Burlington, Ont. – Chris Merchant, Fraser Sopik, and Marc Liegghio have been named Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Football Players of the Week for the period ending November 11, 2018.
Offence: Chris Merchant, Western Mustangs
With a championship on the line, a team needs a strong performance under centre, which is exactly what the Western Mustangs got from Chris Merchant on Saturday in the Yates Cup.
Merchant, who has plenty of experience leading his purple ponies into big game battles, was his usual calm and collective self en route to Western’s 63-14 win over the Guelph Gryphons. The Calgary, Alta. native showcased his dual-threat ability, marching the Mustangs’ top-ranked offence up and down the field using both his arm and his legs. Merchant threw for 324 yards, completing 19-of-22 passes, while also picking up another 66 yards on the ground.
In addition, the purple and white pivot picked up a total of four majors on the day – three on the ground and one in the air. His first score came on a 24-yard run early in the second quarter to push his team’s lead to 21-0. Before the half was out, Merchant would connect with Griffen Campbell for a 24-yard pass in the end zone. The third-year quarterback would then answer the Gryphons’ back-to-back scoring plays another pair of his own, as a 13-yard run, followed by a 1-yard plunge put the game out of reach for the eventual Yates Cup champions.
For his electrifying efforts, Merchant also received the Dalt White Award as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Defence: Fraser Sopik, Western Mustangs
He has been a leader on the Western defence for several years and Fraser Sopik continued the moniker during the team’s dominant performance against a talented Guelph squad on Saturday.
This year’s OUA Stand-Up Defensive Player of the Year was a load on the Yates Cup stage, playing a significant role in limiting Guelph to just 259 yards of offence. He was active, aggressive, and had a knack for getting to the ball, en route to an 8.5-tackle performance. Seven of those tackles were of the solo variety, to go along with an additional three assisted efforts.
Sopik kept the Guelph offence pinned back on several occasions, as evidenced by the team mustering just two touchdowns on the day, and he will look to keep his leadership role up into next week’s Mitchell Bowl.
Special Teams: Marc Liegghio, Western Mustangs
He wasn’t called upon often in the Yates Cup, as a result of the Mustangs’ consistent ability to find the end zone on Saturday, but kicker Marc Liegghio made the most of his time on the field to help Western maintain their keen edge on the championship stage.
The only time Liegghio was called upon to hit a field goal was with under four minutes to play in the game and the Mustangs in firm control, picking up a chip-shot three points from nine yards out. Despite this being his lone field goal, Liegghio was also a perfect 8-for-8 in extra-point attempts on the day to bring his point total to 11 for the game.
The veteran kicker also made the most of his kickoff and punting efforts to help pin the Gryphons back and allow the Mustangs maintain their positioning edge throughout the contest. Liegghio booted nine kickoffs for nearly 500 yards, averaging 54.3 per kick. He also added two punts for 85 yards, both of which pinned Guelph inside their own 20.