The Marauders began their season in an unusual way by taking their bye week during the first week of the Ontario University Athletics season. While other teams were starting their regular season, McMaster had the opportunity to play host to the Saskatchewan Huskies for the first time in team history. This was also the first time since 1994 that the Marauders have played an interlock preseason game.
“This was a good opportunity for us to have a team from out of conference to fill that void so I don’t think it’s detrimental,” said head coach Greg Knox following the game. “Otherwise, byes first week aren’t that fun, frankly.”
While it can be easy to dismiss preseason games in any sport, they allow teams to test out new players and determine the starters in competitive positions. University sports do not usually have preseason games, but this was a great opportunity for the team’s youngest recruits to get the feel of the game at a university level prior to the beginning of the regular season.
“This was a great opportunity for the team’s youngest recruits to get the feel of the game at a university level prior to the beginning of the regular season.”
While the Marauders have many returning players, they had to deal with many impactful departures as well. Former star wide receiver Danny Vandervoort has moved on to the Canadian Football League. Former starting quarterback Asher Hastings and running back Chris Pezzetta both finished their eligibility and moved on to positional coaching for the Marauders.
Any concern over whether or not the Marauders could pick up where they left off were quickly put to rest as the Marauders pulled off impressive back-to-back wins. The preseason game against the Huskies ended in a solid 22-10 win and was followed by a 23-9 win against the Carleton Ravens. It is clear the 2017 McMaster football team has the potential to have a great season.
Despite the win, the Marauders’ game against Saskatchewan began with a slow start. The Huskies were the first to get points on the board, setting the tone for the ﬁrst quarter. The Marauders trailed behind 7-0 as the offence led by sophomore quarterback Dylan Astrom struggled to move the ball.
Looking to the fill the void following Asher Hastings’ departure, McMaster used this game as a chance to give the three quarterbacks on their roster some playing time. Next up was newcomer quarterback Jackson White, whose play changed the pace in the game quickly when he entered the game in the second quarter.
Following star kicker Adam Preocanin’s 25-yard ﬁeld goal, White completed an impressive 28-yard touchdown pass to Brett Ledingham. With the Marauders now in the lead 13-7, both offence and defence were beginning to pick up momentum and cornerback Nolan Putt picked off the ﬁrst of four Marauders interceptions of the night. White finished the quarter with an impressive 131 yards on seven completions.
Something finally clicked for Mac in the second quarter as they headed into the second half up 13-7.
“You could define that game less about what they were doing and more about what we weren’t doing in terms of some mental mistakes, which you can expect early on in the season,” explained Knox.
By the third quarter, both sides of the ball were now comfortable showing off their speed. Freshman quarterback Andreas Dueck stepped in for the Marauders, starting and finishing the second half. The Winnipeg native maintained composure throughout the integral parts of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Huskies kicked a 45-yard ﬁeld goal and were able to bring the score to 10-15. It was beginning to look like a close game. However, strong efforts from McMaster’s leading receiver Tommy Neild and Jordan Lyons’ three yard touchdown with 58 seconds left in the game allowed Adam Preocanin’s fourth field goal to seal the game for the home team.
Freshman running back Justice Allin impressed with a few game-breaking runs, leading McMaster in rushing with 97 yards and splitting the backfield with Jordan Lyons’ 80 yards. On the other side of the ball, veteran Hassan Berry led the defence with six tackles and one sack.
“[It was] a good first step. We learned a lot. I think we competed, a little shaky start all around. We’re a very young group, an inexperienced group, but I thought that we showed good composure and did enough to win a football game we wanted to win.”
Building off their strong preseason game, the Marauders traveled to MNP Park in their first regular season game to face off against the Carleton Ravens. Coming off of a 22-17 road win against the Queen’s Gaels, the Ravens looked poised to challenged the Marauders in their home opener.
However, the Marauders did not let the Ravens begin their season with two straight wins. In a game filled with penalties, sacks and turnovers, the Marauders’ capitalized on Carleton’s mistakes. Despite only 142 yards of total offence, exactly half of the Ravens’ total, the Marauders were able to execute a dominant 23-9 win.
As the Marauders’ new starting signal caller, Andreas Dueck struck early by throwing a five yard touchdown pass to Tommy Nield. That would be the highlight of the Marauders’ passing game as Dueck would finish 9 of 22 for 65 yards and an interception.
While not accumulating many passing yards, Dueck showed off why he was chosen to start the game by showcasing an impressive ability to scramble and throw on the run. Dueck racked up 19 rushing yards of his own to pick up a couple of first downs with his feet.
The Marauders began another game slowly as they finished the first quarter leading 7-2 and letting the Ravens march the ball down the field on several drives, but stopping them from converting them to points. The pace of the game changed in the second quarter as McMaster took advantage of the Ravens’ turnovers to break out for 16 points.
Running back Jordan Lyons was the source of the majority of the Marauders’ yardage for the game, responsible for 94 yards on 21 carries. Lyons almost scored a touchdown after a 25-yard run, but fumbled close to the goal line. The ball was luckily recovered by the Marauders’ Mitch O’Connor and essentially sealed the game for the road team.
The Marauder’s defence shined brightly under the lights in Ottawa, allowing only three points and coming away with six turnovers, including a pick-six snagged by OUA All-Star cornerback Robbie Yochim. The defence also posted five sacks, competing with the Ravens’ defensive line who had seven sacks of their own.
One bright spot for the Ravens was second-year running back Nathan Carter who was able to break off for several big runs, finishing the game with an impressive 150 yards on 22 carries. Carleton will head to Laurier next week to see if they can bounce back from this loss.
The Marauders will now play host to the Western Mustangs on Sept. 9. The Mustangs will be a tough test for the Marauders after opening their season with a commanding 66-3 win over the York Lions. If McMaster’s defence can continue their dominance and they can get their passing game going, the Marauders can go far in their 2017 season.