The McMaster Marauders let an 18-point lead slip through their fingers and lost a 43-35 contest to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in Ontario University Athletics football play on Saturday.
The No. 8 ranked Marauders had built at 35-17 lead at 10:01 of the third quarter but the No. 2 ranked Gee-Gees rallied and with 2.42 left to play a 106-yard touchdown reception from Brad Sinopoli (Peterborough) to Cyril Adjeitey (Ghana) allowed Ottawa to grab the victory at Frank Claire Stadium.
The 2,427 fans in attendance were treated to a great game between two CIS Top Ten offences which combined for 921 yards of fire power in the contest.
Despite the setback, McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek had nothing but praise for his charges who played with an injury riddled squad.
“We played 60 minutes of gut wrenching football today. I am proud of our guys,” said Ptaszek. “With all the adversity that we have gone through this season, not many teams would have been able to come in here and play this championship calibre team. I challenged our guys to compete and I am proud of what they did today.”
With 11 of 45 opening day starters out with injuries, the Marauders looked to some alternative targets Saturday to move the ball. Matt Peressini (Hannon, Ont.) had his biggest game of the season catching nine balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns. With leading receivers Michael DiCroce (Hamilton), Kevin D’Hollander (London) and Jared Jones (Scarborough) unavailable due to injury, Brad Fochestato (Windsor) and Alex Francella (Richmond Hill) both stepped up with season high performances.
Fochestato had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Francella caught two balls for 40 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Kyle Quinlan (South Woodslee, Ont.) completed 18 of 32 passes for 246 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Quinlan was also McMaster’s top rusher, running the ball seven times for 81 yards.
As they have all season long, the McMaster defence played a predominate role in the game intercepting three Sinopoli passes, two of them coming in the third quarter leading to Marauder scores. Ryan Chmielewski (St. Catharines) added to his team high in tackles with seven. Michael Daly had one of his best games of the season intercepting two balls and making five tackles. Rookie Steven Ventresca, getting his first start of the season, had five tackles and an interception. Senior Byron Metcalfe had three tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Early in the first quarter, Gee-Gees fourth-year quarterback Sinopoli connected with receiver Ezra Millington (Newmarket) for the game’s first touchdown. However, the lead would be short lived as Quinlan completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Peressini and kicker Kyle Crapigna (Ottawa) added the convert to tie the game at 7-7.
On the ensuing kickoff return, defensive back Chayce Elliott (Burnaby, B.C.,) gave the Gee-Gees great field position after a 62 yard return. The Gee-Gees were then able to capitalize with a 27 yard field goal made by kicker Matthew Falvo (Welland) The first quarter ended with the Gee-Gees leading 10-7.
The second quarter opened with McMaster capitalizing on the Metcalfe 36-yard interception return to the Ottawa 23-yard line that led to the second Quinlan-Peressini touchdown of the game. The Marauders would capitalize again on a penalty by Ottawa, for having too many men on the field, and eventually score the Fochestato touchdown on the ensuing drive to build a 21-10 McMaster lead.
Sinopoli, however, found third-year receiver Alex Fortier-Labonté (Gatineau, Qué.) in the end zone for a touchdown, and finish the first half down 21-17.
The third quarter is perhaps one that Sinopoli would rather forget. After throwing three costly interceptions, McMaster convert two into touchdowns which seemed to put the game out of reach for the Gee-Gees with the score at 33-17 for the Marauders.
But, the Gee-Gees refused to give in. First-year running back Adam Gourgon (Ottawa) started things off after taking a hand off from Sinopoli, and running it in for a touchdown. With the crowd back in it, the Gee-Gees scored two points on a safety and then scored on a 20-yard pass touchdown from Sinopoli to fifth-year receiver Matthew Bolduc (Ottawa) to end the third quarter.
The Gee-Gees continued to chip away at the lead in the fourth quarter when Falvo made his second field goal of the game. Ottawa then moved ahead on the Adjeitey touchdown sealing the win.
The Marauders got the ball back and with Quinlan’s legs and some help from Ottawa penalties drove down the field and had first and goal with a little more than 30 seconds left in the game. Quinlan and Peressini couldn’t connect on the third down attempt and Ottawa ran out the clock to survive with the 43-35 win.
For Mac, it was their third game decided by less than eight points this season.
The Marauders fell to 2-2 on the season after completing the most difficult portion of their 2010 schedule. They return home to host the 1-3 Windsor Lancers on Saturday, Sept. 25 as part of 2010 Homecoming Festivities. The kickoffs at 1 p.m.