Things looked tough.
They were tough.
The Queen’s Gaels had just taken their first lead in their Saturday home game against the Western Mustangs at Richardson Stadium in Kingston, Ont. That left the Mustangs with barely a minute to get the ball down field and into Brian Garrity’s field-goal range.
A good kick return by Daniel Kubongo had Western scrimmaging from their own 36-yard-line.
A first down play moved the ball six yards.
On the second down, the Mustangs picked up eight more and earned a first down.
But they were only at midfield and they had roughly 20 seconds to work with.
That’s when Mustang quarterback Evan Hillock dropped back and saw veteran receiver Savaughn Magnaye-Jones get a step on his man on the left side of the field. Hillock threw a perfect pass that Magnaye-Jones caught in stride and carried to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 13.6 seconds remaining on the clock.
A Brian Garrity extra point put Western up 32-27 and kept them a perfect 4-0 in 2023.
It was a tough afternoon featuring hard-hitting football that saw the Mustangs rack up a few injuries after coming into the game relatively healthy. One of the biggest saw defensive back Robert Panabaker leave the game in the opening quarter and not return.
Hillock opened the scoring in the first quarter as the third-year QB stepped up in the pocket and threw a strike to Brayden Misseri to give Western a 7-0 lead just under seven minutes into the game.
Hillock finished the day with 273 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception — his first of the season.
The Mustang defence pushed Queen’s back and recorded a team safety just over a minute after the Western touchdown to give Western a 9-0 lead.
Gaels QB Alex Vreeken aired out a pass to Nathan Falcone from the Queen’s side of midfield, and Falcone got enough space behind the Western secondary to haul it in for a 52-yard touchdown. A single point on the ensuing kickoff tightened the score to 9-8 early in the second quarter.
The Mustangs followed up with a march down the field but were stopped short of the goal line. Garrity connected on a 22-yard field goal to make it 12-8 for Western.
Garrity tacked on his second field goal of the day from 31-yards out before the end of the half and, after a 37-yard field goal from Gaels kicker Tyler Mullens, the Mustangs held a 15-11 lead going into the locker room.
Western got a big play on the first Queen’s drive of the second half. The Gaels drove to the Mustang 20-yard line, and Vreeken dropped back to pass. Defensive back Jackson Findlay did not bite on play action and stepped in front of a pass. Findlay intercepted the ball and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown and a 22-11 Western lead.
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After what appeared to be an interception by the Gaels was negated by a pass interference penalty, Mustang running back Keon Edwards took the ball down the left sideline for a 55-yard gain to eventually set up a 10-yard chip shot from Garrity, pushing the Western lead to two touchdowns.
Edwards totalled 133 yards on the ground on 18 carries.
Max Von Muehldorfer went down with an injury in the third quarter, and a few plays later Queen’s put the ball into the end zone courtesy of a three-yard run by Gaels running back Anthony Soles.
A Garrity field goal attempt with just over 11 minutes remaining rung off the top of the right upright and bounced wide left, which returned the ball to the Queen’s offence.
Findlay then provided another big play on a third-down stop just outside the goal line as he helped to stop a rush up the middle to force a turnover on downs with less than five minutes remaining.
With the Mustangs hemmed deep in the territory, a pass attempt to Seth Robertson was juggled by Robertson and picked off by Keegan Vanek to give the Gaels another shot at the end zone. But on the very next play, Matt Williams of Western intercepted a Vreeken pass in the end zone and the Mustangs had the ball back.
The Mustangs could not get out of the shadow of their end zone and conceded a safety, which gave Queen’s a last gasp with 2:13 remaining in regulation time.
The Gaels got to the the 27-yard line of Western, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved Queen’s to the Mustang one-yard line. There, on second and goal, Weir rolled over the top of the bodies converging along the line of scrimmage on a quarterback sneak to put Queen’s ahead by two points with 57.8 seconds remaining.
That’s when Hillock went to work and ultimately found Magnaye-Jones to win it for Western.
Windsor and Laurier also stayed perfect atop the OUA standings.
The Lancers went into Ottawa and beat the Gee Gees 42-31.
The Golden Hawks stomped the Waterloo Warriors 47-20.
After two straight road games the Mustangs will return to Western Alumni Field on September 23 at 1 p.m. to face the Ottawa Gee Gees.
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