BURLINGTON, Ont. – Two of the remaining three undefeated teams in Ontario University Athletics football will meet on Saturday afternoon as the uOttawa Gee-Gees (1-0) host the No. 5 nationally ranked McMaster Marauders (2-0).
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. from Gee-Gees Field and will be streamed live on OUA.tv.
The Gee-Gees return home after a big 65-1 Week 2 victory over the Waterloo Warriors. Despite have the Week 1 bye, uOttawa showed no signs of rust as they dominated the Warriors on each side of the ball, compiling 593 of offence while allowing just 213 yards against.
As has been the case for the past few seasons, the Gee-Gees aerial attack begins with fifth-year quarterback Derek Wendel (Belleville, Ont). Coming off a season in which he shattered several OUA records, including most yards passing in a game (564) and most yards passing in a season (3136), Wendel went 27-of-35 for 389 yards and five touchdowns in Monday's victory.
However, Wendel isn't the only quarterback in the conference who knows a thing or two about throwing touchdowns. In just his second year in the league, and first as a starter, Marauders quarterback Asher Hastings (Regina, Sask.) threw 31 TDs a season ago, surpassing both the OUA and CIS records for most TD passes in a season.
Like his counterpart on Saturday, Hastings is firing on all cylinders early in the season. In two games, the former OUA second-team all-star is averaging 333.0 yards per game, which ranks him third in the conference behind the aforementioned Wendel and Carleton Ravens quarterback Jesse Mills. Hastings and Wendel are also tied for the league lead in touchdown passes with five.
If you ask both quarterbacks, they'll tell you that their record breaking seasons wouldn't have been possible without two of the best receiving groups in not only OUA but the country.
For McMaster, it begins (and most definitely doesn't end) with three-time OUA all-star and former Norm Marshall Trophy winner Danny Vandervoort (Barrie, Ont.). Vandervoort, a fourth-year sociology major, currently leads OUA averaging 158.0 yards per game and three touchdowns.
The scary part for opposing defences is that even if they find a way to shut down Vandervoort, they still have to attempt to contain Dan Petermann (Stoney Creek, Ont.), Max Cameron (St. Catharines, Ont.) and Aaron Baker (Scarborough, Ont.). Not including Vandervoort, the trio has combined for 25 receptions for 276 yards and two touchdowns in two games.
Not to be outdone, as Week 1 showed, Wendel has some serious weapons of his own, including fifth-year receiver Mitchell Baines (Ottawa, Ont.). Baines caught six passes on Monday for 139 yards and a touchdown, including a spectacular 47 yard diving grab. A season ago, Baines finished second on the team with 546 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Wendel appears to have found a replacement for former OUA all-star Ian Stewart in receiver Luke Ffrench (Ajax, Ont.), who hauled in six passes for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Monday. Ten different players caught passes in the opening week, including OT Nickson Silva (Mississauga, Ont.) who rumbled four yards for a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the football, it doesn't get much better for the Gee-Gees than their season opener in which they limited the Warriors to just one point. uOttawa are led by second-year defensive back Cody Cranston (Winnipeg, MB). Of uOttawa's three interceptions, C. Cranston picked off the Warriors twice. Cranston and his fellow DBs will likely have their hands full on Saturday with a Marauders receiving group that is averaging 337.5 yards per game.
Third-year linebacker Khadim Mbaye (Montreal, QC) finished Monday with a team-high five tackles, followed closely by cornerback Jamie Harry (Lachine, QC) who had four tackles and an interception. The Gee-Gees defence will look to improve upon the 505 yards per game they allowed last season with their first big test coming this weekend against the high-powered Marauders offence.
Marauders defensive back Robbie Yochim (Kelowna, BC) has made life absolutely miserable for the opposition, recording 14 tackles, four pass breakups, two interceptions and a fumble in just two games so far this season. Yochim, who was named an OUA second-team all-star a season ago, finished second on McMaster last year in tackles (28) and interceptions (2).
A pleasant surprise early in the season for McMaster has been kicker/punter Adam Preocanin (Burlington, Ont.). Preocanin, a first-year humanities major, converted a career high 6-of-6 field goal attempts in McMaster's 32-5 Labour Day victory over the visiting Varsity Blues. The Burlington, Ont. native is average 39.6 yards per punt with four punts settling inside the 20 yard line.
For the Gee-Gees, kicker Lewis Ward (Kingston, Ont.) was a perfect on Monday, going three-for-three, with his longest coming from 39 yards out. The social science student-athlete was also flawless on his eight extra point attempts. Unlike the Marauders, uOttawa splits their kicking duties with Domenic Bellardini (Mount Hope, Ont.) handling the punting duties for the Gee-Gees. Now in his fourth season, the Mount Hope, Ont. native averaged 34.0 yards per kick against the Warriors.