campbell Fair was the difference maker after the first quarter giving the Gee-Gees a 3-0 lead to work with. In the second, McMaster got on the board after the Gee-Gees intentionally conceded a safety backed up in their own end. Before half, the Marauders extended their lead to a 5-3 margin after tacking on a field goal.
A back-and-forth third quarter saw McMaster find some rhythm on offence, but the Gee-Gees defensive pressure was enough to limit the visitors to a field goal. In the fourth quarter, the game turned around upon the entry of first-year quarterback Sawyer Buettner.
In relief action, the Moose Jaw, Sask. product picked up right where he left off in the Canadian Junior Football League last season. Sparking the Gee-Gees offence, Buettner threw for 134 yards and his first two career U SPORTS touchdowns on only five passes.
The first touchdown came on a 10-yard post route to Dylan St. Pierre, who hauled in his second touchdown of the season. The second touchdown came on a stellar play by fifth-year slot/running back Bryce Vieira who evaded nearly the entire defence for a 61-yard touchdown reception. Vieira, who is no stranger to highlight performances, turned in a stellar multi-faceted performance, finishing with 198 total yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team was led by an impressive six solo tackles and six assists from third-year defensive back Rashad Spooner. 2017 U SPORTS First Team All-Team Canadian Jamie Harry turned in another stellar performance after registering eight tackles, one interception for 15 yards, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup. Harry also levelled a show-stopping hit on the McMaster quarterback forcing the ball loose, ultimately, it was ruled an incomplete pass much to the team and crowd's chagrin.
After the game, Vieira spoke about the status and mindset of the team after the first two weeks of the season.
"This team is very cohesive, almost in a beautiful way there's no hierarchy. Everyone's on the field working together," he said. "Two weeks in a row we haven't quit on plays or in the game, we're sticking together. The young guys don't have any quit in them, they just keep fighting and it's a great thing to see."
After very effective play in his first significant game action, Buettner has turned some heads to start his career with the Gee-Gees.
"It was a great team win, so it was awesome," said Buettner. "Our defence played great the whole game and our offence was able to put some points together when it mattered. It's about getting better every week, and this is only week two. If we can keep improving as a team, hopefully we'll be peaking towards the end of the season."
Up next, the Gee-Gees will welcome U SPORTS ninth-ranked Guelph, who were defeated narrowly by McMaster in week one and will take on the York Lions on Monday. The Gee-Gees were 1-1 against the Gryphons last year, with a win on the road to start the season and a loss in the OUA quarterfinal. The game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Gee-Gees Field, tickets are available at tickets.geegees.ca.