Bryan Gauer never intended to set out on a life of crime but his thievery on Monday played a large role in McMaster Marauders opening their 2006 Ontario University Athletics football season with a road win.
The 20-year-old rookie ran off with three interceptions as the Marauders handled the York Lions 33-16 at York Stadium. Gauer, an imposing 6-2, 205 defensive back, tied McMaster’s single game record of three interceptions set in 2002 by Brandon Little.
And, said the social science student from Mississauga’s Lorne Park Secondary School, the steals were his first ever in organized football.
“I feel like I played the best game of my life,” he told the Hamilton Spectator’s Larry Moko.
Gauer set the tone of the game on the Lions second play from the opening scrimmage and the first toss from Lions quarterback Mike Crabtree, a Burlington Nelson High School product and a transfer from the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees of the OUA.
That set up McMaster’s first score – a 45-yard touchdown pass from Burlington’s Jon Behie to Jordan Charter of Brantford.
Just 37-seconds later, York fumbled the ball, leading to Behie’s 11-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 for the visitors with less than two minutes ticked off the clock. Mac would add a pair of field goals from Stoney Creek kicker Pauolo Faiazza for a 20-0 first quarter lead.
In the second quarter, Behie connected with Waterloo’s Rob Serviss on a 28-yard touchdown pass and Faiazza added another field goal (he would finish with four on the day) to give McMaster a 30-0 lead going into the intermission. Behie was a surprise starter, at least to the Lions, at quarterback when regular tosser Adam Archibald was ruled ineligible for the game.
Marauders coach Stefan Ptaszek, who recorded his first head-coaching win, is hopeful the four-season veteran Archibald will be calling the signals on Saturday when Mac hosts the Waterloo Warriors, 2 p.m. at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The versatile Behie, in his fifth season, finished the day with 202 passing yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-24 passing. He ran for another 16 yards.
Behie, who only began taking reps at quarterback late in week but has played the QB position in each of his previous four seasons, said Ptaszek’s offence helped ease the quick transition from slot back.
“He makes it easier on me,” Behie said. “The system gives you a lot of high-percentage throws. I missed a couple easy ones too. But Coach never ‘told’ me I was playing quarterback, he ‘asked’ me. For him to respect me like that… it means a lot.”
Ptaszek was ebullient in his praise for Behie, who is trying to impress CFL scouts this season at slot back. “Jon is one of the most unselfish athletes that I’ve ever coached,” Ptaszek said. “He bailed us out today.”
First year defensive coordinator Greg Knox also had a successful coaching debut leading an inspired and pumped up Marauder defence that forced seven turnovers on the day (four fumbles, three interceptions).
In addition to his first quarter interception, Gauer also grabbed one in both the second and third quarters. Making the defensive unit’s performance even more impressive was the fact that it was missing three senior starters due to injury: 2004 all-Canadian defensive tackle Andrew Jones, 2003 and 2004 OUA all-star defensive back Jesse Card, and linebacker Eugene Boakye.
“I was really happy with the effort our guys put forth today,” said Ptaszek who received the game ball from York head coach Tom Gretes. “Gauer came in and played some fantastic football.”
Other defensive standouts included middle linebacker Simon Binder (7 tackles, 1.5 sacks), linebacker Nick Burns (2 forced fumbles, sack), and defensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl, who terrorized York linemen and quarterbacks all day in the backfield.
On offence, Beamsville’s Andre Sadeghian added 81 yards on 10 carries on the ground for McMaster, Serviss caught a touchdown pass and had three receptions for 61 yards while Charter hauled in three passes for 60.
York did regrouped at halftime holding the Marauders to just three points in the final two quarters and scored two touchdowns in the final minute. The Lions got on the scoreboard by a conceded safety early in the fourth quarter. The Lions also added two touchdowns late as back-up quarterback Bart Zemanek (Toronto) connected on a 10-yard pass to Jocelyn Corcelles (Mascouche, ON). After an on-side kick, rookie Jason Marshall (Barrie) scampered in on a four-yard for the game’s final score.
Zemanek performed well in relief, connecting on 12-of-16 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. Crabtree was 8-of-17 for 60 yards and three interceptions.
In other games, Queen’s crushed Toronto Blues, 53-7, Wilfrid Laurier needed overtime to beat Guelph 24-17, Windsor manhandled Waterloo 42-2, and Ottawa downed London Western 17-3.
The Marauders will now take on the 0-1 Waterloo Warriors in their home opener at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Saturday, September 9th. Kick off is scheduled for 2:00 pm.