The Western Mustangs took home their second Yates Cup in as many years, with a 44-16 victory over Queen’s at Western Alumni Stadium on Nov. 12. The Mustangs were hosting the 114th edition of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football championship.
This Yates Cup was a rematch of last year’s, which saw the Mustangs blank Queen’s in Kingston 29-0 en route to their eventual Vanier victory.
The Mustangs and the Gaels faced off earlier in the season, with Western winning 35-11 on home turf, and they looked to replicate that victory in do-or-die action yet again.
Western finished top of the OUA and U Sports national standings with an 8-0 regular season record, before topping Laurier last week to set up their return to the Yates Cup. Queen’s finished the season 7-1, with their only loss coming against the Mustangs.
Despite a slow first half, the Mustangs managed to get out with a small lead before putting up 17 points in the third quarter. Quarterback Evan Hillock, a third-year King’s University College student, was 10 for 14 with 222 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Keon Edwards, a fourth-year King’s student, had 24 carries for 269 yards and one touchdown, followed by second-year King’s student Keanu Yazbeck with 76 yards on seven carries with two touchdowns. Third-year Social Sciences student Seth Robertson had three receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown.
“This was a big game,” said head coach Greg Marshall. “We start the season and know what our end goal is, but you can’t get there without winning the Ontario championship and winning it is still huge. We know we have a couple more weeks and we are going to be ready, but we are going to enjoy this one tonight.”
Flurries set the scene for another edition of this heated rivalry, with Western having to shake off some first-quarter jitters to start.
“The conditions turned,” said Marshall. “We came out in warmup, and everything was nice and then we came back out and it was snowing. It impacted everything.”
The score stood at 13-7 for the Mustangs at the end of the first half, with Queen’s putting together a nice drive to cut the deficit.
As the green of the turf became hidden by a blanket of snow adding an extra challenge to the game, Western made sure to not allow the Gaels to gain any momentum from how they had ended the half.
The Mustangs later extended their lead to 23-7 with a field goal from fourth-year Kinesiology student Brian Garrity.
The offensive pressure wouldn’t stop there, as Hillock connected with Robertson for 73 yards and another seven points for the Mustangs.
The Gaels tried to spark a comeback in the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs defense stood strong, pushing Queen’s back and putting up big plays.
Griffin Campbell, a fourth-year business management and organizational studies student, took advantage of this, getting his first touchdown of the game at 44 yards, sending the crowd to their feet in anticipation of the final whistle as the game sat all but officially won at 37-14.
Edwards added another touchdown to his name with less than five minutes to go.
A team safety would add another two points to Queen’s score, but Western would ultimately be crowned Yates champions, taking home North America’s oldest awarded football trophy for the second year in a row, this time on home turf with a final score of 44-16.
“It’s a team win,” said Edwards. “We aim for trophies but at the end it’s just the team. The whole team [steps up]. We work hard for this moment and now the boys are happy, and everything is good for right now.”
Topping his 2021 personal best of 237 yards with a 269-yard game, Edwards was awarded game MVP in the post-match ceremony, his second MVP honours of the week.
“He’s an every-game player,” said Marshall on Edwards. “Consistency, effort, he runs hard, and he plays physical. He’s the type of player that is easy to coach. He’s unselfish, always about the team, he practices hard and is a great leader on our team. He leads by example and I am so proud of him.”
Marshall was named OUA Coach of the Year for the eighth time Nov. 10 at the OUA Football Awards. Edwards and fourth-year King’s student Daniel Valente Jr. rounded out the major award winners for the Mustangs, taking home OUA Most Valuable Player and Outstanding Stand-Up Defensive Player of the Year awards respectively.
The focus now turns to next weekend when the Mustangs will host the Mitchell Bowl, taking on Laval on Nov. 19. A Mitchell Bowl win will take the Mustangs to the Vanier Cup, which will be hosted by Western for the first time ever on Nov. 26. Tickets can be purchased at westernmustangs.ca.