Former Mac football offensive lineman Jakub Szott takes us through his journey as a rookie to working for a spot on the CFL's Ottawa Redblacks

C/O Owen Mertens

It all began in Summer 2016 when Jakub Szott went from high school to a training camp with the McMaster University men’s football team. Moving from a small team to a team full of veterans, Szott was able to grow both as a player and a person.

“Honestly, I just tried to approach every single day with the same work ethic when I first came into the school . . . I have to keep fighting,” said Szott.

“Honestly, I just tried to approach every single day with the same work ethic when I first came into the school . . . I have to keep fighting.

Jakub Szott

Aside from field play, teammates spend most of their time in the locker room. As a first-year player, Szott did recognize the age difference among the players and as years passed, he emulated the same experience for the rookies during his senior year.

However, it's not always about shining bright in the locker room. During Szott’s third year on the team, their head coach was fired towards the end of the season.

“We were just completely wondering what’s happening with our future. Everyone is working super hard in the off-season,” said Szott.

C/O Owen Mertens

Fast forward to the following season, Szott’s fourth season on the team, when the team advanced to the prestigious Yates Cup, the trophy awarded to the champions of the Ontario University Athletics conference. After being down 10-0 to start the game, the Marauders fought back to defeat the favoured Western Mustangs by a score of 29-15 and claimed the Cup.

“Beating Western for the first time in my four years at university was truly an awesome experience . . . it goes to show how tightly knit our group was, to overcome everything that happened the year before and for us to grow and to be able to accomplish something like that,” said Szott.

“Beating Western for the first time in my four years at university was truly an awesome experience . . . it goes to show how tightly knit our group was, to overcome everything that happened the year before and for us to grow and to be able to accomplish something like that.”

JAKUB SZOTT

While winning the Yates Cup was a remarkable achievement for the athlete, his journey was nothing short of challenging.

“We suffered a ton of different injuries, we were having the next guy up and up, having to rotate guys in there shows our tight-knit group,” said Szott.

Fortunately, for Szott himself, while he suffered a concussion, he did not miss time as it happened during his bye-week.

C/O Owen Mertens

Furthermore, as a leader on the team, Szott understood that he needs to instill personal responsibility into his own mistakes but also keep the team morale up after losses.

“Trying to be level-headed and positive and understanding the coaches' goals and moving past everything that comes,” said Szott.

Aside from winning the Yates cup, Szott’s personal favourite game was their homecoming game against the Waterloo Warriors in his most recent season.

“They didn't want to dress as many defensive linemen, so I kind of took that as a challenge as an offensive lineman and we rushed for over 200 yards that day,” said Szott.

“They didn't want to dress as many defensive linemen, so I kind of took that as a challenge as an offensive lineman and we rushed for over 200 yards that day.

JAKUB SZOTT

When McMaster’s defence was able to shut down Waterloo’s offence that day, a unit that featured one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, Szott knew the team had something special on their route towards the Yates Cup.

C/O Owen Mertens

After the fourth season of his undergraduate career, it was tough to adjust when COVID-19 locked down Ontario last March. That being said, Szott was fortunate enough to gain access to training equipment with gyms being closed.

“I've had some great guys that were able to hook me up with some racks to lift some weights . . . At the start I remember working with just bands and it’s not the same,” said Szott.

As Szott graduated this past December, he was still participating in activities with the McMaster football team since training camp in August.

“I did try to attend all the meetings that I got invited to and to stay in the loop because I can still come back . . . I don't want to close any doors because I did enjoy my time at Mac,” said Szott.

“I did try to attend all the meetings that I got invited to and to stay in the loop because I can still come back . . . I don't want to close any doors because I did enjoy my time at Mac.

JAKUB SZOTT

Although he maintained his ties to the Marauders' program, Szott was ultimately drafted by the Ottawa Redblacks in April 2020's CFL Draft.

“I have to be physically ready regardless of where I get drafted if I want to make the team,” said Szott.

