Nail-Biting Opener

Stingers Hang On For Season-Opening Win

Photo Erin Sparks
Photo Erin Sparks

The Concordia Stingers football team got their season off on the right foot with a 42-36 victory over the Bishop’s University Gaiters Saturday at Concordia Stadium.

The Concordia Stingers football team started their season off on the right foot with a 42-36 victory over the Bishop’s University Gaiters Saturday at Concordia Stadium.

In a contest that featured an inordinate number of flags, several early-season gaffes and a lot of nervous pacing on both sidelines, the offensive firepower of both sides shone bright under clear skies on the afternoon of university football.

Stingers receiver Kris Bastien was the star in this game, catching six passes for a whopping 242 yards and two touchdowns.

“We trained so hard in the summer and the winter for this,” said Bastien. “I was a bit nervous at first, but we have great leaders on this team. [Starting quarterback] Reid Quest saw me and he just calmed me down and really got me ready for the game.”

“Kris is as good a receiver as there is in the country,” said coach Gerry McGrath, who picked up his 58th regular season win as the Stingers’ head coach. “He really showed that today.”

Gaiters quarterback Jordan Heather paced his offense and rallied his team from down 20 points at the half to within three points of the lead in the fourth quarter. Heather threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns, with three of them going to receiver, David Haddrall. However, he also threw four interceptions, three of which came in the fourth quarter.

The Stingers got off to a good start, taking a 31-11 lead going into the half, highlighted by several spectacular catches by Bastien, the most notable being a 103-yard catch and run in which Bastien caught a pass from Quest across the middle and turned on the jets to outrun the Bishop’s defenders on his way to the end zone.

“Right for the beginning of the play, Reid told me to check if their safety was low, because they have a tendency to blitz when we’re deep in our zone,” said Bastien. “So I was one-on-one against my man. We trust our athletes here, we know we can beat almost anyone in this country one-on-one.”

Quest had a solid game of his own, completing 17 of 31 passes for 339 yards to go along with two touchdowns and one interception.

“There’s always room for improvement,” said Quest. “I missed [Michael] Harrington on a few passes that I am not to happy about. The thing that excites me is that we put up 42 points and we haven’t hit our stride yet.”

“We trust our athletes here, we know we can beat almost anyone in this country one-on-one.” – Kris Bastien, Stingers receiver

The Gaiters mounted a slow but steady comeback in the second half, coming closest with under than two minutes left in the fourth quarter when Heather brought out the offense at the Bishop’s 30-yard line with 1:46 left in the final quarter. After throwing an incomplete pass, Heather was picked off by Stingers linebacker Travis Bent, turning the tide back in Concordia’s favour.

McGrath admitted that he was looking to play a more conservative style in the second half, with the hopes of controlling the ball on offense—and while it ultimately worked, it almost came back to haunt the Stingers.

“The start of the second half was important, obviously,” said McGrath. “I thought offensively we got into a position where we got a lead and we wanted to be careful.
“We had a few miscommunications with punt returns and missed field goals, so we got into a hole [near the goal line] a few times, and we don’t want to make mistakes down there, so we we’re a little bit cautious, maybe more so than we should have been.”

Kadeem Vaillancourt, Kevin Prempeh and Nathan Taylor picked off Heather’s other three passes. Linebacker Chris Walcott led the defense with 7.5 total tackles, and Eric Noivo turned in a solid performance on the defensive line, picking up the team’s only sack of the game.

“I thought we played pretty well,” said Taylor, who was playing his first ever regular season game at the safety position. “A little ‘bend but don’t break.’ There are a few things we have to clean up in film to make sure we’re ready for next week.

“We want to be dominant [on defense],” he continued. “We have the athletes at every position. I feel like this was a little speed bump for our defense, but from here on out, as long as we’re really crisp, we can shut down any team.”

McGrath noted that there was a lack of a pass rush against the Gaiters, and hoped that the return of several injured players along the defensive line will be able to return for the team’s second game of the season against the Université de Montréal on Sept. 7, marking the first of three consecutive road games for the Stingers.