The Concordia Stingers saw their playoff hopes slowly fade away as they dropped their fourth game in a row, losing the battle against St. Francis Xavier during the annual Homecoming game at Loyola Stadium.
Wide receiver Arian Francois managed ten receptions, while running back Cedric Ferdinand and quarterback Rob Mackay each scored one touchdown, but it was hardly enough for a comeback in what was a close 19-17 win for the X-Men.
Even worse was the news coming from the out of town scorecard: McGill won its game against Mount Allison on Saturday. The Stingers must now win all four of their remaining games if they want even the slimmest chance of playing during the post-season.
It may seem impossible, but if there is one team that can come back from a four-game slump, it’s the Stingers. Concordia showed perseverance even when they were down by 16 points going into the second half.
“We didn’t have any hustle during the first half, but the second half we played harder. Our defence stood up, we just have to figure out how to finish the games,” said hatchback Kyle Smith, who led his team with eight solo tackles. Finishing games will no doubt be the order of the week for McGrath and his team, who have managed to give their opposition no more than a scare during their last three games.
The Stingers were slow to get into the game during the first quarter. The X-Men managed to get on the board with a field goal and touchdown. With a fumble and two interceptions by Mackay, the momentum was totally on St. Francis Xavier’s side.
Despite getting on the board with a 32 yard field goal by kicker Rene Paredes, the Stingers simply couldn’t capitalize on three X-Men fumbles. The opposition took advantage of a disorganized Concordia defense and added one more touchdown with 1:09 to play in the first half.
While some teams might have buried their heads in the turf, the Stingers returned to play the second half with more energy than they had at kickoff. Concordia gained some rejuvenation after an X-Men field goal was partially blocked and hit the upright post, giving the Stingers possession. The play led to four consecutive first downs and an eventual touchdown by Cedric Ferdinand. Concordia’s defense applied some much-needed pressure on Xavier’s quarterback and offense and both teams went into the final quarter nine points apart.
With the Stingers needing only a field goal and a touchdown for the win, coach McGrath made a questionable decision from the bench that may have cost his team dearly. The X-Men received an offside penalty on a successful 21 yard field goal by Paredes. Instead of declining, Concordia decided to go for the third down conversion but could not complete the play, losing three precious points.
Despite the poor decision from the bench, the Stingers attempted to complete their rally with only 1:22 remaining in the game, when Mackay completed a two yard run for his team’s second touchdown. But it was too little, too late, and the X-Men opted to run down the clock and ran away with the win.
The Stingers now find themselves in an extremely deep hole as their record slipped to 0-4.
“If we win every game from here on in, we can make the playoffs. But it’s going to be a fight,” said Smith.
The Stingers will face off against the Vert et Or for the second time this season at Loyola Stadium this Saturday. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.