As draft day approached, circumstances were quite unusual with online interviews, yet Szott enjoyed the process of dressing up and doing it within the comfort of his home.

Despite being drafted and successfully signed by the team, Szott still has lots of work to do to earn a spot on the final roster. While having an extra year to maintain conditioning and be physically ready for the tryouts, Szott’s coaches at McMaster have also been encouraging on his route to the CFL.

As the former Marauder mainstay has to compete against other offensive linemen at the training camp for a spot, Szott knows that he will most likely have to once again take that extra step to beat someone out and earn his spot.

Photo C/O Kyle West

In the McMaster Athletics Hall of Fame, there are seven Black athletes, trainers and coaches who have made significant contributions to Marauder history over the years. Whether it was on the field or court or giving support to their team, the Black history of McMaster Athletics is undeniable.

Fast forward to today and there are a number of Black athletes at McMaster today who are also contributing to McMaster history. Although there is not yet an official Marauder Black History Month celebration, this article is the first step in celebrating the Black athletes who have given so much to this organization.

 

FOOTBALL

PAST: Kojo Aidoo

Running back Aidoo started playing for McMaster in 1998 and found immediate success after his first season, when he was named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Rookie of the Year. Throughout his career, he continued to make Ontario University Athletics history for rushing and scoring. Helping McMaster get to their first-ever OUA Yates Cup Championship in 2000, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the OUA and the MVP of the championship game.

His outstanding talent made him a recipient of a number of awards including the Hec Crighton Award as the most outstanding player in Canada, the Howard Mackie Award as the Male Athlete of the Year in the CIS, the Ivor Wynne Award as McMaster’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2001 and being named a First-Team All-Canadian. Aidoo went on to be drafted into the Canadian Football League by Edmonton, playing for the Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argos over the course of his professional career.

Image C/O marauders.ca

PRESENT: Justice Allin

Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

The second-year running back has been an explosive player for the Marauders since arrival in 2017. When an injury cut his rookie year short just after week eight, he had already posted consecutive performances of over 100 yards receiving, and even had 225 all-purpose yards against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues the week before.

Even though his season was cut short, Allin was still named to the OUA All-Rookie Team for his contributions to the team. After recovering from his ACL injury, his return to the field in the 2018 season may not have been reminiscent of his rookie season, but his contributions did play a part in helping the Marauders secure a spot in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons on and off the field, Allin and Mac’s playoff run ended after the first round. With a new head coach for the 2019 season, and the possibility of Allin’s predecessor Jordan Lyons leaving for the CFL, the possibilities of what Allin can do for the Marauders in the next few years is something many are excited to see.

 

BASKETBALL

PAST: Titus Channer

It only took one year for Titus Channer to make an impact on the McMaster men’s basketball team. The 1993-1994 OUA Rookie of the Year went on to have a successful Marauder career, full of nation-wide recognition. He was named Second Team All-Canadian in 1994-95 and 1995-96 and received Ontario University Athletics Association Player of the Year, a First Team All-Canadian selection, and the McMaster Athlete of the Year Award twice (1996-1997 and 1997-1998).

The accolades for Channer did not end there, as in his senior year he won the Mike Moser Award as the Canadian University Basketball Player of the Year and the Howard Mackie Award. It did not end there for Channer, as he went on to play professional basketball in Europe and represented the Canadian men’s national basketball team.

Image C/O marauders.ca

PRESENT: David McCulloch

David McCulloch, a Hamilton local and Cardinal Newman star, chose to stay home and come to McMaster instead of a number of other offers. Deciding to come to a school who already had a star point guard, Adam Presutti, and wanting to learn from him speaks volumes about McCulloch’s character early on.

Today, the fifth-year senior has turned into the team's leader and star, surpassing 1000 points during his time at McMaster. For the 2017-2018 season he was named OUA Third-Team All-Star and in the summer, he joined Team Toronto with Team Canada’s head coach Roy Rana. A consistent leader on and off the court, McCulloch’s departure this year as he graduates will no doubt be seen in the 2018-2019 season.

