Photo C/O Rick Zazulak
When Andreas Dueck arrived at McMaster University last year, he arrived ready to fight for his spot. With the departure of former starting quarterback Asher Hastings, the team was looking for the next young player to step up to the plate.
After going back and forth competing for the starting position with Dylan Astrom, the role was given to fellow newcomer Jackson White. White led the Marauders for the rest of the 2017 season, taking them to the Ontario University Athletics semifinals. Through this all, Dueck was patiently waiting his turn, which was not always easy.
“[Not starting] was something that wasn’t a fun experience for me while it was happening,” said Dueck. “Waiting my turn is definitely something that benefited me a lot. It allowed me to take a step back, and evaluate my game more. Also, being able to compete with Jackson every day with him was a good learning experience.”
The Winnipeg native used his first year away from home to work on himself as a player, to be ready for when the Marauders would need him to step up. While he worked on getting stronger, he also worked on improving his mental game to be able to compete at a university level.
“I really just focused on learning how to prepare mentally for games, and how to be in a better mental state of mind,” said Dueck. “I wanted to be able to be dialed in a hundred per cent and to make sure that I was not overthinking things when I played.”
If he could go back and tell his first-year self what he knows now, it would be a reminder to relax. He would let himself know that it is important to be able to evaluate things from a third-person point of view, and to not let himself get too emotional over situations.
With key senior departures and a young new offence, the 2018 season began to go through it’s up and downs quite early. After things began to look uncertain, Dueck was brought in to try and help move a struggling offence. Under his leadership, they managed to maintain a three-game winning streak, including beating their rivals, the Wilfred Laurier University Golden Hawks, in a close 21-20 win.
“It’s been a crazy season in the OUA in general with how competitive everything is,” said Dueck. “It definitely teaches you no matter who you play every week, you have to go out there and fight for every yard and every possession that you have, and that nothing is really given to you.”
Although Dueck stepped up, he and the Marauders still struggled to make those much-needed passing touchdowns. Ending the season with just six passing touchdowns, the Marauders often relied upon the run game of Jordyn Lyons and sure-footed kicking of Adam Preocanin to score. Lyons ended the regular season with the fourth-most rushing yards in the OUA, while Preocanin finished with 18 field goals, tied for the third-highest in the OUA.
The team walked away with a lot of close gritty wins, including 27-24 to the Queen’s University Gaels, and 17-5 to the University of Windsor Lancers. Though they did not always win in the style they wanted to, they pulled it off when it mattered and secured a spot in the playoffs after beating the Lancers.
🏈 #OUA FBALL 🏈@McMasterSports have built an 18-10 lead against the @queensgaels in the opening half, and with plays like this from Andreas Dueck to Levi Paul, it’s not hard to see how!#WeAreONE | #QUEvsMAC pic.twitter.com/VGu2Zz6Ipu
— OUA (@OUAsport) 5 October 2018
Although, during that last game, Dueck injured his sternoclavicular joint and White had to step back under centre. The two-quarterback-per-game look is something the Marauders tried before this season. With both quarterbacks being so young with strengths in different areas, switching quarterbacks in certain situations was actually something that worked for the team.
“Both of us just put the team first,” said Dueck. “We’re always right behind each other and always making each other better, which ends up making the team better because we never let it get to be personal.”
🏈 #OUA FBALL 🏈
After goose eggs across the board in the 1st half, @McMasterSports puts up 17 in the 2nd half to edge the @WindsorLancers in their regular season finale! Jordan Lyons’ big day on the ground helps spearhead the win!#WeAreONE | #MACvsWSR https://t.co/ODc4T6bhFe
— OUA (@OUAsport) 20 October 2018
Keeping focused on the most important thing, winning as a team, Dueck knows that is what matters most, especially going into the playoffs.
“Every down matters, and every inch counts,” said Dueck. “We’re just going to go out there and be very urgent, not only with our preparation, but in every single play we make.”
Their opponents for the quarter-finals, the Carleton University Ravens, also have a 5-3 record like Mac, but are coming off a three-game win streak. Having struggled on the road this season, and the talent in the OUA being as unpredictable as it has been, the road to the Yates Cup is not a straight road just yet. Dueck and the Marauders have had many opportunities to learn from their mistakes this season, and now it’s time to use those mistakes to make victories.
Adding to their challenges for the playoffs, McMaster recently fired head coach Greg Knox on Oct. 22, less than a week before their first playoff game. Knox has a long history with the Marauders, serving as defensive coordinator during the Marauders’ multiple Vanier Cup appearances between 2011-2014.
“He was the guy here that recruited me the hardest and really believed in me, and he cared tremendously about the whole team,” said Dueck. “The fact that the school is treating him [this way]… is absolutely ridiculous. They didn’t give us any information about the investigation, and when finally giving us the result, did it in an incredibly cowardly and disrespectful manner, after letting him go for something the OUA deemed only worthy of a one-game suspension, it’s crazy to me.”
The suddenness of the firing has cast an air of frustration and disbelief amidst the organization as the Marauders prepare for their playoff run. It is unclear how the team will respond to this, as only time will tell if this will inspire a win or lead to a turbulent end to a promising season.