BURLINGTON, Ont. – In a battle between two teams that know each other well, a spot in the Yates Cup is on the line, as the latest matchup between the No. 2 Laurier Golden Hawks and No. 3 McMaster Marauders takes centre stage on semifinal Saturday.
It is the second year in a row that these two nationally-ranked squads will square off in semifinal play, and for the Golden Hawks, they’re hoping that history repeats itself. It was Laurier who came away with the 21-19 win in 2016, en route to their eventual Yates Cup win. However, it didn’t come easy for the higher ranked squad.
In what proved to be a tale of two halves, Laurier built a 20-6 lead at the break with touchdowns from Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Osayi Iginuan. Gittens Jr.’s touchdown came on a loud 63-yard pass from Michael Knevel just before the first quarter ended, while Iginuan punched the ball in on a one-yard run with 43 seconds remaining in the half.
On the McMaster Marauder side, it was Dan Petermann who led the way with 131 yards on 15 receptions, one of which culminated in a touchdown. The second major for the Marauders would come off the reception by Max Cameron, as the trailing squad continued to close the gap. Their second half charge would not be enough to pull off the comeback; however, as the game finished with a 21-19 score in favor of the Golden Hawks, en route to their eventual Yates Cup victory one year later.
These two OUA powerhouses also met in the last game of the regular season in 2017 as the Marauders visited Laurier to determine the final standings heading into the playoffs. The Golden Hawks were certainly up to the task and were able to penetrate the formidable McMaster defense to the tune of 40 points in a decisive win at University Stadium.
With the victory, the Golden Hawks moved up to a 6-2 record on the season - tied with the Marauders – however, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Golden Hawks secured the second place seed and earned them a week off before this enticing semifinal bout.
Having finished third in the standings, therefore, the Marauders were tasked with facing a rolling Queen’s Gaels squad in a quarterfinal match to determine who would move on to face the aforementioned Hawks. With a strong performance from Jordan Lyons, the Marauders defeated the Gaels in a defensive 12-9 battle at Ron Joyce Stadium.
Amidst tough playing conditions, Lyons' performances of 319 rushing yards and 39 carries ranks as one of the best single-game performances in Canadian university football history. His 39 carries ties Dillon Campbell (Laurier) for most carries in an OUA playoff game, while the 319 yards on the ground is the second-most in a playoff game, just eight short of Davie Mason’s (Ottawa) all-time mark.
With the second and third place teams going head-to-head for a berth to the 110th installment of the Yates Cup, one thing is evident - this will be a game to watch. Both teams pose threats offensively and have some of the most outstanding defensive units in the league.
For the McMaster Marauders, they will be relying on their strong defense to prevent the Hawks’ potent attack. During regular season play, the Marauders were able to prevent touchdowns from four of their eight opponents, allowing only field goals, safeties, and rouge points in those respective games. In addition to this, McMaster was second in the league in yards conceded, averaging just 305.3 yards against per game en route to one of the most dominant defensive seasons in recent history.
Offensively, McMaster will be led by first-year quarterback Jackson White, who has provided the team with 11 total touchdowns, collected nearly 2,000 cards combined in the air and on the ground, and secured an OUA-leading completion rate of 65.6%. His primary target will be veteran receiver Dan Petermann, who was able to tally 36 receptions and two touchdowns in league play. The offense will also be supported by wide receivers Tyson Middlemost and Tommy Nield, who provided three touchdowns apiece in 2017. On the ground, McMaster will be looking to Jordan Lyons to create an impact in the game, and will be looking for another leading performance coming off of his quarterfinal dominance.
The Laurier Golden Hawks have proven to be an offensive threat all season long, finishing in second place in the league in total yards (3,887) and touchdowns (36). The Waterloo squad also had the highest single-game scoring number with a 71-24 victory over their cross-town rivals Warriors.
In the air, the Golden Hawks boast one of the scariest pass tandems in the OUA. Michael Knevel led the league in passing yards per game (324.6), ranking second in both total yards (2,272) and touchdown passes (15). On the receiving end, meanwhile, Gittens Jr. proved to be as reliable a target as there is in university football, as evidenced by his OUA-record 75 receptions. And along with running mate Brentyn Hall, the talented pair forms one of the most capable one-two punches in the entire country.
The two teams will be looking to continue to write history as they pursue the chance to be crowned the next Yates Cup champion. This marquee semifinal matchup should offer fans an exhilarating contest between a pair of top-tier teams and all of the action can be seen on Saturday at 1:00pm on OUA.tv.
The winner of Saturday’s semifinal will advance to the 110th Yates Cup on November 11, at 1:00 pm live on CHCH.