With a team mainly comprised of first years and transfer, hopefully, not only his talent but the way he carried himself on and off the court will be the blueprint for the young team. As for McCulloch’s future, whether it is basketball-related or not it, it sure looks bright from here.

 

WRESTLING

PAST: Lawrence Holmes

Lawrence Holmes found great success during his time here as a Marauder. Winning the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union 61kg three times, it is no surprise that he was also a two-time recipient of the Ivor Wynne Trophy. Holmes was also an international wrestler while attending McMaster, participating in the 1982 Commonwealth Games and the 1984 Olympics, and a two-time World Team member. Holmes was also a three-time Canadian Open Champion winning in 1982, 1983 and 1984. But it did not end there. Following graduation, Holmes continued to compete globally and made another Olympic appearance in 1988.

Image C/O marauders.ca

PRESENT: Simi Jayeoba

A newcomer on the scene, Simi Jayeoba is a second-year wrestler. As one of two Black female wrestlers on the team, Jayeoba is in the process of making a name for herself. Jayeoba ranked in the top 10 in Ontario’s 67kg category last year and won silver early on this year at the York University Open. As a Black woman wrestler, her just being able to compete at this level is something worth celebrating. The level I engineering student still has a way to go to for her wrestling career at McMaster but is an exciting prospect to watch along the way. Although there are no Black women in the Marauder Hall of Fame as of yet, it's not too late for Jayeoba to be the first.

 

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Photos C/O Kyle West

When Coach Ptaszek was presented with the offer to be the head coach at a program he had called home for over 10 years, there was no way he could refuse.

“It wasn't just a job for 10 years, it was more than that,” said Ptaszek. “A lot has changed over the last two and a half years, but there's still a lot of the great people around the campus and football program which made it a very, very exciting offer, and something that I was extremely interested in.”

Ptaszek’s name speaks volumes when it comes to Marauder football. So though many players and supporters were not too happy about the letting go of previous head coach Greg Knox, the arrival of Ptaszek quickly changed that.

Being the only coach to lead the Marauders to a Vanier Cup championship in 2011, his reputation certainly precedes itself. Ptaszek also held the record for longest winning streak in U Sports (formerly known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport) history, 21 games, brought home three Yates Cups and was named the CIS Coach of the Year in 2012.

 

For Ptaszek, his success can be linked back to his philosophy for leading a team: ‘Football Family’.  Using his own experience as a university student-athlete as the blueprint, Ptaszek’s goal to ensure that those in the program see one another as a family is a part of what makes those under him do so well as a unit.  

“It's not just 80 guys that get together to play games eight times a year, they have to learn to believe and trust each other,” said Ptaszek. “All of that, under the umbrella of a world-class education, helps them to hopefully leave this place with the tools to be successful forever. That’s the big picture here; winning football games is just a by-product of doing all these other things”

Ensuring that a team has a family bond after such a controversial firing is a difficult task, but for Ptaszek, he finds that the incident has made the team more tight-knit than before.

“When [the players] were not having much guidance in terms of who their next coach was going to be, I think it caused them to have to build a tighter relationship. But they're stronger now, and capable of great things,” said Ptaszek. “Coaches like Scott Brady and John Parkes have been instrumental at keeping this locker room focused, so moving forward I think I inherited a really great situation. I'm going to be smart enough to build upon the great things that are in place here.”

For Ptaszek, building on things that are in place means listening to the needs of the team first, by getting to know his new student-athletes.

“I've had at least one sit down with each player and we're planning another one,” said Ptaszek. “I'm also getting to know the quarterbacks better because quarterback play is a huge thing we have to focus on in the off-season.”

Working hard in the weight room and getting stronger in the winter, the Marauders who are one of few teams lucky enough to most likely be keeping a majority of their starters for the 2019 season, will not have to do a lot of rebuilding. With a small graduating senior class, the team is young with a bright future ahead.

