LONDON, ON – The No. 5 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks quest for back-to-back Yates Cup championships was snuffed out on Saturday afternoon as the No. 2 Western Mustangs rolled to a 75-32 victory in the 110th edition of the championship game at TD Stadium.
The Mustangs scored 26 unanswered points in the second quarter to blow open a close game as they took a 43-16 lead at halftime. Western continued to control the game in the second half, led by a very strong run game, as they put any hopes of another Laurier comeback to bed to advance to the Uteck Bowl.
“We were optimistic early on,” said head coach Michael Faulds after the game. “We knew there was a good chance going against Western it was going to be a high-scoring game. We got 16 points fairly early and then we just hit a lull in the second quarter. But huge credit to them, they were the better football team. We had some shots, we made it interesting at times but in the end, we lost to the better football team.”
The game started as a shootout between the top two teams in the OUA. After Western roared out to a 10-0 lead, Laurier responded with some great play on defence and offence. A great defensive stand forced the Mustangs to concede a safety and on the ensuing possession, quarterback Michael Knevel of Brantford, Ont., hit Brentyn Hall of Toronto, in the endzone to cut the Western lead to 10-9.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Western’s Michael Sananses of Montreal, returned the ball 95-yards to the endzone to re-establish an eight-point lead.
On the very next possession, Knevel threw a dart to Brendan McCracken of Kitchener, Ont., over the middle and he scampered 74 yards for a major, closing the quarter with the Hawks trailing 17-16.
Things would quickly unravel for the Hawks from there as the Mustangs continued to run rampant over the purple and gold, led by Cedric Joseph of Montreal. Led by his strong running performance, that saw him put up 250 yards in the contest and take home Yates Cup MVP honours, Western posted 26 points in the second quarter, highlighted by touchdowns from Joseph, Harry McMaster of Niagara Falls, Ont., and Brett Ellerman of Calgary.
Determined to send a message after last year’s comeback by the Hawks, Western started off the third quarter by scoring another 11 straight points, including Joseph’s third touchdown of the game to stretch their lead to 38.
Mario Villamizar of St. Catharines, Ont., found the endzone on the last play of the third quarter but it was too little too late for the purple and gold.
The Mustangs would add another trio of majors in the final quarter as they set a Yates Cup record for points scored, breaking the previous record of 65 points set by Windsor in 1975.
Aside from Joseph’s MVP performance, Western quarterback Chris Merchant of Calgary, completed 13-of-18 passes for 220 yards while also rushing nine times for 66 yards.
McMaster was the Mustangs leading receiving with four catches for 99 yards along with his touchdown.
For the Hawks, Knevel, playing for the first time in a month because of injury, completed 25-of-49 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns along with an interception.
McCracken and OUA MVP Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa, each finished with more than 100 yards in the game with McCracken making six catches for 152 yards while Gittens Jr. had six receptions for 119 yards.
Defensively, London native Scott Hutter topped the purple and gold with 10 tackles, a half sack and a forced fumble.
Jesse McNair of London, Ont., led the Mustangs with 9.5 tackles and a forced fumble.
With the loss, Laurier’s record in Yates Cup final appearances falls to 8-14 and 5-9 when facing the Mustangs.