From all-stars to up and comers, the McMaster men look to make a statement in a league full of surprises
With four games in the books, football season is in full swing, and what a swing it was. McMaster bounced back from a 30-8 loss against the red-hot Ottawa Gee-Gees to defeat the Waterloo Warriors 35-0 in a league that is becoming increasingly difficult to predict.
But from the numbers, players and storylines have emerged that are sure to keep the rest of the season interesting.
On the offensive side of the ball, rookie kicker Adam Perocanin has continued his unlikely rise to stardom. With a career best 45-yard completion in game one, a perfect six for six conversions in game two, and Ontario University Athletics special teams player of the week, it was hard to imagine how he could get any better. Until he drilled a 49-yard field goal in the third quarter against the Warriors, beating his own record and making his case for another highlight reel appearance.
“He is off to a good start,” said head coach Greg Knox. “So far so good. His focus has been good, his production has been good, and we expect big things from him.”
Mac’s running game has also hit its stride, with veteran running back Chris Pezzetta adding two touchdowns to Mac’s total against Waterloo, silencing critics who questioned his ability to return from another ACL tear last season.
But it was second-year player Jordan Lyons whose game-high 105 rushing yards made a case for his own development, and could provide some new options for Mac on the ground down the stretch.
McMaster’s young defensive secondary made their own statement, keeping Waterloo scoreless after struggling against the Gee-Gees. Knox seems confident in their development moving forward.
“The secondary is gaining more experience, and that allows us to be more versatile on the defensive side of things” said Knox.
“They are progressing well, they got out of the gate strong in the first couple of games and struggled [against Ottawa], but that’s going to happen when you have a young group.”
Elsewhere in the league, McMaster can look forward to some stiff competition as the season goes on, with familiar faces and a few Cinderella stories looking to challenge their regular season run.
Western is still being touted as an early OUA favorite, despite falling to Carleton in week two. Reeling from last year’s Yates Cup loss at home, the Mustangs haven’t had had much player turnover from last season and will add hard-earned experience to an already big and athletic lineup. Dark horse Carleton proved they have the potential to play spoiler, but big losses to Mac and Laurier leave them with a shaky 2-2 record to start the year.
After week three the only undefeated teams in the OUA are Laurier and Ottawa, both of which were outranked by four other OUA competitors to start the season. Early upsets suggest fans brace themselves for an exciting run in a league enjoying far more parity than previous years.
For now, the Marauders next challenge is a heated homecoming matchup with newfound rival Guelph. The defending Yates Cup champions fell early to an unknown Windsor team but have worked themselves back to a 2-2 record.
Expect an offensive showdown with the Gryphons, who currently outrank McMaster in both points and yards per game, but have been vulnerable on the road, losing both their away games this season.
When asked about how his team copes with the hype surrounding such as unpredictable season, Knox insists the message is clear.
“We need to get better every day and worry about what we can control. We have our hands full with that… but as a group we know we have the potential to be successful this year and everyday our focus is on getting better, one step at a time.”