“We have two seniors, Eric Blake and Jordan Lyons, that we may potentially lose to the CFL, but if we're lucky, they’ll be back for their fifth year,” said Ptaszek. “We're going to be a year older, smarter, bigger, faster, stronger and in a great position. McMaster wasn't broken when I took this job, so I'm excited to see where they go.”

Though they have very few players leaving, this has not stopped Ptaszek from adding to the recruiting that was done before he arrived.

“I’m trying to compliment Brady and Parkes to have a great recruiting class,” explained Ptaszek. “It's still early in the process, but we’re really excited about our recruiting class.”

With 23 commits so far, the 2019 recruiting class is shaping up to be a good one.

As for goals for the 2019 season, reaching their full potential is all Ptaszek wants out of the Marauders. With the standard of excellence in Ontario set by the Western University Mustangs, he aims to close that gap.

“This year we’re a bit better at every position, plus our great recruiting class that is coming in, so I think we will be able to achieve our goal of closing that gap of the provincial standard set by the Mustangs down the road," said Ptaszek.

“This means being better at offence, defence and special teams, and attention to detail in every area,” Ptaszek added. “When the Yates Cup is being played in 2019, the Marauders want to be on that field, and I think that’s a realistic goal.”

With weight training, quarterback play and recruiting well underway, the only thing missing is an offensive coordinator, after the departure of Tom Flaxman last week. Once that role is filled, hopefully, Ptaszek and the Marauders will be able to return to that level of excellence that Ptaszek is known for. Although we will have to wait for that first kick-off come August to find out.

 

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By: Lucas Uggenti

The Canadian Football League announced on Thursday, March 1 they would be hosting three regional combines to showcase some of the top talent that Canadian university football has to offer.

This is the sixth consecutive year the CFL is hosting this event, as it gives another opportunity for skilled players to demonstrate their abilities and earn an invitation to the CFL combine. The regional combine McMaster was invited to was held on March 9 in Toronto.

Despite a mediocre year that left the team with a lot to retool and improve upon, there were a few bright spots that McMaster can cling to this offseason. 10 Marauders were invited to this year’s regional combine, which is tied for the most in the country with the Laval Rouge et Or.

This came as no surprise, as McMaster did make a provincial semifinal appearance this season thanks to a very talented roster. Six players invited to the combine came from the Marauders’ defence, proving that the offence was not the only side of the field capable of impressing more than just their coaches.

This not only shines light on the talented players McMaster can produce, but it tells the truth behind a very good Marauders football program. Amongst the 10 Marauders selected to the regional combine, Eric Mezzalira garners the most attention.

Mezzalira was able to perfectly display his skills throughout the vigorous testing and earned himself a chance to impress CFL management at the national combine in Winnipeg over the March 24-25 weekend.

The Stoney Creek native started his playing career while attending Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School. But it was not until Grade 10 that Mezzalira knew he wanted to be a football star.

Eventually, as his high school career came to an end, Mezzalira was offered an opportunity to play for the Marauders and accepted it with open arms. After an injury-filled first season, Mezzalira’s opportunity at linebacker would have to wait one more year as he was designated to special teams — which ultimately proved to be highly beneficial.

“Special teams helped me improve my game defensively,” said Mezzalira. “That year on special teams helped complete my game as a player.”

Now finishing his fourth year of eligibility, Mezzalira is a regular starter for the Marauders and plays an important role in the locker room. Mezzalira’s experience and dedication to the football program has helped them take strides back into the winner’s circle.

“It’s a privilege to play on a football team,” Mezzalira said. “The culture our team created this year was different than the rest. It was team-oriented, and we showed up to work everyday. It’s a step in right direction for sure.”

Mezzalira was told about his invitation to the CFL regional combine via email. Despite early and mid-season rumors that lingered throughout the year, Mezzalira’s confidence never wavered. This came as a bit of a surprise to the linebacker, as he expected to skip the regional combine and enter the national combine directly. Regardless, he performed well enough in regionals to make it to the national combine.

