Mustangs RB Cedric Joseph
Mustangs DB Bleska Kabamba
Mustangs WR Harry McMaster
Mustangs QB Chris Merchant (Media Scrum)
Mustangs DT Jimmy Hawley (Media Scrum)
Saturday’s OUA Football Week #6 action between the (5-0) Western Mustangs and the (4-0) Laurier Golden Hawks was the biggest match of the regular season and for good reasons. Both nationally ranked teams were the only undefeated programs left in the OUA and this was a rematch of the epic 109th Yates Cup last season. Throw on top the game landing on Laurier’s Homecoming, it set things up for an electric atmosphere at University Stadium in Waterloo, Ontario. Unfortunately for the thousands who showed up to cheer on the Golden Hawks, Laurier‘s offense only managed to produce one touchdown in a 29-13 loss. As the #4 nationally ranked Mustangs remain the lone undefeated team in the OUA with a perfect 6-0 record.
After pregame ceremonies were done which included; a moment of silence for fallen Gee Gee Loic Kayembe, a Canadian country music star singing the anthem, fireworks and jets flying by, fans were ready for some football. With the two teams averaging 95.6 combined points per game (Laurier 47 and Western 48.6), this was going to be a buffet of touchdowns for those in attendance right? Nope. Western had a decent opening drive, but after 6 plays and 53 yards, had to settle for a Marc Liegghio 39-yard Field Goal to make it 3-0 visitors 2:10 into the contest. Laurier retaliated in identical fashion on their first offensive possession of the game, having Nathan Mesher hit 21-yard Field Goal after a 6-play 61-yard drive gassed in the redzone. Later, Liegghio nailed a 44-yard Field Goal, as the Sophomore who went 6/6 in Field Goals against Queen’s last week made it 6-3 for Western, for a 9 point 1st quarter of play.
The Battle of the Kickers continued as a Liegghio 37-yard Field Goal, followed by a Mesher 23-yard Field Goal brought the score to 9-6 over halfway through the 2nd quarter of play. It was a defensive chess match, not an offensive rampage that left fans glued to their seats. Laurier came in with an average of 362.3 passing yards per game (most in the OUA) and the Taylor/Joseph/Harou threat of the Mustangs had yet to be stopped all season. Well, Western's defense was not allowing Quarterback Michael Knevel to burn them with the aerial game and Golden Hawks D-men were doing a great job of containing the damage of the multiple Running Back danger. Finally with 3:32 left before halftime, the first touchdown of the game appeared and it wasn’t to the pleasure of the home fans. Western formulated a flawless drive, going 75 yards on 6 plays, having Cedric Joseph gallop in from 5 yards out for his 5th rushing Touchdown of 2017 to make it 16-6 at halftime.
The 3rd quarter had only one scoring play and it was another rushing Touchdown for the Montreal, Quebec native in Joseph. After having an incredible TD effort called back on a penalty on a previous play in the drive, Cedric blasted his way 34 yards into the endzone. The 9 play drive took the Mustangs 80 yards across the field, but the biggest killer for Michael Fauld’s Golden Hawks was that it took 4:49 off the clock. Giving his team 2:39 left in the quarter down 17 points, with their undefeated record on the line in front of their Homecoming crowd.
Liegghio started off the final quarter of play with his 4th Field Goal of the day, this one from 39 yards away to make it a 26-6 game. Flashback: Western is up by 21 points with 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter in the 109th Yates Cup, only to lose on a last second Nathan Mesher Field Goal. Laurier eventually caught the Mustang defense in a lapse, with the clock working against the home squad. The Golden Hawks used all of 52 seconds on 5 plays to go 61 yards, with Knevel linking Daniel Bennett with a 6-yard Touchdown pass. Knevel’s 10th TD pass of the 2017 season and Bennett’s second caught TD in as many weeks, brought Laurier back 26-13 with 8:34 left in the game. Could a repeat of last year’s Championship game really be happening? Nope. Western’s defensive wouldn’t allow it and a 5th Field Goal, this one from 20 yards out from Liegghio sealed the deal in a 29-13 Western win.
The Woodbridge, Ontario Kicker Marc Liegghio’s 17 points performance in a 16 point victory made him the Radio Western Player of the Game. Following up a 6/6 game with a 5/5 contest, giving his team a whole world of confidence in being able to produce points in tight situations. Cedric Joseph had another multi-touchdown day at the office, his 6 rushing Touchdowns is now good for 2nd in the league. Not too bad for a guy who doesn’t get nearly as many touches as he would on any other team in the league. The Quarterback Chris Merchant produced 109 yards on 10 completed passes on 16 attempts, but then put up a staggering 143 yards rushing on 11 carries, creating nightmares especially later in the game for the Golden Hawks defense. While Michael Knevel still threw 317 yards in the loss completing 33 of 45 passes for 1 Touchdown and 1 Interception. The star for Laurier Saturday had to be Wide Receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. who caught 18 of Knevel’s 33 passes, just 1 shy of a Single Game Receptions record in USports Football. The record ironically held by another Golden Hawk Andre Talbot, who had 19 vs Guelph on September 9th, 2000.
The win may get the demons out of the closet for the Mustangs for last year’s championship catastrophe at home, but more important it puts them in the driver’s seat for this year’s post-season. With two games (Carleton and Ottawa) and a bye week left in 2017 for Western’s regular season. A Quarter-Finals bye and home field advantage for the playoffs is now theirs to lose. After suffering their first loss of the season, Laurier now drops to 22-49 all-time against the purple and white. The 4-1 Golden Hawks will look to bounce back, heading to Alumni Field Thursday night to take on the 1-4 York Lions on the road for a 7:00pm kickoff. Western will defend its perfect 6-0 record back at home Friday night with a 7:00pm kickoff from TD Stadium, when the 2-3 Carleton Ravens fly into town. The Mustangs went 7-1 in 2016, Carleton was that one loss, winning 38-31 at MNP Park for their first win over Western since the program started back up in 2013. Tune into 94.9 Radio Western at 6:50pm on Friday, October 6th as your "Original voice of the Western Mustangs" has you covered for the game.