The OUA semifinals came to the dramatic end, as two of the four remaining teams vying for a Yates Cup berth were eliminated. The Western Mustangs got revenge on their only loss of the season, defeating the Carleton Ravens 51-24 in London. Meanwhile, every point mattered in the tilt between the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the McMaster Marauders, as Laurier defeated them 21-19 in Waterloo. This OUA semifinal 1 recap focuses on the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the McMaster Marauders match.
OUA semifinal 1 recap — Laurier Golden Hawks vs. McMaster Marauders
Momentum swung heavily in favour of the Golden Hawks in the first half of the game, kickstarted by an interception by defensive back Ron Kinga on the Laurier 17-yard line two minutes into the game. After another two and out that was forced back by flags, Asher Hastings and the Marauders drove back towards the Laurier endzone, only to be intercepted again by Isaiah Guzylak Messam on the 33-yard line. The Laurier defence held McMaster off the board for most of the half, limiting them to six points by the time the second quarter was over.
That gave Laurier time to get their offence going, as Laurier kicker Nathan Mesher kicked a 28-yard field goal through the uprights after a forced fumble by McMaster’s Mike Kashak was recovered by Levondre Gordon on the McMaster 24-yard line. To add to the damage, once the Marauders tied things up with a field goal of their own, starting quarterback Michael Knevel hit a 63-yard strike to receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr in the dying seconds of the first quarter to take a 10-3 lead.
The offence kept piling on the points, with another field goal by Mesher and a 1-yard punch in by running back Osayi Iginuan, after Knevel surprised the McMaster secondary with a 65-yard rush of his own, taking it all the way to the McMaster 10-yard line. The Golden Hawks were firing on all cylinders, and had complete control of the tempo of the game.
But McMaster battled back.
A Tale of Two Halves
Despite a lone rouge point at the beginning of the half from the kickoff by Laurier kicker Nathan McLean, the second half belonged to the Marauders. Hastings settled down and found receivers Danny Vandervoort and Dan Petermann to move the ball. Hastings found Petermann for nine-yards to cut Laurier’s lead to eight points with three minutes left to play in the third quarter.
Hastings second touchdown came with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, when he found Max Cameron for a 15-yard catch to pull within two points of the Hawks. A failed two-point convert set up a very dramatic end to this semifinal game, as McMaster held most of the momentum and Laurier’s offence struggled.
The Final Push
With time ticking constantly, the Hawks took control of the ball and pushed all the way to the McMaster 39-yard line before McLean punted it away 28-yards. Penalties knocked McMaster away from field goal range with only two minutes on the clock. The Marauders offence quickly moved the ball with the help of Vandervoort, Petermann and Jordan Lyons.
But a crucial stop by the Laurier defence halted McMaster’s drive midfield, when Hastings rushed for no gain on a third and inches play, turning the ball over to Laurier on the McMaster 52-yard line.
With the clock becoming the deciding factor, Laurier pushed for first downs as they tried to keep the drive going. McLean’s 43-yard punt to the McMaster five-yard line pushed the Marauders back to their four-yard line with four seconds left to play. With the last play, Hastings tried a trick pass to Vandervoort, which was fumbled and recovered by Messam, ending the game and sending the Hawks to their first Yates Cup final since 2009.
Consistency is Key
The Laurier defence remained consistent throughout the game, giving the offence time to build a strong enough lead to hold onto. Coming into the game, Laurier led the nation in sacks with 36, and was second in interceptions with 16. The defence put it on display, as they forced two fumbles, three interceptions and three sacks.
That being said, the offence played their part, generating 354 offensive yards — 234 rushing, to become victorious. McMaster was held to only 39 rushing yards, and was forced to rely mainly on their air game. Hastings finished the day with 32 of 47 completed passes, 336 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Petermann finished with 131 yards on 15 catches, while Vandervoort finished the day with 116 yards on 11 catches. Running back Chris Pezzetta rushed for 25 yards on six attempts.
For Laurier, Knevel completed 11 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 85 yards. Gordon finished the day as Laurier’s top rusher, with 92-yards on 22 attempts. Knevel split his throws evenly, with Gittens Jr. finishing the day with 72 receiving yards on three attempts.
Next, the Golden Hawks travel to London to play the Western Mustangs for the 109th Yates Cup. Kickoff time is at 1p.m. on Saturday November 12.
Main photo courtesy of Drew Yates.