“I’m not really nervous,” said Mezzalira. “I’m excited to have been invited but I’ve been training for this for over five months now. I’m feeling pretty confident and I’m excited to go out in nationals and go against some of the best talent.”

As far as the future is concerned, Mezzalira still has one more year left of eligibility in university football, barring any unfortunate news regarding his CFL status. Although never officially ruling out a return for his final year to play for the Marauders, Mezzalira hopes to be on a CFL roster at the start of the next football season.

“I am hoping to play in the CFL next season,” Mezzalira explained. “Getting drafted is one thing, but making the team is a whole different story. I’ve got a lot to learn at the linebacker position and I’m excited to have the opportunity.”

The CFL combine, set to begin on March 24, will have a series of tests that challenge both the mental and physical endurance of these athletes. Mezzalira hopes to showcase his physicality and impress CFL general managers at the combine, leaving a lasting impression that hopefully lands him a spot on a professional roster.

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Powderpuff football, also known as women’s contact flag football, is one of the biggest extramural sports played at McMaster. On paper it may not seem like much, but the sport involves a great deal of skill, strength and the ability to run on snow and ice. Made up of about 119 girls split up into five teams, the extramural club’s season begins in January and runs for six weeks.

“This is the first year we have three new teams and two teams who have played for Mac before,” said club president Selena Paquin. “How it works is that whenever you join the club, the team you are put on is the team you grow and play with over the next number of years. Each team is assigned four McMaster men’s football players who volunteer their time to coach.”

Every season begins with an invitational weekend tournament at the University of Toronto, followed by an inter-squad tournament at McMaster that determines what top teams will travel to an overnight tournament at Wilfrid Laurier University. There is also an invitational tournament hosted by McMaster.

“Being able to grow with your team and meet new people along the way makes it one of those things that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life.”

 

Selena Paquin
Club president

The Laurier Lettermen Powderpuff Tournament is the last tournament of the season where over 18 teams from across Ontario compete, which is considered to be the provincial championships among the teams participating.

Last year the eldest of the two McMaster teams who attended the Laurier tournament came out on top taking home the tournament title and looked to do the same this past weekend. This year three out of five teams competed in the tournament: Mac Black and Mac Bloodhounds, two of the experienced teams, and Mac 3, a rookie team. Unfortunately for all three teams, none of them were able to defend McMaster’s title, despite Mac 3 making it to the semi-finals.

Although the teams were not able to take home the title, the memories made over the last several weeks will last a lifetime. For Paquin, being able to be in a club with women who all share her passion for football is an experience like no other.

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“I’ve always loved football since I’ve gotten my love for sports from my mom, but growing up in London, Ontario I didn’t have a women’s football team in high school,” said Paquin. “After looking into it and signing up I had so much fun in my first year which is why I am still here three years later.”

Paquin credits being able to come back to her team, Mac Black, with the same coaches, and old and new teammates is something that makes the club unique.

“Being able to grow with your team and meet new people along the way makes it one of those things that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life,” Paquin added.

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Women’s football gives many women who have given up competitive sports for one reason or another, an opportunity to play at a competitive level again. It is a great way to relieve stress, get active and redefine what it means to play football.

Although it is flag football, many people are surprised by the level of physicality and contact that the women bring to it. With a lot of the players having rugby, soccer and track and field experience, there is an incredible amount of talent on    the field.

Flag football players still have to know the skills tackle football requires, such as passing, catching and blocking, and do this all in the freezing cold. It is not something everyone can do.

“When we instill confidence in our players they go out and play with such intensity. When you see that as a coach there is no better feeling.”

 

Devin Keeling
Coach

No one bears witness to the hard work these women put in more than their coaches. The members of the men’s football team who coach and even ref the games will be the first to tell you the level of intensity of the sport and why they take their coaching as seriously as they do.

“Their [men’s football team players] passion helps to grow ours,” said Paquin. “A lot of girls are interested in joining our club but they don’t know a lot about the sport, but the knowledge that the men share helps to teach us.”

