Photo by Ves Dasile
In the coldest game of the season so far, the Western Mustangs downed the Laurier Golden Hawks 25–10 in an Ontario University Athletics quarterfinal matchup on Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
The Mustangs trailed the Golden Hawks for most of the game but with two field goals, and three safeties they inched forward to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
The defensive chess match kept things close but a late fourth quarter rally by the Mustangs offence blew the game wide open.
Western Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall said it was a tough game but that he was satisfied with the result.
"Give them credit, they played a physical, physical game and our guys did too. We ran the ball when we needed to and kind of wore them down a little bit," said Marshall.
The Mustangs defence completely shut down the Golden Hawks passing game, limiting quarterback James Fracas to seven completed passes for 36 yards. Even Dillon Campbell, the top rusher in the regular season was kept relatively in check. Averaging 182.2 yards per game coming into today, Campbell finished the game with 25 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown that was set up by an interception thrown inside the Mustangs 20-yard line.
The Mustangs defence had three sacks, two interceptions and held the Golden Hawks to 165 total offensive yards. They also recovered two fumbles.
"Our defence had a whale of a game out there, and that's the best game they've played all season. Give them credit, we got the win in the in the fourth quarter, and were able to put them away," said Marshall.
The first Mustangs touchdown didn't come until the very end of the contest, as Yannick Harou crossed the goal line with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter to cement the Mustangs victory. Instead, the Mustangs relied on field goal kicker, Zach Medeiros to put points on the board.
Medeiros said kicking into the wind was a challenge.
"At the beginning of the game it was a bit frustrating, it wasn't really going in one direction — it was a bit of a crosswind. Once we got going though I felt more comfortable — we made some adjustments on punt — after a while it was smooth sailing from there," Medeiros said.
Medeiros hit four of his five field goal attempts including one from 49-yards early in the fourth quarter to give Western a 15-10 lead.
With Will Finch out of the lineup, Stevenson Bone got the start again for the Mustangs. Bone was impressive in his first OUA start three weeks ago against the Laurier Golden Hawks on Thursday night. Round two in a must-win playoff game wasn't as easy.
"It's tough playing eight quarters of football against a team because you start getting to know them well and they're a good team," said Bone.
High winds made it almost impossible to move the ball in the air. By the end of the first quarter, Bone had only completed one pass for seven yards and had thrown two interceptions.
"I always just try to play the next play. I don't try to worry about the ones that already happened," said Bone. "I felt fine the whole game and I know the guys have my back and we finished strong."
The Golden Hawks pass rush got to Bone early and often as well. Bone was sacked five times by the Golden Hawks defensive front.
Bone, however, eventually settled down and managed the game. With a shaken up receiving corps, Bone completed nine of his 22 passes for 142 yards. He also picked up 59 yards rushing on six carries.
Stepping up for Bone was the second-year receiver Matt McDougall who seemed to have instant chemistry with his quarterback as McDougall led the team with four catches for 79 yards.
"Being on the second team, usually the whole year, I was comfortable with guys like Matt McDougall because I do the reps when they're in," said Bone. "We did a good today of running the football and we stopped the run. It was a really good team victory."
With poor conditions and injuries causing problems in the passing game, the Mustangs run-game carried the load for the purple and white offence. Five Mustangs running backs carried the ball in Sunday's quarterfinal for a total of 301 yards.
Third-year running back Yannick Harou got the bulk of the carries for the Mustangs. Harou ran the ball 22 times for 162 yards and recorded Western's lone touchdown on the day.
Also getting a piece of the pie was running back Garret Sanvido, who carried the ball six times for 35 yards before he forced out of the game in the third quarter.
Taking over for the injured Sanvido was rookie running back Alex Taylor. Taylor had a breakout game for the Mustangs last week against the Windsor Lancers where he ran for 82 yards on only eight carries. He showed flashes of brilliance once again this week. Taylor ran the ball 11 times for 46 yards, and was also heavily featured as a kick returner on special teams.
"The way our defence stepped up today, Jean-Gab [Poulin] was playing with an arm that basically hanging, Rossi went in and played well, it was a great team win today — one of our best team wins all season," said Marshall.
The Mustangs will now prepare for their OUA semi-final where they're set to face the Guelph Gryphons at Alumni Stadium.
"We're looking forward to it. I know we've got guys injured but the guys that show up next week in Guelph will be ready to play and they'll play their hearts out as our guys did today," said Marshall.
Source: Western Mustangs
Kickoff for next weekend's game is scheduled for 1 p.m.