BURLINGTON, Ont. – As the calendar turns to October and the playoff race begins to heat up, the Queen's Gaels (2-3) will travel to Hamilton, Ont. on Friday night to take on the rival McMaster Marauders (4-1).
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. from Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University will be broadcast live on Cable 14. Fans can also catch all the action on Saturday streaming live on OUA.tv or listen to the game on TSN 1150 AM.
The hometown Marauders soar into Saturday's contest in a three-way tie for second place with the Laurier Golden Hawks and uOttawa Gee-Gees. On the other side of the field, the Queen's Gaels are starting to heat up at just the right time after getting off to a slow start to the season.
The Gaels have won two straight against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Waterloo Warriors and like the Marauders, find themselves in a three-way tie with the York Lions and Windsor Lancers for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Queen's quarterback Nate Hobbs (Mississauga, Ont.) will lead the Gaels on Saturday as the third-year geography major enters play ranked fifth in OUA averaging 265 yards per game to go along with six touchdowns. However, Hobbs will need to do a better job of taking care of the ball as his 10 interceptions leads the conference.
If the Gaels decide not to air it out, they have a legitimate threat on the ground in running back Jonah Pataki (Wallaceburg, Ont.). Pataki is coming off the biggest game of the season where he ran all over the Warriors with 133 yards and three touchdowns. However, Pataki may have a difficult task ahead of him Saturday as the stingy Marauders defence is allowing only 81.8 yards per game against the run, best in OUA.
Second-year receiver Chris Osei-Kusi (Brampton, Ont.) is having a breakout season and has the game changing potential to really take control of the game. The Brampton, Ont. native ranks inside the top 10 in receptions (32), yards (447) and yards per game (89.4).
After being named a second-team OUA all-star a season ago, Marauders quarterback Asher Hastings (Regina, SK) is quietly having himself another great season. The third-year sociology major has completed 97 of 150 attempts for 1231 yards and eight touchdowns. Last Saturday against the rival Guelph Gryphons, the Regina, SK native went 22-34 for 199 yards and a touchdown in the Marauders 27-15 victory.
Once again this season, Marauders running back Chris Pezzetta (Burlington, Ont.) continues to be one of the feel good stories in OUA football. After nearly seeing his playing career cut short due to several knee injuries, the fourth-year economics and geography major, has carried McMaster, rumbling for 384 yards and three touchdowns in five games this season.
However, the Marauders continue to be a pass first and ask questions later offence and you can't really blame them with the deep and talented receiving corps they have. Three Marauders receivers rank in the top 20 in yards per game, led by fourth-year standout Danny Vandervoort (Barrie, Ont.). The former OUA Rookie of the Year is averaging 24.9 yards per catch, the top mark in the conference, while his three touchdowns ranks him third overall.
Even if teams find a way to try and contain Vandervoort, they will still need to game plan for Max Cameron (St. Catharines, Ont.) and Dan Petermann (Stoney Creek, Ont.), who are both averaging more than 55 yards per game. However, the Marauders haven't come up against a team as good against the pass as the Gaels, who are allowing a measly 162.8 yards per game through the air this season.
Defensively, Queen's is led by a pair of third-year linebackers Mike Moore (Mississauga, Ont.) and Nelkas Kwemo (Montreal, QC). Despite playing one less game than most of the leaders, Moore and Kwemo rank 17th and 25th, respectively, in total tackles. Kwemo, who is currently studying civil engineering at Queen's is ranked 16th in OUA with a pair of sacks. The Marauders will also need to try to slow down defensive lineman Zac Sauer (Ayr, Ont.) who has also has 2.5 sacks.
Marauders Mike Kashak (Courtice, Ont.) has been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks all season long and if he's allowed to have his way on Saturday, it'll be a long afternoon in the pocket for Hobbs. The fifth-year labour studies & political science student-athlete is tied for the league lead with seven sacks, while his 11.5 tackles for a loss is tops in OUA.
The Marauders secondary continues to control the skies as Robbie Yochim (Kelowna, BC), Keldyn Ahlstedt (Whitby, Ont.) and rookie Mitchell Garland (Hamilton, Ont.) have combined for seven interceptions in five games.
It will be a battle of rookie kickers on Saturday as the Gaels Nick Liberatore (Dartmouth, N.S.) and McMaster's Adam Preocanin (Burlington, Ont.) will go head-to-head. Preocanin and Liberatore are virtually tied at 88% and 87%, respectively, on field goals, while Preocanin is averaging almost six more yards per punt than Liberatore.
The Quest for the Cup Campus Tour, fuelled by Pioneer, will also be on site at Ron Joyce Stadium to promote OUA student-athletes and competitions with an interactive OUA booth featuring contests, games and prizes, along with displays and promotional materials.