She credits their passion for the sport also helping the women feel a sense of accomplishment and pushes them to want to play even more. “When we instill confidence in our players they go out and play with such intensity,” said coach of three years Devin Keeling. “When you see that as coach there is no better feeling.”

The season may be over for the women’s team as they end just in time for everyone to focus on their main priority — school — but the unexpected friendships made with people they may have never known without football is part of the reason so many women will return for years to come.

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The McMaster Students Union president-elect Ikram Farah and captain of the Marauders football team Mark Mackie may have a lot of differences, but one thing that brings them together is their shared ability to be a leader.

Farah, a fourth-year Honours Political Science and Labour Studies student pinpoints her first real position of leadership as when she served as the social sciences caucus leader on the Student Representative Assembly in 2016-2017.

Being elected as caucus leader was validation for Farah that people believed in her. Being chosen for simply being herself made her realize that she had it in her to run for MSU president.

Defensive end and kinesiology student Mackie on the other hand fell into his leadership role due to seniority. Returning for his fifth year after being cut from the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, he and the other fifth-years were the obvious choice to lead a team with such a large recruiting class.

The large amount of rookies posed as a bit of a challenge for head captain Mackie. Usually, the amount of recruits coming in is not that large, so it is easy for them to adapt to the team culture. Yet with so many senior players leaving the program before the start of the season, there was an imbalance of rookies and veterans.

“When you have that large of a recruiting class, it’s almost like we had two different groups,” said Mackie. “So getting used to that large of a group was challenging but fun,” he said.

For Farah, being the social sciences caucus leader gave her many valuable skills that surely transferred over to her being the successful presidential candidate. But one challenge she faced was getting over the fear of asking for help.

As a captain you set the tone how everyone else is going to act because everyone is watching you and trying to see what you will do during the play.


Mark Mackie
Captain of the Marauders football team

“I grew up very independent,” said Farah. “I always had my family and friends, but culturally you were supposed to be very goal-oriented and do things for yourself. The hardest time was during my time with the SRA, because I came in with one vision while four other people each had their own visions. As caucus leader I had to figure out how I was going to achieve my own goals and compliment everyone else.”

After three months Farah began to figure out how to collaborate and ask for help. Since then she has continued to do so with each new position and leadership role she has had.

Like Farah, Mackie has been able to apply the skills learned as captain in life in general, with one main skill being accountability.

“When you’re the younger guy you kind of just go with what everyone else is doing,” said Mackie. “As a captain you set the tone how everyone else is going to act because everyone is watching you and trying to see what you will do during the play.”

Many people expect a football to act up or create a scene due to the negative connotation that comes along with being a contact sport athlete. Though there are cases where this happens, it is not always the reality for the majority of players.

The fifth-year student has been previously awarded the Alma and Will Rice Memorial Scholarship, which is presented to the kinesiology student who proves outstanding academic achievements. Mackie also received the Ontario University Athletics nomination for the Russ Jackson Award, which “honours the football student-athlete who best exemplifies the attributes of academic achievement, football skill and citizenship.”

“If you get to know us a little bit more you will realize we are a special group of guys who come together and work really hard,” said Mackie. “It takes a really special person to balance both being a student and an athlete, so just because were playing a contact sport does not mean we are not working hard in the classroom as well.”

Farah, like Mackie, hopes to challenge how the student body sees her new leadership position.

“[I know people think that the] MSU president does not do enough, that you cannot do anything in a year and that it is just a role to put on their résumé,” said Farah. “That is fair to think but at the same time, I truly believe that depending on who you are you can do a lot in a year.”

The hardest time was during my time with the SRA, because I came in with one vision while four other people each had their own visions. As caucus leader I had to figure out how I was going to achieve my own goals and compliment everyone else.

 

Ikram Farah
McMaster Students Union president-elect

Now as president-elect, she is more confident than ever and is using the negativity as fuel.

“I want to be that person that people can look at and trust,” said Farah. “Obviously that is very optimistic, but I know my work ethic and I know I am the type of person to get things done and if I cannot get things done I know why I did not get it done and plan to be transparent about that.”

