Finch, Mustangs romp to Yates Cup win

(Photo: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)

(Photo: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)

LONDON – The Western Mustangs captured their 30th Ontario University Athletics football championship with a 51-22 thrashing of the Queen’s Gaels before 5,805 onlookers at TD Stadium in the 106th edition of the Yates Cup.

Western tallied 45 unanswered points in the second and third quarters, taking full advantage of a forceful and constant wind in its favour on Saturday (Nov. 9).

Western slotback Matt Uren won the Dalt White Trophy as the game MVP, and was named the Porter Airlines player of the game, catching seven passes for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Western quarterback Will Finch completed 20 of 27 pass attempts (74.1%) for 252 yards, connecting on three touchdown passes. The Burlington native also accounted for 77 yards on the ground on 12 carries. Brian Marshall accounted for one receiving major and 43 yards on five receptions.

On the ground, the Mustangs amassed 220 rushing yards, led by a 20-carries, 98-yard performance by Yannick Harou, who ran in two major scores.

The Western defence held Queen’s to 94 yards rushing, and made five sacks, with a pair at the hands of Dylan Ainsworth and 1.5 from Daryl Waud.

“This team is one of the best teams that I’ve had the pleasure to coach, and it’s a really good football team that played a great game today,” said Western head coach Greg Marshall. “The defensive line had a challenge: don’t let Queen’s run the football. And they shut them down. That was as big and as solid a team victory as we’ve had here in a long time.”

The victory gave Western’s Greg Marshall his eighth Yates Cup championship as a head coach, tying him with J.P. Metras (Western), Frank Tindall (Queen’s), and Larry Haylor (Western) for most lifetime Yates Cup titles as a head coach. Marshall had coached the McMaster Marauders.

In the losing effort, Queen’s pivot Billy McPhee amassed 275 yards through the air, completing 21 of 35 passes and throwing two majors and a pair of interceptions. Receivers Justin Chapdelaine and Doug Corby each amassed 82 yards receiving and a touchdown apiece.

Opening the game playing against the wind, the Mustangs mounted an eight-play opening drive from their own 15-yard line, capped by a 23-yard field goal by St. Catharines native Lirim Hajrullahu.

Western conceded a safety rather than punt from its own end zone, giving Queen’s its first points of the afternoon, and Dillon Wamsey added a field goal to give the Gaels a 5-3 advantage.

Western took the wind in the second quarter, and soon capitalized on a Jesse McNair interception in the dying second of the first quarter with a 31-yard field goal from Hajrullahu. The Mustangs scored on their three subsequent possessions, in turn getting a three-yard rushing major from Yannick Harou, a 49-yard field goal by Hajrullahu, and an acrobatic 16-yard touchdown catch by Uren. Hajrullahu added a pair of singles by driving both post-touchdown kickoffs through the opposing end zone. Western’s 22 second-quarter points were unanswered by Queen’s, leaving the tally at 25-5 at the intermission.

Western continued to augment its lead in the third quarter, Finch connecting with Brian Marshall and Uren for majors, and Harou adding a second rushing TD on the ground. Hajrullahu pounded two further kickoffs past the deadline to give the Mustangs a 48-5 lead after three quarters.

Although ultimately proving to be too little, too late, Queen’s offence finally found its rhythm in the fourth quarter against Western’s reserve players, McPhee connecting with Chapdelaine and Corby for two passing touchdowns, and also succeeding on a pair of two-point converts.

The Mustangs travel west next week to contest the Mitchell Bowl. They’ll play the Calgary Dinos who won their sixth straight conference crown in defeating the Manitoba Bisons in the Hardy Cup championship game on Saturday.