By Michael Grobe
In a battle for first place, and what could prove to be a preview of the 2019 Yates Cup, the No. 5 McMaster Marauders fell 34-17 to the No. 2 Western Mustangs on Saturday at Ron Joyce Stadium.
Western’s quarterback, Chris Merchant rushed for two touchdowns while running back Trey Humes added another to dash the Marauders hope of a perfect 3-0 start to the 2019 OUA football season. The loss sees McMaster’s record fall to 2-1 while Western now has sole possession of first place and stays perfect at 3-0.
Andreas Dueck countered for the Marauders by tossing two touchdowns and throwing for 345 yards, but that wasn’t enough to upset the defending Yates Cup champions. Tyson Middlemost was McMaster’s top reciever, registering 73 yards on four catches.
McMaster stayed in touch with Western for three quarters before Western broke the game open with 17 unanswered points in the final 21 minutes.
Although not pleased with the loss, Head Coach Stefan Ptaszek did recognize the positives of contending with the highest-ranked OUA team.
“They weren’t bullying us and running right over us,” said Ptaszek. “I think that’s a different feel for us and then certainly it was 17-17 in the third quarter, and we were playing football with them. So I don’t think anyone in my locker room feels like on any given day we can’t compete with the Mustangs.”
Ptaszek emphasized that, while early for the Marauders, it was an opportunity for his players and coaches to measure themselves against the OUA standard.
“We saw [Western’s level of play] and it’s nothing that scares us.” said Ptaszk. “There’s work to do to get to it and compete with this team for four quarters, and fortunately it’s week three and we’ve probably got about nine weeks here to do it. So roll up your sleeves and let’s get our fingernails dirty.”
Merchant rushed for a touchdown late in the third while tossing another to Brett Ellerman. Liegghio notched his second field goal in that rampant 20-minute period to account for the 17 final Western points.
After seeing Western build a 10-0, the Marauders responded in the second quarter with Dueck hitting Noah Griffith on a 22-yard strike. That was followed by a late Adam Preocanin field goal to tie the score with a 1:43 remaining in the first half.
Unfortunately, Western would break that Marauder momentum by using an eight play 75-yard drive to set the game at 17-10 heading into the half.
McMaster’s secondary was able to pickoff Merchant once in the game with Mitch Garland nabbing the Western quarterback. McMaster now has nine interceptions which leads the OUA.
Penalty yards undid a lot of the McMaster momentum which could have changed the outcome of the game with the Marauders being flagged 15 times for a loss of 183 yards.