Prior to the successes of the 2011 football season, there was not much hardware in the history of McMaster’s football program. Save for an Atlantic title in the sixties, the only Marauder championships came in the early 2000s when the team won the Yate’s Cup four years in a row between 2000-2003.
The players and coaches involved will certainly never be forgotten. Running back Jesse Lumsden set school and conference rushing records, at times carrying his team through their championship runs, and quarterback Ben Chapdelaine also solidified his place in CIS history with his work from under centre.
At the time, the head coach was a man by the name of Greg Marshall who, until last season, was the only coach to bring a Yates Cup back to the Steel City.
Lots has changed since then. McMaster now plays at the multi-million dollar Ron Joyce Stadium wearing uniforms sponsored by the world’s biggest sporting goods name, Nike, and instead of returning as provincial champions, the Marauders now have a national title to defend.
Lumsden, whose CFL career was cut short due to constant injury problems, has now moved on to the Canadian National Bobsledding team. Chapdelaine, who won the Hec Creighton in 2001 and graduated McMaster as the top passer in CIS history, is now simply a benchmark for greatness at 1280 Main St West.
One thing, however, remains from back then: the Western Mustangs are still McMaster’s biggest rival in the OUA.
The storied team from London, Ontario has a record 29 Yates Cups and six Vanier Cups within its decorated history.
It seems to be the case that no matter what the scenario is in the standings, rankings or schedule, the Western game is the most important game on the football schedule.
In recent years, the rivalry has been a seesaw in the regular season. However, once the playoffs roll around, these two always find a way to meet. In 2010, the Marauders lost to the Mustangs in London in the provincial semi-final. A year later, in the final, Mac came out on top.
This season, once again, atop the OUA standings sit Western and Mac.
At 3-1, the Mustangs have had a strong start and shown their perennial ability to bounce back from the loss of key playmakers. Tyler Varga, the star runner from a year ago has departed for a career in the NCAA, but the Western team looks as if not a beat has been skipped.
Much of the credit can be given to the Mustang’s coaching staff, especially their head coach – a man by the name of Greg Marshall.
Since he left McMaster, Marshall has continued the winning tradition at Western, posting a record of 31-9 during is tenure on the sideline.
This weekend, Marshall and his team will welcome the undefeated Marauders (4-0) to TD Waterhouse Stadium for their yearly regular season meeting.
Marauders current head coach Stefan Ptaszek has had to deal with some key personnel losses as well. Michael Dicroce, who scored a 100 Yard touchdown at TD Waterhouse during last year’s Yate’s Cup will be missing from the line up on Saturday. So too will running back Christopher Pezzetta.
For Ptaszek, the open space on the depth chart has been occupied. Not by flashy, highly touted recruits, but rather by Marauders that were with the team last year in lesser roles.
Receiver Robert Babic enjoyed another spectacular game against Queen’s and will continue to be Kyle Quinlan’s favorite target. Kaesean Davis will carry the rushing load against Western, who was unable to contain Ryan Granberg when the Mustangs visited Queen’s
This one will be both a defensive battle and a showcase of the two most prolific attacks in the province.
Ptaszek and Marshall, both with their place firmly entrenched in OUA history, will have a battle of the wits. A chess game, their players as pieces, to add yet another chapter to this storied rivalry.