The Western Mustangs defeated the Laurier Golden Hawks 46–13 in their Homecoming matchup at TD Field on Saturday to finish their regular season without a loss.
The Mustangs offence looked like a shade of their former selves in the first quarter against Laurier. After opening the game with a two-and-out, the Mustangs were able to score just one touchdown in the first 15 minutes.
On the second drive of the game, Chris Merchant and Malik Besseghieur connected on a long skinny post, setting up the offence within their opponents 15-yard line. Cedric Joseph capitalized on the great field position, punching through the line and into the end zone for his twelfth major of the year, putting the Mustangs up 7–0.
The Golden Hawks added two Nathan Mesher field goals in the first quarter, closing the Western lead to 7–6. Aside from starting a perfect two-for-two, the kicker impressed with a long 47-yard field goal to open the Golden Hawks scoring.
The field goals were a testament to the excellent play of the Mustangs defense. Placed in difficult field position a few times, the defensive unit bailed out their offensive counterparts, limiting the Golden Hawks offence.
The purple and white offence didn’t look any better to open the second quarter. After fumbling the snap on the first play of the drive, an under-thrown pass to Alex Taylor resulted in Will Amoah’s fifth interception of the year.
After a thirty-plus minute lightning delay, the Mustangs defense stepped up again, forcing a third down on Laurier’s first drive out of the delay.
The Western offence started to gain some momentum out of the break but sputtered and settled for a field goal after reaching the red zone. Marc Liegghio extended the Mustangs lead to 10–6 with 4:55 to play in the first half.
The Mustangs found their groove in the second drive out of the delay. Laurier continued to load the box and Western started to counteract this aggressive play with an aerial attack over the heads of the Golden Hawks defenders.
The impressive drive was capped with Chris Merchant rolling out and finding Harry McMaster in the corner of the end zone for the receivers sixth score of the year. With just over two minutes to play in the first half, Western led Laurier 17–6.
The stout defensive squad flexed their muscles to end the first half. On three attempts the Golden Hawks were unable to punch the ball in from the 5-yard line. However, with a Cedric Joseph fumble on the ensuing offensive drive, the defense was forced to come back out just one play later.
Placed in excellent field position, first year quarterback Connor Carusello found an open receiver with a step on his man coverage, closing the Mustangs lead to 17–13 with eight seconds to play in the first half.
The Mustangs passing game continued to excel in the third quarter. Just over four minutes into the third, Chris Merchant uncorked a long pass to Harry McMaster for their second scoring connection of the game. As well, with a single added on the second half kickoff, the Mustangs extended their lead over the Golden Hawks to 25–13.
After the defence stepped up again, stopping an attempted third down and short conversion from the Golden Hawks 10-yard line, the Western offence converted on the short field.
Despite failing to score on consecutive Cedric Joseph rushes, the offensive line provided strong surge for a Chris Merchant QB sneak on third down, extending the Mustangs lead to 32–13 with 13 minutes to play.
Chris Merchant added his second rushing score of the game a few minutes later. A designed Cedric Joseph rush, the quarterback picked up a fumbled hand-off and carried the ball all the way to the end zone for a 50-plus yard rushing score.
Dejuan Martin capped the game’s scoring with a touchdown nine minutes into the fourth quarter.
Western will welcome a first-round bye to open the playoffs next weekend. The Mustangs will start their playoff run on Saturday, Nov. 3 at TD Stadium.