Western is hosting the Vanier Cup on Saturday, Nov. 26, and while the Canadian U Sports championship football game is sure to be a Super Bowl-style event – as it’s already 85 per cent sold out – it becomes the stuff of legends if the Mustangs can secure a spot. And the Purple and White are well on their way.
After earning a first-round bye in the OUA playoffs, thanks to an undefeated 8-0 regular season, the Mustangs routed the Laurier Golden Hawks at Western Alumni Stadium on Nov. 5 in semi-final action with an authoritative 45-9 victory.
With their win over the Golden Hawks, the Mustangs book their ticket to the 114th Yates Cup, marking their seventh straight appearance in the competition and a rematch with last year’s finalist the Queen’s Gaels. The Mustangs – en route to winning the 2021 Vanier Cup – overpowered the Gaels 29-0 in last year’s Yates Cup and the rivals meet again this Saturday for the OUA championship football game. Kick-off is at 1 p.m. at Western Alumni Stadium is 1pm.
The Mustangs are led by head coach Greg Marshall, who was named the winner of the David ‘Tuffy’ Knight Award as OUA coach of the year on Thursday. Marshall has won OUA coach of the year eight times, including back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019. And he wasn’t the only big winner on Thursday.
All-star running back Keon Edwards is the first-ever Larry Haylor Award winner. The OUA most valuable player of the year award was renamed earlier this year in honour of the late Western Mustangs coaching icon. Edwards enjoyed an unforgettable season as a focal point of Western’s top-ranked offence in 2022, rushing the ball 130 times for an OUA-best 1,032 yards (7.9 yards per carry), with nine rushing touchdowns in eight games played. Edwards, a King’s University College third-year student, exceeded the 100-yard mark in each of Western’s eight regular season games.
On the other side of the ball, Daniel Valente Jr. was recognized as the OUA outstanding stand-up defensive player of the year, winning the President’s Award. The King’s College University fifth-year student was a ball hawk in 2022, leading the conference with five interceptions. The former first team all-star and first team all-Canadian also led the OUA in interception yards (116), while adding 16 tackles and a sack.
All told, the Mustangs boast an incredible 14 OUA all-stars, nine making the first team. With so much success on and off the field, Western has its sights locked on making it back to the Vanier Cup. U Sports announced Thursday that the halftime show for the championship game will be performed by Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Delaney Jane but Marshall and the Mustangs will want to steal the spotlight for themselves. And to do that, they need to win the Yates Cup on Saturday first.