Preparing for the playoffs
Not too long ago the Marauders began their 2017 season, not knowing who would be their starting quarterback. But as the regular season comes to a close, Jackson White has answered that question.
“It’s been a great experience,” said White of his first season. “I’ve met a lot of good friends and teammates. The game is different and faster than in high school with the bigger and stronger guys coming at you, but so far it has been going well.”
White may not be in high school anymore, but he is happy to have his high school teammates Riley Pilkey, a cornerback, and Mario Alyas, a defensive back, on the team. Pilkey is in his second year and has helped White settle in at Mac during his first season.
“One pregame ritual I have to do every game is play catch with Riley Pilkey as well as eating breakfast with Joseph O’Brien on the field.”
White has been adjusting to McMaster quite well, but one thing that has surprised him is how bad his style is. Not his style of play, but rather his style of dress.
"One pregame ritual I have to do every game is play catch with Riley Pilkey as well as eating breakfast with Joseph O'Brien on the field."
“[The guys on the team] call it the ‘No Swag-Swag’,” White said. “I’m not up to speed with that, but I guess you got to look good, feel good and play good, so I have to change that up a bit.”
The first year, 6’4” quarterback from Cambridge, Ont. may not be receiving any cool points for his fashion sense this season, but his playing style in his first season as a university-level starting quarterback has been impressive.
His first official game as a starter, which also happens to be his favourite game so far, was against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Winning 24-7 at home, White helped lead Mac in the first win of a five-game winning streak.
Since the win against Ottawa, White and the Marauders have ruined homecoming for the Guelph Gryphons and won big at their own homecoming against the York Lions. The following week they crushed the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues in a 43-6 victory. Then they got the “W” once again during their last regular season home game, handily beating the Windsor Lancers.
Unfortunately for Mac, the winning streak came to a halt in the last regular season game, falling short at the hands of the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks on Sept. 21.
The Golden Hawks came out looking for vengeance after falling short to the Guelph Gryphons 24-14 the week before and took their frustrations out on the Marauders. Despite Mac’s best efforts, they were unable to stop them.
“It wasn’t the game that we thought it was going to be,” said White. “We had a good game plan going into the game and we didn’t quite execute that game plan.”
White was able to connect with Dan Petermann on a 98-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and cut the lead in half, but the Golden Hawks answered back ending the half in the lead 24-7.
“They got the momentum early and it was hard to turn it around,” White said. “We thought after the halftime we could make a big comeback in the second half but we fell short.”
As defending Yates Cup champions, the Golden Hawks’ offence did not let the absence of starting quarterback Michael Knevel slow them down. In his place, freshman quarterback Tristan Arndt handled his first career start with ease, completing 18 of his 23 pass attempts for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Arndt added 65 yards on three carries as well.
Some may have underestimated Arndt, especially given that Knevel is a top Canadian Football League prospect and Ontario University Athletics leader. But White was not surprised by Laurier’s rookie’s ability to win big.
“We knew their offence had weapons and we just didn’t execute across the board throughout the game,” said White. “[Arndt] had a good game and he played well against a great defence.”
"It's do or die now so we'll be ready to go"
Mac’s usually dominant defence, who had gone into the game only allowing 10 or more points on two occasions this season, struggled stopping Laurier’s explosive offence.
One of their hardest opponents to stop was OUA-leading receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. Finishing Saturday’s game with 10 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, Gittens Jr. became the U Sports single-season leader with 75 receptions and leads his team in receiving yards leader with 953.
“It’s not the end of the world,” White reflected on the loss. “We’re going to play a good team in Queen’s and hopefully we’ll be right back there.”
The Marauders went into Laurier with the OUA’s second-place position they had just claimed the week before and a possibility of having a bye week in the playoffs. Now in third place and no extra week to rest, the quarterfinal matchup has the makings to be a grueling battle.
The Gaels and the Marauders have yet to meet this season but both teams pose a threat to each other. Although Queen’s has had a slow start and is currently ranked sixth in the OUA, they have the current OUA touchdown passing leader, quarterback Nate Hobbs, and touchdown reception leader, receiver Chris Osei-Kusi, driving their offence.
“It’s do or die now so we’ll be ready to go,” said White. “It’s a home playoff game, everyone wants to play at home in the playoffs, so we’ve got to capitalize on that. We also have to execute well and hopefully, we’ll be successful.”
It’s time for playoff season and anything can happen in a do-or-die game, and the first round of the OUA playoffs promise to keep fans guessing. What we know for sure is that the quarterfinal game will be tough, but Jackson White and the Marauders are not about to go down that easy.