September 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 13  

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Homecoming game a must-win for Mustangs

By Mike Burton
Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
PRIDE IS "ON THE LINE." The Mustangs get ready for the Homecoming football game. Here at The Gazette, we have monkeys at typewriters come up with our captions.

There's no better way to pump up a rowdy Homecoming crowd than with a great game of football.

Football and Homecoming are two events that seem synonymous and with this year's Homecoming expected to be one of the biggest ever, Western alumni, staff and students are all expecting an equally big football game this Saturday against the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

After a disappointing loss to Queen's last week, the Mustangs have fallen to 1-2 on the season and with games against McMaster and Laurier looming, the game has added significance.

The Mustangs last Homecoming meeting saw the visiting McMaster Marauders spoil the event with a 38-37 victory. Prior to that, the Mustangs were upset by the Waterloo Warriors in their first ever Homecoming at the new TD Waterhouse stadium.

As in previous years, the stadium is expected to sell out and with the additional bleachers being brought in, the atmosphere is going to be highly energetic and spirited. Mustangs quarterback Chris Hessel believes the large crowd will be a great asset to the team.

"It's a huge advantage," Hessel says. "The visiting team has to play our 45 guys plus 11 to 12,000 of our fans."

Ottawa head coach Denis Piche also recognizes the significance of the Homecoming crowd, but he's looking forward to playing in a hostile environment.

"We expect it to be crazy. It's gonna be loud and there are gonna be some hecklers," Piche says. "This is college football - it's supposed to be fun and entertaining and that's what it's gonna be."

Aside from all of the hype surrounding Homecoming, both teams are focused on winning the game. A win for Ottawa will put them at 3-1 on the season, making it very difficult for the Mustangs to catch up.

Western needs a win to hit the .500 mark and despite allowing Queen's to successfully complete a fourth quarter comeback in last week's game, Mustangs' head coach Larry Haylor is pleased with his team's progress.

"We've gotten better in each game," Haylor says. "And we need to be at our best against Ottawa." Haylor also believes last week's game emphasizes how important it is to play good, consistent football for the full 60 minutes.

Haylor, who's in his 19th season since taking over the Mustangs has yet to have a losing season. However, with big games against tough opponents ahead on the schedule, Haylor describes Saturday's upcoming match as, "close as we can get to a must-win game."

The coaches aren't the only ones feeling added pressure this weekend; the players also share Haylor's sense of urgency. Running back Drew Soleyn, who rushed for over 140 yards against Queen's, knows how important a game it will be and he understands the expectations of the fans.

"It doesn't get much bigger than Homecoming at Western," Soleyn says. "We're coming off a loss and we need to right the ship."

The Mustangs will have their chance to "right the ship" this Saturday at 1 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium.



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