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McGill Reporter
October 26, 2006 - Volume 39 Number 05
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Caption follows

Redman slotback Eric Galas puts the moves on a Sherbrooke defender during McGill's 33-14 win on October 14.

First and 10

Football team rebounds from 2005 disappointment

Perhaps drawing parallels between the mythical Phoenix and the resurrection of the McGill Redmen football team is bordering on hyperbole. Yet, just one year after the cancellation of the remainder of the 2005 season following a hazing scandal, the team has parlayed an inconsistent 2006 regular season campaign into a much-coveted playoff berth.

While the players have had to operate in the shadow of last year's truncated season, they seem to have turned the corner. "Last year was really tough," says quarterback Matt Connell, a third-year veteran of

the squad. "This year's team really reached out to the freshmen." Connell goes on to credit such team-building activities as

dinners, movie nights and group community outreach programs with bringing the closer together.

Caption follows
Eric Galas climbs the ladder to snare one of his six catches against Sherbrooke. Galas ended the day with a pair of TDs.

Leadership could have been a problem for the Redmen this year, with a squad loaded with first- and second-year players β€” traditionally players who defer to veterans. With a dearth of experienced players, McGill's locker room ran the risk of being a very quiet place. Chuck McMann, in his sixth year as head coach, shakes his head at this outdated hierarchy of sport. "I don't believe in veteran entitlement. If you want respect, if you want your spot on the team, you have to earn it."

Right from season's outset, McMann and his coaching staff challenged younger players to step forward and assume leadership roles. "Our theme from Day One has been β€˜don't tell me what you're going to do, show me.'"

This past spring, 10 Redmen players took McMann's words to heart, volunteering to coach in the Aces youth football program. The four-team league takes some of the city's most troubled elementary school children and puts them through a rigorous six-week season. "The kids all took it very seriously," says Connell. "They had two two-hour practices a week and a game every Friday. It was a really rewarding experience."

Derek Drummond, interim director of the athletics department and one of the Redmen's biggest boosters, invited some of the Aces players and coaches to the annual season-opening barbeque. "Seeing these kids interacting with our players was really special because you could see that they had created a real bond," he says. "I think our guys benefited as much from this as the kids."

So, while on paper the team looks like an underdog to go deep into the playoffs, the wonderful thing about sports is that you never know. Age, size and experience can all be measured by conventional means but heart β€” the athlete's greatest attribute β€” cannot. Perhaps this team has a little more of the Phoenix in it than most expect. Or at least a couple of aces up their sleeves.

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Virus shuts down game

Catching the ball

The McGill Redmen football team took an unconventional path to the playoffs when St. Francis Xavier was forced to cancel the October 21 game after some 35 students and staff members began displaying symptoms of a Norwalk-type virus. The Quebec University Football League later ruled the game forfeited by St FX.

Though a bitter pill to swallow for the St FX players, who saw themselves bumped from playoff contention with the loss, the cancellation was merited in the eyes of health specialists. "Norwalk is a very contagious virus that can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting for several days," says Dr. Pierre-Paul Tellier, director of Medical Education and Student Affairs. "But a person can be infectious a day or two before they experience any symptoms. Obviously, in a contact sport like football, the virus can be passed from one player to another who could then bring the virus back to McGill."