Assistant Sports Editor
It’s been nearly a decade since McMaster last hosted the penultimate round of the OUA playoffs, but that drought has officially come to an end.
The seemingly unstoppable Marauders earned the right to host the conference semifinal on Nov. 5 after clinching second place in the province and the accompanying first round playoff bye with a victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Oct. 22.
The win, which extended McMaster’s streak to six games, featured stellar play from the Marauder defence, a unit that has been responsible for picking off opposing quarterbacks more times than any other team in the country with 15 interceptions in 2011.
However it was the offence carrying the team to victory on Saturday, utterly dominating an Ottawa secondary that appeared unprepared to face a McMaster group that leads the CIS with an average of 530.5 yards per game.
By half-time the score was 45-10 thanks in part to a spectacular performance from the duo of quarterback Kyle Quinlan – who threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns – and CIS receiving yardage leader Michael Dicroce who caught six passes for 124 yards, including one a touchdown.
Never looking back after their offensive showcase in the first half, the Marauders would rest some starters for the second half en route to an eventual result of 51-24. The game, loaded with playoff ramifications, was part of an interesting day across the OUA.
In Kingston, the Queen’s Gaels laid a beating on the Western Mustangs, who were the top-ranked team in the country entering play on Oct. 22. The final score of 37-0 in favour of the home team was not only Western’s first loss of the season but it marked the first time the Mustangs have been shut out by an opponent in 38 years.
Before the game, having clinched first place in the OUA, Mustangs’ coach Greg Marshall decided to sit 11 regular starters. That decision, in combination with a Gaels’ defence ranked first in the OUA, played a significant role in the contest’s shocking score line.
Although the game had no impact on the Mustangs’ playoff standing, it certainly impacted their national ranking. In the CIS top ten rankings of Oct. 25, Western fell to no. 4 behind undefeated Calgary, defending Vanier Cup champion Laval and McMaster.
The quarterfinal match-ups will take place on Oct. 29 with the sixth-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks visiting Kingston to take on three-seed Queens, and fifth-seeded Windsor travelling across the province to face Ottawa.
Both games will kick off at 1 p.m. and will have an audience from across the province as the winner will move on to face either McMaster or Western in the following week.
A bye week traditionally involves the resting of key playmakers, the installment of new blitz packages and offensive running schemes. However, for McMaster this weekend will be the first since Sept. 10 where they do not win a football game.
Since that loss against Western in the second game of the season, the Marauders have overcome a plethora of obstacles. The campaign saw several key playmakers miss time on the playing field including running back Joey Nemet, quarterback Kyle Quinlan, defensive back Joey Cupido and receiver Jarred Jones.
The resilience and depth demonstrated by the Maroon and Grey this season make them ideal contenders. But they will have to wait another week to resume that contention.
The Nov. 5 contest at Ron Joyce will be the first time McMaster will host a semifinal since 2002. When that season was said and done, the Marauders were Yates Cup Champions.