Marauders bring balance to new OUA football season


McMaster Marauders, ranked No. 9 to start the new season, open their 2007 Ontario University Athletics football schedule in Waterloo against the No. 8 ranked Laurier Golden Hawks on Monday (Sept. 3) at the newly renovated Knight-Newbrough Field at University Stadium. Kickoff is 2:00 p.m.

McMaster second-year head coach Stefan Ptaszek is looking to five-year veteran quarterback Adam Archibald to lead the Marauders to the Yates Cup championship game after a three-year absence. Archibald will be challenged because of the loss of running backs Andre Sadeghian, now in the Canadian Football League with the BC Lions, and Jordan Kozina, who has decided to focus on rugby.

Sadeghian scored 12 touchdowns and averaged over 100 yards rushing per game last fall in his sole season with the Marauders after transferring from UBC, while Kozina rushed for 1,191 yards in his first university campaign in 2005, the second highest total for a rookie in CIS history.

Defensively, McMaster will feature a strong, front seven with linebackers Eugene Boakye (third-round pick of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers), Simon Binder (OUA All-Star) and Jason Arakgi (East-West Bowl participant) and defensive linemen, Chris Van Zeyl (third round pick by Montreal Alouettes), James Edwards, (East-West Bowl participant), Kristian Consack and Justin Glover.

McMaster is hopeful that this year’s recruiting class may contribute in a number of positions building on the 14 that started in 2006.

The Golden Hawks are looking to return to their fifth consecutive appearance in the Yates Cup.

Tickets for the McMaster vs. Wilfrid Laurier game can be purchased online at www.laurierathletics.com

The game will be broadcast on Radio at CFMU 93.3 FM and on AM 900 CHML (delayed following the Hamilton Tiger-Cat game); and on online at CFMU http://cfmu.mcmaster.ca/, and CHML http://www.900chml.com/

In other OUA season-opening highlights, Windsor running back Daryl Stephenson (London, Ont.) captured the Hec Crighton as the country’s top player in 2006, and this year will be vying to become the CIS all-time leading rusher.

The initial Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Top 10 rankings see the Ottawa Gee-Gees sitting in third spot with the Greg Marshall-coached Western Mustangs and Laurier and McMaster rounding out the Ontario teams in seventh, eighth and ninth spots respectively.

All 10 OUA teams play on Monday. Former Hamilton Ticat defensive front line mentor Dennis McPhee will make his coaching debut for the Waterloo Warriors against the Toronto Varsity Blues. Stephenson and the Lancers will start their season at home against the York Lions. The 2006 Yates Cup Champion Gee-Gees will travel to Guelph to take on defending OUA passing leader (2,452 yards) Justin Dunk (Guelph) and the Gryphons. Queen’s travels down the 401 to take on the Mustangs in London.

Notes of interest for Monday’s game:

GUELPH GRYPHONS: Finished eighth in conference (2-6) in 2006. The Gryphons will be relying on a young group of players to emerge as the team has undergone a transition over the past two seasons. The loss of a number of senior players will allow a young group of Gryphons to show what they have. Although the core of the group will be made up of underclassmen, a few seniors will be counted on to provide leadership. Offensively, receivers Lorne Foster (Beamsville) and Adam Slomer ( London) will be the only fifth-year players. On the other side of the ball, defensive player of the year Chris Decker (Waterdown) and Chris Hladich (St.Catharine) will be the fifth-year players providing leadership. The Gryphon offence will be counting on the continued development of third-year QB Justin Dunk (Guelph). The emergence of OUA rookie of the year running back Nick Fitzgibbon (Guelph) will take some of the pressure off the passing game as the Gryphon offence will look to control the clock and limit the number of turnovers in 2007. On defense, a major overhaul to the secondary was the main challenge for the off season.

LAURIER GOLDEN HAWKS: Finished second last season (6-2) but lost in Yates Cup Final to Ottawa Gee-Gees. A significant change to the program this year will be at quarterback with Jamie Partington’s eligibility used up, leaving Ian Noble to likely lead the offence. Running back Ryan Lynch and all-Canadian receiver Andy Baechler remain as key members of the attack and all-Canadian lineman Scott Evans returns for his fourth year. The defense that stopped many opponents took some more losses over the year with all-Canadians linebackers Jesse Alexander and Yannick Carter moving to the CFL along with defensive back Justin Phillips. Veterans Anthony Maggiacomo, Brent Hickey and Luke Pinder will fill the leadership gaps and allow for many rookies to step into some of the missing roles. Chris Mamo returns to do the kicking job on special teams while Dante Luciani, Dustin Heap and Steve Turner all will remain in their similar jobs of special team returns.

