LONDON, Ont. — In their most anticipated game of the regular season, the Western Mustangs football team did not disappoint.
At the annual Homecoming game, the Mustangs toppled the CIS No. 3 Queen’s Gaels 50-31 in front of a sellout crowd of 12,185 at TD Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“Queen’s is a good football team and we prepped really hard,” said Mustangs quarterback Will Finch, who had another strong game throwing for 254 yards and two touchdowns. “Anytime you’re on a winning side at a Homecoming it’s a good feeling.”
Finch also had a strong game on the ground, running for 114 yards and recording one rushing touchdown.
With this pivotal win against the Gaels, the Mustangs remain undefeated with a 6-0 record and sit in first place in the OUA standings while Queen’s drops to 4-1 on the season.
After the game, Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall was pleased by his team’s winning effort.
“It’s hard because the emotion of the game and everything leading up to it, it’ll take a while to digest,” he said. “But it was a great, great win for our football program.”
Leading the Mustangs scorers was Adam Sinclair with both a rushing and receiving touchdown, while running back Yannick Harou — in for the injured Garret Sanvido — tallied one score for the ‘Stangs and racked up 153 yards on 28 attempts to lead all rushers.
Queen’s quarterback Billy McPhee threw for 332 yards and one touchdown and one interception while running back Ryan Granberg recorded 117 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mustangs defensive back Malcolm Brown and linebacker Pawel Kruba led the team with 7.5 and seven tackles respectively. Linebacker Preston Huggins had the defensive highlight of the day, picking off a pass and taking it back 54 yards for his first career CIS touchdown.
The Mustangs opened up the game with a strong 71-yard drive, finishing when Finch found a wide-open Sinclair with an 11-yard pass to put the Mustangs up 7-0 less then three minutes into the game.
The Gaels countered with their own 91-yard drive, but Preston Huggins forced Queen’s running back Jesse Andrews to fumble at the five-yard line, allowing Ricky Osei-Kusi to recover the ball for the purple and white.
The Mustangs would shut out the Gaels for the remainder of the opening frame, marking only the second time this season the Gaels have failed to score in a quarter.
Western’s offence continued to impress early in the second quarter. Just 2:44 into the second, Sinclair broke away with a 24-yard run for his second score of the game and putting the Mustangs ahead by 14. Western extended its lead less than five minutes later as linebacker Huggins intercepted a deflected ball and returned it 54 yards downfield for the score, putting Western up 21-0.
Mustangs’ kicker Lirim Hajrullahu would earn two single points before Queen’s running back Daniel Heslop carried the ball into the end zone on a one-yard run to get his team on the board, narrowing Western’s lead to 23-7 at the end of the first half.
The Gaels would carry their momentum into the third with kicker Dillon Wamsley nailing a 46-yard field goal to make the score 23-10. However, Western responded with a one-yard rushing touchdown on the ensuing drive to put the Mustangs up by 20. The Mustangs would get another two points a few plays later as Queen’s conceded a safety.
But Queen’s would strike again before the end of the quarter when William Zed blocked a Hajrullahu punt and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown.
After the game, coach Marshall said his team has to minimalize costly mistakes like that.
“I think when we look at the film tomorrow, we’ll see that. I know Queen’s is good, but we’ve got to do some things better—we can’t give up big plays like that,” he said.
The Mustangs would, however, catch a break at the end of the third. Heslop caught a pass from McPhee and had a clear path to the end zone taking it 87-yards downfield, but stepped out of bounds at the five-yard line. A few plays later the Gaels would fail to convert on third and goal and the score would remain 32-17 heading into the final frame.
In what was expected to be a defensive battle, the offence would continue to shine in the fourth. Hajrullahu opened up the scoring for the Mustangs with a 37-yard field goal, but Queen’s would answer back with a one-yard rushing touchdown from running back Ryan Granberg to narrow the Mustangs lead to 11.
Harou countered with his own one-yard touchdown on the next drive to put the game out of the Gaels’ reach. Shortly after, the Mustangs would add a single and Finch would connect with fullback James Sifakis for a six-yard touchdown with just over a minute remaining to put the Western up 50-24.
McPhee would find Gaels receiver Giovanni Aprile in the final minute for a 12-yard touchdown, but it was too little, too late as the Mustangs held on for the 50-31 victory.
Next week the Mustangs will travel to Windsor to take on the 4-2 Windsor Lancers on Saturday, October 5, at 1:00 p.m.

Source: Western Sports Info

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