The dust has settled, and only four remain: The Western Mustangs, the McMaster Marauders, the Carleton Ravens, and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. The Marauders beat the Guelph Gryphons 18-11, earning a date with the Golden Hawks, while the Ravens defeated the Ottawa Gee-Gees in a rematch of the Panda Game. This OUA Semifinal 1 preview features the Mustangs and the Ravens.
OUA Semifinal 1: The Ravens and the Mustangs rematch
The Ravens are coming off their biggest victory, defeating the Ottawa Gee-Gees in a landslide victory 45-9. The win propelled Carleton to their furthest postseason run since their return to the OUA four years ago. But it also set them up against the top dog of the OUA – the Mustangs. Since Chris Merchant took over full-time quarterback duties, the Mustangs were nearly flawless — except for a few blemishes that turned out to be small scares. The Queen’s Gaels held them to only 14 points, their second-lowest scoring game. Their lowest-scoring game was a close-call victory against McMaster two weeks ago.
After securing a first round bye into the semifinals, the Mustangs are well rested and ready to go. Carleton has beaten them before – but the real question is, can they do it again, and in London?
Here are the keys to the game.
Keys to the Game
Quick Start — Last matchup, the Ravens got out to a quick start, scoring 24 unanswered points before the Mustangs stormed back in the second half. Western scored 31 points, taking their first lead of the game before the Ravens tied things up in the fourth quarter. In a last minute ditch attempt, the Mustangs were stopped by the stout Ravens defence, delivering Western their only loss in the regular season. That being said, the team that comes out to the quicker start could be the difference maker in seizing the momentum needed to punch their ticket to the Yates Cup.
Merchant’s Consistency — Merchant has adapted quickly into the Mustang starting quarterback role, leading Western to an overall record of 7-1 and first place in the conference. But in the games against Carleton and McMaster, Merchant struggled. Western seized first place in the OUA standings on a rouge point by kicker Marc Leigghio with five and a half minutes to play in the final quarter. But in that game, Merchant was held to 185 passing yards on 16 of 26 completed passes and two interceptions.
If Western wants to book their 31st Yates Cup appearance, they have to beat the only team that beat them in the season — and Merchant must be on his game. But if Western engages in another close game, the berth could be up for grabs for anyone.
Three-Front Attack — The Ravens beat Western once, but the challenge remains – can they beat them again? If they want to stand a chance at upsetting the No. 3 nationally-ranked team, they need to have a three-pronged attack – the ability to generate offence from all sides of the ball.
On the offensive end, Jesse Mills and Nate Behar must move the ball through the air while Jayde Rowe has to command the run game. The Ravens defence must remain stout and stop Western’s Merchant and Alex Taylor, and special teams must remain on point. Alternatively, Western must be able to find solutions for Rowe, Behar and Mills in order to succeed.