OTTAWA GEE-GEES: Finished first in the conference (7-1) and were crowned Yates Cup Champions last season. Josh Sacobie returns for his fourth year at the helm of the Gee-Gees offence. Last season he became just the second Gee-Gee in team history to pass for 5,000 career yards, throwing for 1,860 yards in seven game despite missing his first game since his rookie campaign when he was injured against York. He finished the season with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the OUA while rushing for an additional 108 yards and four touchdowns. The receiving unit remains very much in tack as only Adam Nicolson does not return after being drafted in the first round by the BC Lions. David Crane returns for his fourth season after leading Ottawa in receiving yards in 2006 with a career high 32 catches for 596 yards. Last year, Ottawa’s defence allowed the fewest points in the CIS, giving up just 97 points (12.1 per game) which was three fewer than the eventual Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge et Or and won their games by an average of 22.4 points, second only to the Manitoba Bisons. Linebacker Joe Barnes returns to anchor the linebacking corps for the fourth season. Last year, the Stoney Creek native recorded 46 tackles in the regular season including a career high three sacks. In the playoffs; he had a career best 8.5 tackles against Queen’s in the OUA semi-final and recorded his first career playoff sack and forced fumble against Laurier in the Yates Cup.

QUEEN’S GOLDEN GAELS: Sixth in the conference last season (4-4) and lost in the semi-final to Ottawa. Queen’s hopes to build on last years first playoff appearance since 2003. Head Coach Pat Sheehan begins his eighth season at Queen’s with an offence that returns local receiver Rob Bagg (Kingston) for his fifth and final season. Rob had a great showing at the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ training camp in June but decided to return to Kingston for one final run at the OUA title. He had his best season with the Gaels last year, catching 30 passes for 565 yards and four touchdowns, including a Queen’s record 104 yard TD grab at Homecoming against Windsor. Third-year quarterback Danny Brannagan (Burlington) will be looking to continue to improve after finishing third in OUA passing. He threw for 1,744 yards and 11 touchdowns including a season best 26 for 38 for 335 yards and four touchdowns at Guelph. Queen’s defensive coordinator Pat Tracey will have to deal with key losses at linebacker with the graduations of all stars Ian Hazlett and Adam Ross. Leading the way will be a ball hawking secondary with Jimmy Allin (Corbyville) and Matt Vickers (Stittsville) both key players in shutting down opponents passing games. The linebacking core will have some experience in DJ Mulholland (Kingston) who was injured for the first month of the season. Despite the injury, DJ managed to be among the team leaders in solo tackles with 18. Local product Tim Poffley (29 solo tackles) started the last seven games of the season in 2006 at middle linebacker and big things are expected this season.

TORONTO VARSITY BLUES: Finishing 10th (0-8) in 2007, the 2007 campaign marks the 130th anniversary of the Blues and heralds a new beginning for the U of T football program with the opening of the 5,000-seat Varsity Centre on the site of the old Varsity Stadium. Led by fifth-year coach Steve Howlett, the Blues hope to build on the progress of 2006 as they continue their return to winning form. Leading the offence for the Blues is veteran quarterback David Hamilton who took over sole passing duties last season, amassing nearly 1,600 throwing yards and participating in this year’s East-West Bowl. Mark Stinson switched to running back and receiver last season, and the former pivot proved a natural at the position, winning the Johnny Copp Memorial Award as the team MVP. East-West all-star centre David Scott-McDowell anchors the offensive line, reunited with veteran guard Josh Armstrong, who took a hiatus last year to pursue an education degree. Three of four starters return to the defensive line, fortified by rush end Michael Goncalves, who was selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 41st overall in the 2007 CFL Draft. Nose tackle Joe Cappiello and end Mark Evans also return to starting roles. In the defensive backfield, sophomore Derek Batchelor returns after an impressive rookie season in which he led the team in tackles and interceptions. Fifth-year halfbacks George Polyzois and Mike Tutty line up alongside third-year safety Simon Clarke-Okah. Kicker Joe Valtellini returns after leading the 2006 Blues in scoring, as does return specialist Matthew D’Souza, who last fall established an OUA single-season record of 729 kickoff returns yards.

