LONDON, Ont. – The Western Mustangs are headed back to the Yates Cup for the second consecutive year after a 51-24 win over the Carleton Ravens in an OUA Semifinal on Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
Western will take on the Laurier Golden Hawks for the OUA Championship on Saturday, November 12, with game time set for 1 p.m. at TD Stadium. Laurier advanced to the title game with a 21-19 victory over McMaster.
Despite the win, Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall was quick to point out the fact that the Mustangs have room to improve in order for next week's championship.
"Too many penalties, but, I am happy that we won," said Marshall. "[Carleton] are a very good team and I am happy with the way we controlled the line of scrimmage. Just sloppy, but when you play good teams sometimes that happens. The number of holding penalties is an issue, but the number of undisciplined penalties is something that will be addressed."
The Mustangs were flagged 23 times for 287 yards in the win.
Despite the penalty trouble on both sides of the ball, the Mustangs offence had a strong day overall, racking up 598 yards of offence and 32 first downs. Cedric Joseph led the way on the scoresheet, running for 107 yards on 16 carries, with four touchdowns.
Chris Merchant guided the Mustangs attack, throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns on 11-for-19 passing. He also added another 97 yards on the ground on 13 carries.
"First half especially I felt really good. I thought we executed really well and everything kind of fell into place for our game plan," said Merchant. "Over the past couple of weeks I've been learning the offence more vividly and thourghly. I felt way more confident and my teammates helped me out today. Things opened up and it showed on the scoreboard."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs were led again by Jean-Gabriel Poulin who made 7.5 tackles and recorded an interception. Mackenzie Ferguson also recorded an interception early in the game that led directly into a touchdown for the purple and white on the ensuing drive.
Although Carleton received the opening kickoff their first drive didn't last long as on their first play from scrimmage Ravens quarterback Jesse Mills underthrew a ball that was picked off by Ferguson. His interception gave the Mustangs terrific field position, and they did not let it go to waste, as four plays later, Merchant found Tom Marshall for a five-yard touchdown to put Western up 7-0 less than 90 seconds into the game.
Western extended their lead late in the first quarter, capping off a nine play, 90-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run from Joseph.
Carleton, however, refused to go away quietly. They responded with a touchdown of their own to open the second quarter. Mills engineered a 70-yard drive that was capped off by a 13-yard pass to receiver Nate Behar. Behar did a nice job to keep his toes in bounds on the scoring play and closed Western's lead to only seven points. A Michael Domoglala field goal only a minute later drew the Ravens to within four less than five minutes into the second quarter.
However, that is as close as the Ravens would get, as following that Carleton touchdown drive the Mustangs put their foot on the gas and did not let up. Western scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, with Joseph adding another rushing major, while Harry McMaster and Marshall caught TD passes from Merchant and Stevenson Bone respectively to giver the Mustangs a 35-17 lead at the half.
Joseph would add two more touchdowns in the second half to help the Mustangs secure the win by a final score of 51-24.
"When a running back has a great day at the office you got to give it up to the o-line," said Joseph. "I really thought the o-line stepped up today and took on the challenge head on. All my credit to the five guys up front and the full backs doing the extra blocking."
The Mustangs will host the Laurier Golden Hawk's in the 109th Yates Cup on Saturday November 12th at TD Stadium. The Hawks have already made a trip to London this season in a game which the Mustangs won 45-26.
When asked about the chance to win the Yates, Merchant asserted that this was their goal from the very start of the season.
"It feels awesome. It's what I came here to do. We are going to take that next step and focus on next week. We are going to come into practice with really focused minds."
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