Rushing to the Semi-Finals
The rain poured down. The weather was brisk. But despite the circumstances, the McMaster Marauders managed to pull through and beat the Queen’s Gaels 12-9 in the Ontario University Athletics quarterfinal matchup.
The Marauders scored their 12 points early in the game, starting with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jackson White to Dan Petermann. The Mac men added to their lead with a 12-yard field goal by Adam Preocanin, with the defence chipping in with a safety.
With the weather not on their side, Mac chose to run the ball for majority of the game, setting up Jordan Lyons to tie an OUA playoff record for carries (39), rushing for a whopping total of 319 yards. That total also happens to be the second most all-time in a playoff game in Canadian University football history.
“As we started running the ball, we wore them down a bit and we noticed that we were gashing them,” said Lyons. “So coach kept feeding me [the football] and I just kept doing my thing.”
With Mac leading at the half 12-0, the Gaels came back after the break full force and managed to kick their way onto the scoreboard. Nick Liberatore of Queen`s kicked three field goals and brought the score to a nail-biting 12-9.
A strong pass from Queen’s quarterback Nate Hobbs to wide receiver Chris Osei-Kusi allowed the Gaels to successfully move up to Mac’s 30-yard line, setting up Liberatore in the perfect position to tie the game. The ball flew through the air and hit the left upright, missing the field goal attempt.
With less than two minutes on the clock, Hobbs completed an 11-yard pass to Osei-Kusi giving Queen’s a first down at Mac’s 39-yard line, and it started to seem as if Queen’s may take the win, but Mac’s defence was not giving up.
“For the defence as a whole, there was no point in our minds when we thought: ‘They’re in scoring range’,” said linebacker Eric Blake. “We knew we were gonna make a play it was just a matter of time.”
The big play could not have come at a better time as Blake intercepted Hobbs’ pass turning the game around back to favour the home team. Along with Blake’s interception, a late sack from defensive end Mark Mackie sealed the deal.
As the clock ran out, the fans, the team, and head coach Greg Knox were all able to sigh in relief as the Marauders took a positive step towards the semi-finals.
“We showed some grit and resilience today that wasn’t apparent last week, so that was great to see,” said Knox. “The offence did a great job moving the ball in the first half but we’re still having trouble putting the ball in the end zone. They struggled in the second half, but when they needed to move the ball at key times, they answered.”
Next up, Mac will face Wilfred Laurier in the OUA semi-final match. As the defending Yates Cup champions, Laurier will be giving their all this Saturday but Mac will be seeking payback as they recently lost 40-15 to the Golden Hawks in their last regular season game.
While the Marauders have been playing every weekend since Aug. 25, the Golden Hawks are coming off of a bye week and have the advantage of rest on their side.
“The injuries have already taken their toll but all we can do is have the ‘next man up’ approach,” said Knox. “We’re losing veteran players and replacing them with youngsters who are playing playoff football so they have no choice but to do their best and step up.”
Whether they have seen the field several times or for the first time this weekend, every player on Mac will need to give it their all to stop Laurier's offence, break through their defence and claim their spot at the 110th Yates Cup.
“It’s definitely a revenge game,” said Marauders’ quarterback Jackson White following the game. “We’re gonna have some fun tonight, but then we’re focused on Laurier and hopefully it’s a different outcome than last time.”
The playoffs can be unpredictable at times and often do not always go exactly as planned, but as long you come away with the win, that is all that matters. The Marauders will face another win-or-go-home matchup on Nov. 4 at Univeristy Stadium in Waterloo.