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A look into the OUA
You mean there are other teams?
By Ryan Dixon
Dentists everywhere should be smiling.
Smash mouth football has returned to fields across the province as the OUA kicked off its season on labour day. As usual, there will be contenders, pretenders and lost causes (is Toronto still fielding a team this year?).
Gazette Sports dedicates much space to letting you know what is happening with your hometown Mustangs, but they are of course not the only team in the OUA. Here's how the other teams of the OUA are shaping up this season. Last year's record is listed in brackets.
McMaster Marauders (7-1)
The Mac attack has been gaining steam for three years now and they continue their upward ascent. The Marauders have an explosive offensive attack led by quarterback Ben Chapdelaine and all-world running back Kojo Aidoo.
While questions linger about the broken leg Aidoo suffered in the off-season, OUA defenses are still shuddering at the prospect of facing this offensive machine. The departure of MacMaster's all-time receiving leader Ryan Janzen will be felt, but the Marauders should be able to absorb the loss.
The question that will haunt McMaster is, whether or not the defence will be able to stand up to the challenge of keeping the opponent off the board. Defensive backs Nic Armstrong and Kwamme Aidoo will be counted on to keep the opposition at bay. If the defence holds up, Mac stands a serious chance of playing for the Vanier Cup.
Ottawa Gee-Gees (7-1)
Change is the word that could best describe the off-season for the defending Vanier Cup champions. They have a new head coach in former offensive co-ordinator Andy McEvoy and they're making the move to the OUA from the OQUFA. On top of that, they will be looking to replace Vanier Cup MVP quarter back Phil Cote.
James Baker looks like a sure bet to replace Cote and Baker will be aided by the presence of outstanding receiver Mike Di Battista. On the defensive side of the ball, the Gee-Gees suffered the loss of safety Lukas Shaver and linebacker Teddy Neptune to the Canadian Football League.
While these are two significant departures, the defence should still be one of the most vaunted in the OUA. Defensive back Scott Gordon, the defensive MVP of the Vanier Cup, will be counted on to hold the defence together.
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (7-1)
This season will be a chance for some new Hawks to emerge from the nest. Graduation claimed all three of Laurier's top offensive guns in quarterback Adam Lane, receiver Andre Talbot and running back Justin Praamsma. Ryan Pyear will get a crack at the quarterback position while Alex Torrie will likely inherit the running back duties.
Veteran receiver Mark Paterson and lineman Ed Palasz will be depended upon to keep the young offence together. Luckily for the Hawks, things look much better on defence. OUA all-star linebacker Rohan Thompson will provide the spark for this squad. Josh Alexander holds the responsibility of anchoring the defensive line, while the secondary is held together by second team All-Canadian Kevin Taylor.
Waterloo Warriors (4-4)
The running game is a key to victory for any club and that fact bodes well for this year's installment of the Warriors. The backfield is full of talent led by OUA MVP tailback Mike Bradley and fullback Jay Akindolire. The quarterback position is up for grabs and could be won by either Jordy Holton or Mihro Hadjinian.
In addition to running on opponents, Waterloo looks to be in good position to stop any rushing onslaught as rush end Chuck Walsh and nose tackle Jamie Verdone anchor an extremely solid defensive line. The defence continues to be strong as you move back from the line with safeties Chris Waymouth and Mike Laporte patrolling the field.
Guelph Gryphons (3-5)
Guelph will be led by a new bench boss in Tom Arnott this season, as they hope to climb into the play-offs. A veteran defence featuring linebackers Sean Spencer and Mike Hradil, as well as tough linemen Elvio Bomben and Brandon Drage should keep the Gryphons competitive.
Back for a fifth year is quarterback Tyson Beech, who, along with running backs Jonathon Bohnert and Jason Trickovic, will be counted on heavily to carry the offensive load. Receiver Mike Palmer will be looked to not only as a solid receiver, but also as a firestarter on special teams as a kick-off returner.
York Yeomen (3-5)
Former defensive co-ordinator Tom Gretes takes over head coaching duties of this club with the hopes that the Yeomen's stingy defence can land them a place in the post-season.
Neil Mark, who led the nation with six interceptions last year is back, as well as the two men who have been the scourge of OUA quarterbacks everywhere, Jeet Rana and David D'Onofrio, both of which are known as two of the sack happiest men in the province.
Billy Barbosa, who just seems to have a name suited for success, will be the go-to guy on offence. Barbosa has been one of the most dependable quarterbacks in the OUA for the past two seasons and York will be counting on that trend to continue.
Teams Just Hoping to Avoid Serious Injury
Queen's Golden Gaels (1-7)
Queen's makes the jump with Ottawa to the OUA after 25 years in the Ontario-Quebec conference and they can expect a rough reception. James MacLean may be considered one of the top receivers in the country, but he can't do everything for this team. Of course, as Western learned in their visit to Kingston last season, you never want to take this team too lightly.
Toronto Varsity Blues (0-8)
With one win in their past three OUA seasons, it's no wonder Toronto has the Blues. Look for more crying in the stands this year as the young squad battles its opponents mightily, only to succumb to the inherent talent limitations of this team.
Windsor Lancers (1-7)
The Lancers have some reason to be optimistic about their fortunes in 2001, but they better not start mapping any parade roots soon. The trio of quarterback Morgan Gallagher, wide receiver Paul Peterson and offensive lineman Dan Gyetvai will provide some hope, but not nearly enough to take this team to play-off status.