Although McMaster’s new MSU president-elect may not know anything about the National Football League, the Canadian Football League or even how the McMaster men’s football team did this season, the one thing she knows is there are life-long lessons that one can learn through football.

Being a football movie fanatic, Farah often quotes football coach Eric Taylor from the Friday Night Lights television series. She is also inspired by Denzel Washington’s performance as the head coach in Remember the Titans, where he was able to make the characters fight for something they collectively believed in — football — despite their racial differences.

“I think that’s a common theme within my courses and how I live my life,” said Farah. “Yes, we all have our differences and we all face adversity, but when you put that aside and put a collective goal first you’re unstoppable.”

Whether it be on the field or in the office, what it takes to be good leader remains the same. For Farah, this means being honest, transparent and someone who stands their ground. For Mackie, being accountable, a good listener and a team player are three things that make you a good leader.

As Farah prepares to embark on this new journey as MSU president and as Mackie returns to Edmonton for another shot at the CFL, both will be keeping these things in mind. They should also make sure to keep their eyes clear and their hearts full so that in the long run they will never lose.

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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.

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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." 

Jackson White
Quarterback

“[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" 

Jackson White
Quarterback

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.

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On Sept. 29, McMaster Athletics inducted four McMaster University alumni athletes into the McMaster Athletics Hall of Fame:

The 34th annual induction ceremony and dinner was an intimate gathering held in the Therese Quigley Sport Hall in the David Braley Athletic Centre, with the inductees closest friends, families and supporters in attendance.

The night was filled with memories and laughter as the inductees reflected on their time as student-athletes.

The first inductee, Kwame Aidoo was a cornerback for five years on the Marauders football team. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother Kojo Aidoo, a fellow Marauder football Hall of Fame recipient. Aidoo was a four-time Ontario University Athletics All-Star, Canadian Interuniversity Sports All-Canadian in 2002, the 2004 co-recipient of the Coaches' Award for perseverance and leadership and a member of McMaster's Team of the Decade for 2000-2009.

Throughout his successful career at Mac, one thing Aidoo understood that it would not last forever, so it was important to look towards the future. Now looking back, 20 years removed from the last time he stepped foot on campus as a student, Aidoo attributes his best memories of being a student-athlete to McMaster's family-based atmosphere.

"As much as it's a big university, it is very intimate, so network in the community and get to know your classmates," said Aidoo.

The second inductee of the night, Katie Schmidt, was the pioneer member of the McMaster Women's Golf team. Schmidt captured the OUA women's individual golf title in 2002 and again in 2003. She was also a three-time Marauder Scholar, being recognized for her outstanding academic performance, and won the Edna Guest Award in 2005.

When asked what advice she would give current McMaster student-athletes, Schmidt said, "Play a sport you love and continue to play but work hard at school because that's what means the most.”

Aaron Carpenter was the third inductee, being recognized for four outstanding seasons on the Marauders rugby team. Carpenter was the OUA Rookie of the Year in 2002, and during his time here, he helped his team to three OUA Championships (2002, 2003, 2005) and one silver medal (2004). A three-time OUA All-Star and the OUA Most Valuable Player in 2003, it was no surprise that he took his talents to the professional level in England and to the international stage, playing for the Canadian national team.

"I had an amazing experience," said Carpenter. "It was difficult obviously because you're putting in a lot of time into rugby and trying to prove yourself there as well as trying to stay on top of your classes, so you need to lean on friends and family for support."

Carpenter now resides in England and was not able to make it to the induction, but two of his biggest supporters, his parents, received the award in his honour.

Lastly, Chiara Rocca was inducted for her contribution to McMaster women's basketball. In her first year, Rocca was named OUA Rookie of the Year and a member of the 2004 CIS All-Rookie team. Rocca’s career accomplishments include being a four-time all-star, OUA and CIS Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player in 2006, two OUA Championships in 2006 and 2008, a CIS bronze medal in 2008 and is currently the all-time leader in OUA career rebounds with 760.

