The No. 9 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the No. 2 Western Mustangs meet in the OUA Semifinals on Saturday for their 22nd all-time playoff meeting with a berth in the 108th Yates Cup on the line.
Laurier and Western squared off all the way back in Week 3 of the season with the Mustangs spoiling the Golden Hawks home opener with a 59-9 victory.
NEED TO KNOW
– The Golden Hawks reached the OUA Semifinals for the first time since 2010 thanks to a 29-15 victory over the previously nationally-ranked McMaster Marauders
– Laurier’s win was the first playoff victory for head coach Michael Faulds in his third year coaching the Hawks
– Western cruised to the first overall seed in the OUA with an 8-0 record after setting the CIS mark for most points scored in a season with 494, averaging over 61 points per game
– the Hawks are on an 11-game losing streak against the Mustangs
– Laurier’s last win over Western came in the playoffs back in 2006 when the purple and gold earned a 20-15 win in the OUA Semifinals
– Saturday’s matchup is a rematch of last year’s OUA Quarter-finals, a game which the Mustangs won 25-10 after Laurier jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter
Western leads the all-time series against Laurier with a 47-21-0 record. In the postseason, the Mustangs have won 15 of their 21 previous playoff matchups. In total, Western has won 11 consecutive games against the Hawks and three straight playoff contests.
MEET THE TEAMS
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (4-4/1-0) – No. 9 in Canada
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks head into their first OUA Semifinal in five years on Saturday riding the wave of momentum generated by their upset victory over the defending Yates Cup Champions, the McMaster Marauders, in the OUA Quarter-finals.
As has been the case for the past three years, running back Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont., put the team on his back in the game, rushing 39 times for 285 yards, to propel the Hawks to the win. However, he wasn’t the only player to have a strong game. Quarterback Eric Morelli of Burlington, Ont., making his first career playoff start, threw for two touchdown passes and ran for one himself.
Defensively, the Hawks continued their recent run of strong play as they limited the second-highest scoring team in the province to just 15 points. Laurier was able to get to McMaster’s quarterback Asher Hastings of Regina, sacking him four times, while limiting the Marauders ability to run the football.
Heading into their second matchup of the year against Western, Laurier is going to need to continue their winning formula of a strong run game and a stout defence if they are to pull off their second upset of the OUA playoffs. Also look for the purple and gold to reach deep into their playbook for gadget plays to keep the Mustangs off-balance.
Western Mustangs (8-0) – No. 2 in Canada
After earning a bye through the first round of the playoffs thanks to their first place finish in the conference this year, the Western Mustangs will be a well-rested football team as they get set to host the Golden Hawks on Saturday.
Western’s has been an unstoppable force all year, winning all eight of their games by an average of 48 points. On offence, the Mustangs feature a dangerous combination of ability to both pass and run the football. Engineering the passing attack is quarterback Will Finch of Burlington, Ont., who threw for 2,616 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. At his disposal are a variety of weapons including Matt Uren of London, Ont., and George Johnson of London, Ont., who both had over 500 yards receiving in 2015.
On the ground, Western features the dynamic duo of Alex Taylor of Winnipeg, Man., and Yannick Harou of Gatineau, Que. Taylor finished second in the country in rushing yards behind Campbell, averaging over 10 yards per rush while Harou averaged over eight yards per carry.
Defensively, Laurier will need to be aware of both Malcolm Brown London, Ont., and Josh Woodman of Chatham, Ont., in the Mustangs secondary as they both had four interceptions this season while John Biewald of Ottawa, had 6.5 sacks on Western’s defensive line.