WATERLOO WARRIORS: Finishing seventh last season, the Warriors look to make noise in the OUA this season. Offensive co-ordinator and former CFL head coach and Ticat offensive coach, Joe Paopao will assist head coach Dennis McPhee in the pursuit Warriors first playoff berth in four years. The Warriors will be a young and fairly inexperienced squad relying heavily on McPhee and Paopao to create team cohesiveness. Second year quarterback Evan Martin, who showed flashes of brilliance in 2006, will use the valuable experience he gained to lead the Warriors. Wide receiver, Sean Cowie entering his third year will look to build on his strong 2006 season as he led the Warriors in receptions with 45 catches for 661 yards. Experienced defensive lineman Darren Kisinger returns for his final year of eligibility after earning a spot on the 2006 first team all stars. In a tight and competitive OUA division, it is imperative that the Warriors jump off to a quick start out of the gate. Heart, determination and team unity will be the necessary ingredients if the Warriors are to battle their way back to the top of the OUA.

WESTERN MUSTANGS: The Mustangs completed last season fifth in the conference (5-3) but lost in the semi-finals to Laurier Golden Hawks.The Mustangs welcome a new head coach, a new artificial turf surface at TD Waterhouse Stadium and a new era of Mustang football with the addition of 14 key recruits to the family. With the return of quarterback Michael Faulds and running back Randy McAuley, in addition to Scott Nason on the offensive line and capable receivers David Clayton and Josh Starr, the Mustangs offence – guided by head coach and offensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall – will give opposing teams headaches. Marshall is a Mustang alumnus and former Hec Crighton winner. The defence loses linebackers Johnny Chehade and John Rowan, but will look to recruits John Surla (Niagara Falls) and Nate Fitzsimmons to help fill the holes. Other key returners for defensive co-ordinator Paul Gleason’s defence include DB Nick Kordic, who had a successful training camp with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats prior to the 2007 OUA football season. Defensive linemen Glen Larocque, who tried out with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Tom Dolezel will lead the defence up front, while Kordic, and returning defensive backs Cory Watson, Corey McNair and Matt Carapella will make life difficult for opposing receivers. Special teams co-ordinator Chris Marcus welcomes back Watson as a returner, while Derek Schiavone comes back as one of the top punters and kickers in Canadian university football.

WINDSOR LANCERS: A 6-2 record gave the Lancers a fourth place finish in the conference last season. Windsor lost in the quarter-final to Western but enters this campaign knocking on the door of the elite teams in the OUA. Coach Mike Morencie’s squad returns 14 starters from 2006, including Hec Crighton winner Daryl Stephenson. Returning alongside Stephenson are veteran QB Dan Lumley, CIS All-Canadian WR Glenn MacKay, and OL Matt Morencie. On the Lancer defense, the key will be how well their younger players are able to step in and fill the void left by graduated seniors Alan Weekes, Billy Moysiuk and Sasha Glavic.

YORK LIONS: Finishing ninth (1-7) in the conference last season, the Lions feel the pieces are in place to return to the OUA playoffs this year after a two-year absence from post-season play. The Lions offensive strength likely will be the receiving corps. An outstanding rookie class enters the sophomore campaign looking to build off a strong 2006. Kevin Walsh, a first-team OUA all-star at kick returner and a second-teamer at receiver, leads that group. Up front, the offensive line is anchored by Dave Gauer, who played in the CIS East-West Bowl this year along with fellow Lions returnees Nick Reynolds (running back) and Anthony Thomas (linebacker). Several newcomers will push for jobs on both sides of the ball. Two interesting additions at linebacker are Aaron Adusei, a two-time state all-star in Virginia, and Marc Faria, a transfer from Buffalo. Other first-year players to watch include defensive back Cleon Holmes, offensive lineman Brian Buckingham and defensive lineman Corey Pratt.