Brian Decker

Executive Editor

 

The last time the Western Mustangs football team lost a game at home, the Marauders broke the hearts of Mustang fans with a win at Western’s Homecoming in 2009.

This most recent loss likely hurt a little more.

The McMaster Marauders entered hostile territory and earned their first Yates Cup since 2003 with a 41-19 victory, handily beating Western and punching their ticket to the national semi-final in Moncton, where they’ll play Acadia in the Uteck Bowl.

“‘Leave No Doubt’ seems to be the motto of our athletic department, and the football team left no doubt about who was the best football team in the OUA in 2011,” said coach Stefan Ptaszek.

Kyle Quinlan threw for 275 yards, ran for 103 more and earned game MVP honours while Marauder defence held Western to a mere rouge on offence before the fate of the game had been effectively decided.

“We’ve had the monkey on our back for quite some time with this team. It was great to come out here and execute our game plan and get the win,” said receiver and OUA MVP Mike DiCroce, who caught four passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

After a slow start on offence (but some timely mistakes by the Mustangs, too), the Marauders took a 10-3 lead into halftime thanks to a Teddy Peters field goal and a Chris Pezzetta touchdown run from seven yards out. Then, with the Marauders struggling to overcome penalties and Western failing to produce much at all, one pass from the game’s MVP to the league’s MVP gave Mac all the momentum they would need.

From deep in Mac’s own end and with 6:24 left in the third quarter, Quinlan threw down the sideline and found DiCroce, who broke free from Western halfback Aaron Handsor and took the pass 102 yards for a touchdown.

“We drew it up with Kyle throwing a pump fake and I would try to get open. The halfback couldn’t get over to me and Kyle just threaded the needle to me,” said DiCroce.

Peters added a field goal before the end of the third quarter. Then, with 13:38 to go, Quinlan found Robert Babic in the end zone from 12 yards out to make it 27-3. Quinlan would tack on another touchdown to Brad Fochesato from 33 yards out to make it 34-3 with just over 10 minutes to go before any hope of a comeback from the Mustangs was lost.

Western would score two late touchdowns to make things slightly more respectable on the scoreboard.

The 10-3 halftime lead might not have been a lead at all for the Marauders were it not for a dramatic goal-line stand by the sturdy McMaster defence. The Mustangs looked to be in position to tie the game after Western fullback Dan Duff took a pass down to the McMaster two-yard line late in the first half.

But the Maroon and Grey held strong and pushed quarterback Ian Noble and running back Tyler Varga back three times to prevent the score and get the ball back.

The stand echoed week two, when the Mustangs kept Mac out of the end zone from two yards out in a 48-21 Western victory.

“The strength of [Western] is supposed to be smashing it right at you. Nobody’s been able to stop them when they got inside the five-yard line ever, and we got killed in week two inside the five-yard line. We were supposed to be undersized and a little thin inside, but in fact it was the strength of our football team,” said Ptaszek.

“The defence exceeded every expectation we ever could have possibly had for them. That’s the best football game they’ve played all year, bar none.”

Donnie Marshall, Western’s starting quarterback who had been out since Oct. 1 with a severely sprained ankle, returned to start and play in most of the game, but was limited in mobility and sported a noticeable limp by game’s end.

With Marshall looking shaky, it was up to Varga, the OUA Rookie of the Year, to carry the load on offence for Western. Varga ran for 154 yards on 30 carries, but was arguably outplayed by Marauder rookie Chris Pezzetta, who ran for 151 yards on just 19 attempts.

The Yates Cup win was Mac’s first since 2003, when Greg Marshall – the coach who occupied the opposing sidelines this year – was McMaster’s own head coach.

“[Marshall] runs the best program in Ontario over the past few years and he’s been to this game nine straight years. He knows how to build a program from top to bottom,” said Ptaszek.

“To go toe-to-toe with him and get it in his backyard, well, we’re doing some things right.”

Richard Zazulak

Author

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