The Western Mustangs won its semifinal clash 66–12 against the Guelph Gryphons today — earning the Mustangs a spot in the 110th Yates Cup.
The Mustangs and Gryphons met earlier in the season in an overtime slugfest on Labor Day that ended in a Western University win. The stakes were higher this afternoon at TD Stadium, and the Mustangs showed they are a better team than they were two months ago.
The Mustangs opened the scoring off of a bizarre play, as the Gryphons muffed a missed Marc Liegghio field goal and the Mustangs recovered the ball at the Guelph one-yard line. On the next play, Cedric Joseph ran the ball into the end zone for the touchdown to put the Mustangs up 7–0.
The Mustangs added to their lead shortly after as the Gryphons took a knee in their end zone, conceding a safety and putting the Mustangs up 9–0.
The tides turned later in the opening frame as the Gryphons returned a Chris Merchant fumble 102 yards to cut the Mustangs lead to 9–7.
The Mustangs took control of the game in the second quarter as Merchant started making elite throws downfield; the offensive line protected the pocket and allowed the run game and defence to dominate.
Joseph scored on two more one-yard runs in the second quarter, while a 32-yard field goal from Marc Liegghio and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Merchant to Harry McMaster allowed the Mustangs to take a 37–10 lead heading into halftime.
The second half started off on a precarious note as Alex Taylor fumbled the ball at the Mustangs 39-yard line. However, the Gryphons couldn't capitalize on the mistake, and the Mustangs continued to pounce in the third quarter.
Liegghio hit two more field goals from 27 and 42 yards respectively to extend their lead to 43–12. A one-yard quarterback run by Merchant put the Mustangs up 50–12, while Joseph found a seam and ran the ball 44 yards into the end zone to further add to the lead, making it 57–12.
The Mustangs decided to take Merchant out of the game, replacing him with backup Kevin John. John would proceed to get in on the offensive action as well, running a five-yard touchdown to put the Mustangs up 64–12.
As mentioned, Western won with a final score of 66–12, earning a spot in the Yates Cup and a rematch with the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Merchant led all quarterbacks in the game with 268 yards on 13-of-17 passing and a touchdown. Trey Humes led the Western rushing attack with 88 yards on 15 careers, while Joseph had 69 yards on 10 carries and four rushing touchdowns. Taylor added 57 yards on 13 rushes.
Malik Besseghieur was the top receiver of the afternoon, compiling 117 yards on four catches. McMaster caught five passes for 79 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, both Jesse McNair and Nick Vanin recorded sacks, while the defence recorded 5 tackles for losses of 17 yards.
With the win, the Mustangs have a shot at avenging their heartbreaking 43–40 loss to Laurier University in last year's Yates Cup game. Western also has an opportunity to win the program's first provincial title since 2013.
The Yates Cup will be played next Saturday at TD Stadium at 1 p.m.