"It was the best five years," reflected Rocca. "The friends I made there are still my friends now. The games that we won I'll cherish but the friends that I made and experiences that I had at Mac is what I'll cherish the most."

The night was an overall success as the inductees were welcomed with open arms to join Marauders legends in the Hall of Fame. Congratulations again to all the inductees.

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It is officially that time of the year again. Campus will soon be flooded with fans young and old, coming from far and wide, all to support the McMaster Marauders at Homecoming.

The “biggest party of the year” will start on Sept. 28 with preseason basketball, followed by a women’s rugby match against their rival Guelph Gryphons.

But the real kickoff will be on Sept. 30 at 1:00 p.m. when the Marauders football team will uphold tradition and devastate the York Lions once again.

The defence 

One thing Marauders fans can depend on this homecoming is that the defence will not disappoint. With their season off to a 3-1 start, the defence has done a phenomenal job not only stopping plays, but creating them.

Currently fifth place in Ontario University Athletics, the defence has done a good job denying opposing teams from crossing the goal line in all three of their wins. It will be no problem continuing this trend against the eighth-place York Lions.

Mac also leads the OUA with eight interceptions, spearheaded by cornerback Nolan Putt, who leads the group with a total of three interceptions. Putt returned one of those picks for 84 yards to the six-yard line during Guelph’s homecoming game on Sept. 23.

The interception put running back Jordan Lyons in a great position to score a rushing touchdown that was followed by a strong kick from Adam Preocanin that solidified the Marauders’ 29-9 victory.

On York’s side of the field, third-year quarterback Brett Hunchak has thrown seven interceptions so far this season with an average completion percentage of 58.2. With such a dominant defence it will be extremely difficult for the Lions’ weaker offence, who boasts the lowest points for in the OUA, to make a dent on the scoreboard.

Though both York and Mac are among the few teams tied at second in the OUA with one defensive touchdown, defensive players like Putt and 2016 OUA All-Star Robbie Yochim have consistently exhibited such high levels of athleticism, there is a high chance of doubling their defensive touchdown total.

Mac’s defence should be able to easily defend their home turf while stacking up one or two interceptions and cause mayhem along the way.

White's got this covered

Rookie quarterback Jackson White looked more than comfortable in his last two games as a starter. Though it took a little while for him to get into the swing of things, White’s growth as a university-level quarterback has been quite a sight to witness.

There was a total of 12,419 people in attendance at Guelph’s homecoming, so for White to be able to play as well as he did in such a hostile environment, he should be more than prepared for the atmosphere and pressure that will be present at Mac’s homecoming.

White is also supported by an offence that knows how to get the job done. Players like Lyons, who is currently fourth in rushing in the OUA, and McMaster record holder for career receptions Dan Petermann have been substantial in the Marauders’ receiving and rushing game.

Currently with the third highest pass completion percentage in the OUA, White has proven he can keep up with the passing game of McMaster quarterbacks before him. As long as the defence continues to bring the heat, White will have many opportunities to prove to the large home crowd exactly why they can depend on him.

For all the Marauder fans expecting a big show this homecoming, there is no need to worry because the Marauders will be more than ready to perform.

History: Mac vs. York

Year after year, the Marauders have beaten the York Lions football team by substantial margins: 64-2 in the 2016 season, 67-10 in 2015 and 49-2 in 2014.

When you add up Mac’s extensive winning streak against York with the fact that they are fresh off their pivotal win against the Gryphons and combine it with the atmosphere of their homecoming game, it is pretty obvious what is about to go down.

This year, Mac may be a younger and more inexperienced team, but there are several key players from their last homecoming game against York who still play on the current roster. Game-changers, including Jordan Lyons, linebacker Jake Heathcote and many more will be certain to uphold the standard that is expected of them.

Although the Marauders will be facing the Lions right after York’s first win of thea season, which came against their rival University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues, they do not pose a threat to Mac. The Marauders will be doing everything in their power to maintain their winning streak against York.

 

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