Quest for the 108th Yates Cup continues in Guelph and London with Saturday semifinals

Quest for the 108th Yates Cup continues in Guelph and London with Saturday semifinals

BURLINGTON, Ont. - Here we go OUA football fans, time to get down to the nitty gritty. The semifinals are upon us, and just when you think you've correctly predicted your matchups, and that your Porter Pick 6ix lineup is good to go, the players on the field flip everything on its head.

Some fans might be frustrated with their teams play, some might be overjoyed, but one thing is for sure, and that's everyone will be on the edge of their seats for the next two weeks.

The Yates Cup semifinals, presented by Pizza Pizza, kicks off on Saturday at 1:00pm as the No. 10 nationally-ranked Carleton Ravens take on the No. 5 Guelph Gryphons, live on CHCH, while over in London, Ont. the No. 9 Laurier Golden Hawks will battle the No. 2 ranked Western Mustangs. Both games will be available on OUA.tv.

CHCH is available across the province on the following channels:

Bell Satellite (218 SD / 1057 HD)
Bell Fibe (211 SD / 1211 HD)
Rogers Cable (121 SD / 521 HD)
Cogeco (12 SD / 707 HD / 59 [Windsor] / 411 [Kingston])

Last week, the Ravens knocked off the Queen's Gaels 39-8 to take home their first playoff win since 1986, and have no intentions of looking back. Quarterback Jesse Mills threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, while Jahvari Bennett rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown.  Nate Behar collected eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in the win. Bennett has been unstoppable for the Ravens all year, finishing the regular season with 1,008 yards rushing to go with six touchdowns.

Led by its consistent pressure and manhandling of the Gaels o-line, the Ravens defence swarmed Queen's quarterback Nate Hobbs all day. Beyond the season-high seven sacks registered by Carleton, Hobbs was hurried on a regular basis throughout the entire game. It was a strong message from the Ravens, who lost their season opener to Queen's, that playoffs are a different story.

They will need to back that up again this weekend, when they head to Guelph, Ont. to take on the Gryphons in the OUA semifinals. The Gryphons finished off their regular season by asserting their dominance in OUA, taking home a 44-12 win over the Ravens. Quarterback James Roberts had his way for most of the afternoon, throwing for 327 yards and four touchdowns against Carleton.  Linebackers John Rush and Curtis Newton both picked off Raven's QB Mills while refusing to allow the Carleton offence into the endzone.

Guelph finished the year in second place with a record of 7-1, but after being upset by an inconsistent Queen's team earlier in the year, the Gryphs needed to cement themselves in the upper tier of the OUA by making a statement. They did that against Windsor by a score of 41-27, and then again at Carleton to ensure respect from the rest of the league, as well as a first round bye.

Recievers Jacob Scarfone and A'Dre Fraser have really spread their wings this season for the Gryphons, hauling in catches from Roberts at an alarming rate.  The duo has combined for 90 receptions, good for 1460 yards and 15 touchdowns this year. On the ground, Johnny Augustine has been lethal for the Gryphs, amassing 1074 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns, while on the other side of the ball Guelph boasts the second best defence in the conference behind Western, allowing just under 20 points a game.

The Ravens are hungry this weekend but that will happen to a school without a football program for 15 years. People in the Carleton community worked tirelessly to get their program back on the field, and the Ravens have shown they deserved to be there. Carleton endured some growing pains over the first few years, but now they are back in the conversation.

Guelph has been at the top of the league for a while now, but has been unable to assert themselves nationally, struggling to get past the Yates Cup in recent years. This semi-final will be a chance for both teams to prove something, so expect a war in Guelph on Saturday when these two squads take to Alumni Field.

After upsetting the defending Yates Cup champion McMaster Marauders, the Laurier Golden Hawks are soaring into their semifinal matchup, having taken home a 29-15 win on the back of CIS rushing leader Dillon Campbell. Campbell exploded for a stunning 285 yards to help lead his Hawks over McMaster, who boasted the top rushing defence in OUA .

The Whitby, Ont. native carried the ball an absurd 39 times, tying the OUA record for most carries in a game, all while averaging a ridiculous 7.4 yards per carry. The Hawks all-time leading rusher, and the holder of six Laurier rushing records, broke one of his own against Mac, with his performance snapping the school's single game rushing record while leading the purple and gold to their first playoff victory since 2010. Quarterback Eric Morelli kept McMaster's defence honest as well, throwing for 165 yards and two touchdowns while running one in from eight yards out to prevent the Marauders from keying in on Campbell.

Coming out of halftime down 20-8,  McMaster tried to work their way back into the game only to be shut down by the Golden Hawk defence.  Laurier forced two turnovers on downs near the Laurier red zone to go along with a forced fumble and safety to suffocate the usually explosive Marauder offence.

Heading into Saturday, Laurier finds themselves in the CIS Top 10, jumping into the 9th spot after the win. The last time the Golden Hawks were nationally ranked was over a full year ago, when they were sitting at the number 10 spot in October 2014.

Laurier are hitting their stride at the perfect time, and will need to come into their semifinal matchup with that same fire they used to burn McMaster, as they take on the rampaging Western Mustangs.

Western has cut through the rest of the league in a dominating fashion, clocking a nation-leading 729.5 yards of offence per game. If you can think of a record that a football team might hold, Western probably owns it. When it comes down to it, the two most important records the Mustangs posses are that they lead the OUA in points per game allowed (13.8), and are the most potent offence in CIS history.

The purple powerhouse from London finished the regular season with 494 points, breaking the previous single-season mark of 481 set by Laval in 2003.  Thanks to six touchdowns against the Marauders in the final week of the regular season, Western wrapped up league play with 64 majors, two more than the old national standard shared by Laval (2003) and Saint Mary's (2001).

When these teams met up in Week 3, it was a result Golden Hawks have already put behind them.  The 'Stangs topped the Hawks 59-9, and seven different players scored touchdowns, including two from the defence. Receiver Matt Uren had 10 catches for 143 yards to go along with two touchdowns, and running back Alex Taylor rushed for 159 yard and a touchdown on the offensive side.  Defensively, the Mustangs collected six sacks and nine tackles behind the line for a combined loss of 59 yards, as well as the interceptions from Nick Vanin and Clay Harris II which were brought back for touchdowns. Dillon Campbell still collected 125 all-purpose yards, but was barred entry into the endzone, and then-starter James Fracas threw for 283 yards and two interceptions.

A few weeks later Fracas would be sidelined in their game against Waterloo, and Morelli would start to get comfortable in the starting position as the season went on. Against Ottawa, Morelli was more than comfortable, demolishing the Gee-Gee's 65-30 while throwing for 298 yards and six touchdowns.

Wideout Kurleigh Gittens Jr. snagged seven catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and Campbell added another 246 yards and a touchdown on the ground, as the Golden Hawks showed the OUA that they were ready to play. From there Laurier battled into their playoff spot and made the effort count against Mac. It will be an uphill battle for the Golden Hawks this week, but this team is playing at an entirely different level compared to when these teams first met up in the regular season.

The quest for the 108th Yates Cup, presented by Investors Group, continues this Saturday, November 7 at 1:00pm.  Fans can watch the Carleton Ravens take on the Guelph Gryphons, live on CHCH and OUA.tv, while Laurier-Western will be streamed online on OUA.tv

Fans can also watch Laurier-Western live in the London area on Rogers Cable 13 or listen to the game on CHRW 94.9 FM or CJBK 1290 AM.  

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