Yates Cup returns to Western

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western Mustangs men's football: Yates Cup Winners

Jon Purdy

BUSTING TACKLES AND EXPECTATIONS. Randy McAuley and the Western Mustangs took to the road and nabbed the Yates Cup from the Guelph Gryphons this past weekend. The team heads to Winnipeg next weekend to play in the Canadian semi-final.

Nearly two months ago, Western head coach Greg Marshall and his football team returned from a road trip in Guelph having lost its fourth consecutive regular season game.

While many were skeptical about the team’s chances of going far, Marshall remained optimistic.

“I told our guys a few months ago we’re going to be road warriors,” he said. “I told them we’re going to win four games, we’re going to get into the playoffs and we’re going to scare some people.”

The team proved Marshall to be a prophet, returning home Saturday from another road trip from the University of Guelph this time with the Yates Cup in hand.

The Mustangs defeated the Guelph Gryphons 34-21 in a game where once again they controlled the second half.

Riding the momentum of the home crowd, the Gryphons marched the ball downfield on the Mustangs in the first quarter and had the first chance to score as receiver Dave Harrison dropped a touchdown pass while wide open in the end zone.

The Gryphons came away with no points on the drive as kicker Rob Maver’s field goal attempt sailed wide.

“I think early on we had our chances to go up in the game and we couldn’t capitalize,” Guelph head coach Kyle Walters said.

While Western struggled to move the ball early, it took a 7-0 lead with 1:41 left in the first quarter off running back Randy McAuley’s first plunge in the end zone.

The drive was anchored by two huge catches by receiver Dave Clayton, who finished the game with seven catches for 145 yards.

After exchanging possessions throughout the second quarter, Guelph running back Nick Fitzgibbon evened the score at 7-7 after scampering for a 55-yard major with four minutes left in the half.

Western’s offence immediately responded, however, with quarterback Michael Faulds engineering a three-play drive capped by another McAuley score to put the ’Stangs up 14-7 at the break.

Faulds finished the game 23-41 for 390 yards. He was also named player of the game.

Midway through the third quarter, Guelph quarterback Justin Dunk found Harrison in the end zone for a 25-yard score to tie the game.

That was the last dose of success the Gryphons’ offence would see, however, as the Western defence didn’t concede another major until late in the fourth quarter.

Crashing through the tackles

“We felt Guelph is a team where Dunk and Fitzgibbon are really their only two threats, so our game plan going in was to shut them down, and if we did, we thought we’d win,” Western defensive back Nick Kordic said.

“Fitzgibbon made that run in the first half and Dunk made a few nice plays, but other than that we held them in check.”

Western kicker Derek Schiavone’s 36-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the third quarter put the Mustangs up 17-14 heading into the fourth quarter, where the Purple and Silver’s offence came to life.

Fueled by timely throws by Faulds and a consistent running attack, the offence dominated Guelph’s defence; receiver Anthony Adderley scored on an 11-yard catch six minutes into the quarter to put Western up 24-14.

“The main thing we knew as an offence was we just had to be patient,” Faulds said. “We knew we couldn’t go deep every play, and had to throw some shorter passes and wait for things to open up.”

After stuffing Guelph on a third down conversion at midfield, the ’Stangs once again marched the ball downfield and padded the lead to 27-14 off another Schiavone field goal.

On the Gryphons’ ensuing drive, defensive back Craig Butler picked off Dunk, giving the visitors possession in Guelph territory. McAuley put the game out of reach soon thereafter, scoring his third touchdown of the day with just over two minutes left.

“All the conditioning and workouts we’ve been doing really paid off in the fourth quarter and the team just came together and played well,” Faulds said.

The victory didn’t come without its share of injuries, as a number of Western players, including starting center Lucas Powers and defensive back Corey McNair, left the game with various injuries.

“The one thing we have to look at heading into next week is we did have a lot of kids get hurt today,” Marshall said.

This past weekend’s Yates Cup is Western’s first provincial title since 1998. However, Marshall is no stranger to Ontario’s crown, as he has won 15 Yates titles as a player and coach.

The ’Stangs will be travelling to Winnipeg next Saturday to take on the Manitoba Bisons for the Mitchell Bowl. The winner of the match-up will earn the right to play in the Vanier Cup at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Nov. 23.

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