Waterloo, Ont. - With a new season comes a clean slate; a fresh start removed from the ups and downs of the previous campaign. Whether hitting the gridiron as the reigning champions or coming off a season that didn’t quite go as planned, it is a chance to make an early statement and help set the course for the upcoming year, something that both the Windsor Lancers and Waterloo Warriors will look to do in this season’s first OUA Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters.
Perhaps no team took advantage of their clean slate last season more than the Warriors, flipping the script from their back-to-back winless campaigns in 2015 and 2016 to storm out of the gates with four straights victories in 2017. And despite losing their final four contests, the .500 season undoubtedly showcased that the Warriors are a competitive and capable squad heading into the latest quest for the Cup; a notion that the team is confident they can build upon in 2018.
Led by the reigning OUA and U SPORTS Rookie of the Year Tre Ford (Niagara Falls, Ont.) under centre, who threw for over 1,500 yards while connecting on nearly 62% of his passes and tallied 13 touchdowns, the Warriors will look to repeat their early season success against their same week one opponent from a year ago.
The offence will once again play a significant role after racking up a sizzling 37.4 points per contest last season; a mark that included a 54-point output in week one en route to their first season opener win since 2007. Tyler Ternowski (Hamilton, Ont.), who topped the conference in receiving yards per game a season ago, enters as a continued threat in the passing game to lead the Warriors. The overall athleticism and dynamic play from the team across the board, meanwhile – sparked by Ford’s team-leading 102.4 rushing yards per game – should help them maintain their over 200-yard average on the ground.
With another year under their belts, this group will look to keep firing on all cylinders to put points on the board, while their defence, led by third-year linebacker Kurtis Gray (Waterloo, Ont.), will look to build off of their stellar training camp to improve on their numbers from a season ago.
But while the black and gold strive to repeat the outcome from a year ago, their opponents are looking to take a page out of the upstart Warriors’ playbook to write their own storied start in 2018.
The Lancers will be turning to a collection of new and returning players to get them off on the right foot, doing so under the guidance of a revamped coaching staff on both offence and defence. With new systems in place and an athletic group ready to execute, the Lancers could very well make their way up the standings this season, starting with their week one matchup.
Third-year quarterback Sam Girard (Amherstburg, Ont.), who saw limited action last season as a result of injury, will look to lead his Lancers to victory with a slew of weapons at his disposal. The talented pivot threw six touchdowns in his 29 completions a season ago, connecting on over 64% of his passes along the way, and will be primed to continue that effective play with Tristan Carter (Ashburn, VA), Matthew James (Windsor, Ont.), and Kaeden Walls (Windsor, Ont.) set to star on the receiving end. Marvin Gaynor (Etobicoke, Ont.) and his nearly 117 yards per game on a 7.1 yard-per-carry average from a season ago, meanwhile, will handle the bulk of the work in the backfield to keep the opposition on their toes.
The talent is certainly there for Windsor to build on their one win from a year ago and their opening tilt will be an early test amidst their aspirations toward multiple victories. For Waterloo, the team will have similar goals of adding to their win totals and taking their .500-record from a season ago to the next level.
Both teams will hope to put their best foot forward when they step onto the gridiron on Sunday evening (7:00pm) at Warrior Field for the season’s first marquee matchup, and fans can catch all the action live on OUA.tv or via the downloadable app on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, or Roku.