BURLINGTON, Ont. - After nine high-flying weeks of OUA football action, the best teams have risen to the top of the standings and cemented their spots in the postseason, some on more secure footing than others.
The dominant Western Mustangs and the well-balanced Guelph Gryphons finished the season in the first and second seeds, respectively, with each earning a first-round bye to start their playoff runs.
In the quarter-finals the No. 3 seed McMaster Marauders will host No. 6 Laurier Golden Hawks, while the No. 5 Carleton Ravens will head over to Kingston, Ont. to take on the No. 4 Queen's Gaels. In the semifinals, the lowest advancing seed will take on the Mustangs, while the higher remaining seed will travel to Guelph, Ont. for a showdown with the Gryphs. Kickoff in both games is scheduled for 1:00pm.
Don't look past these quarter-final matchups though, as when these teams met up in the regular season, fans were treated to two spectacular games of football.
Andrews finished with 21 rushes for 178-yards and two touchdowns while Corby had nine receptions for 137-yards and two touchdowns. Andrews, who only played in five regular season games, lead the league in yards per game, averaging 147.6 ypg.
The Ravens were led on the day by Nate Behar who caught four passes for 105-yards and one touchdown. Carleton running back Jahvari Bennett rushed for 144 yards on the day, but couldn't find the endzone in the loss. Bennett has continued to run the ball with purpose for the rest of the season, totalling 1008 yards after eight games and finding the endzone six times.
Queen's and Carleton both went on to have 5-3 regular seasons, and while they couldn't remain consistent, both teams showed signs of brilliance that they will need to exhibit in order to make a deep run through playoffs.
In the annual cross-town rivalry Panda Game, Carleton knocked off Derek Wendel and the Ottawa Gee-Gee's in spectacular fashion, taking home Pedro the Panda after a 48-45 win in double overtime. The Ravens overcame Wendel's 542 yard, five touchdown performance thanks to quarterback Jesse Mills' four touchdowns and running back Jahvari Bennett's 194 all-purpose yards.
In week six, the Gaels shutdown the Guelph offence thanks to three crucial interceptions and a goal-line stop on third down to take a 23-15 win over a top five team in the nation. Queen's linebackers Mike Moore and Luke McQuilkin, along with defensive back Justin Bowman all picked off passes from Guelph quarterback James Roberts. Despite Gryphons running back Johnny Augustine running for 174 yards and two touchdowns, the Gaels held stout and knocked off the visitors to take home an important win. On the offensive side, Queen's receiver Matteo Del Brocco linked up with quarterback Nate Hobbs to make Gaels history, connecting on a 108 yard touchdown reception to break the record for longest play in Queen's history.
Both Carleton and Queen's finished the regular a season on a sour note, collecting their third regular season loss to Guelph and Laurier, respectively. Expect these two teams to come out firing on all cylinders in this matchup and the use that fire to make a statement in the rest of their playoff run.
In Hamilton, Ont., the Marauders will host the Golden Hawks in a matchup that is closer than the rankings might indicate.
Mac dealt Laurier a 30-21 loss earlier in the season, but the game was a tighter affair than most for the Marauders, who's high-powered offence was stifled to almost 15 points less than usual. Needing a victory to assure themselves of at least the sixth seed in OUA, the Hawks failed to convert on crucial scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter, allowing McMaster to hold on to their lead and improve to 6-1 on the season.
McMaster's Asher Hastings threw his usual 365 yards and four touchdowns in the match, but also felt the pressure of the Laurier defence, who picked off two of their own, with Ben Millar returning a 65 yard interception for a touchdown. Going into the fourth quarter, Laurier held a slim 23-21 lead, but in the final frame Mac would turn it up, forcing a fumble from quarterback Eric Morelli and would capitalizing when Hastings connected with Dan Petermann for a 12 yard touchdown with six minutes remaining.
As for the Hawks, the loss dropped them to 3-4 on the year and left them in a tie for the sixth and final playoff spot with the Toronto Varsity Blues. Laurier would eventually lock up the sixth spot with a win over Queen's in the last game of the regular season and a loss from Toronto against Ottawa.
With exceptionally talented athletes on both sidelines, this matchup is shaping up to be an exciting one.
Asher Hastings recently cemented himself in CIS football history, throwing for his 31st touchdown on the season and passing the 30 touchdown record of Saint Mary's Chris Flynn set in 1989. Receiver Danny Vandervoort has also benefited from McMaster's pass-happy offence, hauling in 23 touchdowns throughout his career to break the previous Marauder record of 19 held by former Mac men Vaughn Swart and Matt Peressini.
For the Golden Hawks, Dillon Campbell is the best running back in Laurier history, amassing 3,431 rushing yards over his career to pass Andy Cecchini's 3,061 yards from 1987-91. Last year, Campbell put together a season for the ages, becoming just the second player in OUA history to rush for 1,400+ yards. His 1,458 rushing yards were the third most ever by an OUA running back, trailing only the historical 2003 and 2004 seasons put together by former Marauder running back Jesse Lumsden. This season Campbell hasn't skip a beat, once again leading the nation in rushing with 1, 115 yards to go along with five touchdowns.
Expect two teams to advance with fire in their eyes and the goal of taking home an upset win against two of the top teams in the nation next Saturday.
The quest for the 108th Yates Cup continues this Saturday, October 31st at 1:00pm, live on OUA.tv.
Fans can also watch Carleton-Queen's live in the Kingston area on TVCogeo or listen to the game on CFRC 101.9 FM. For those in the Hamilton area, Laurier-McMaster will be shown on delay on Cable 14 at 7:00pm but fans can listen to the game live on TSN 1150 AM.