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Ottawa, Laurier catch final two football playoff berths

October 26, 2014

As the fog cleared around a complicated playoff picture Saturday afternoon, it revealed that the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks had caught the Ontario University Athletics football playoff boat, while the Carleton Ravens were left looking forlorn on the shore.

The Gee-Gees claimed their spot decisively, defeating the previously unbeaten McMaster Marauders 38-18 at Ottawa. Laurier finished sixth, despite losing at home, 41-36 to the Guelph Gryphons.

Carleton, which finished 4-4, had to do better than its 37-15 defeat at the hands of the Queen’s Golden Gaels. That’s because, since they finished tied with Laurier, the Ravens were doomed by a 53-3 loss at Waterloo early this month, a week after their euphoric last-play win over Ottawa in the Panda Game.

McMaster and Guelph, both 7-1 to finish the regular year—McMaster was already assured first place going into Saturday’s games by virtue of its Labour Day win over the Gryphons—will both have the week off while the four other playoff teams contest quarter-finals.

Western, a 43-21 winner over Windsor Saturday in London, finishes third at 6-2 and will host Laurier, which, after a 4-1 start, stumbles into the playoffs on the business end of a three-game losing streak. Ottawa, meanwhile, will play at Windsor for the second time in three weeks. Both teams finished 5-3 and though Windsor’s record was supplemented when a forfeiture reversed an opening-day loss to Queen’s, the Lancers won the right to host with their 39-29 win over Ottawa.

That was the only one of its last four games that Ottawa lost.

Saturday’s other game—the one with nothing at stake but two teams’ desire to avoid a winless season—actually produced the most drama. In it, the Waterloo Warriors edged the York Lions 32-31.

In a match of teams that had combined to score 76 points in 14 games this year, Waterloo took a 24-7 lead when Caleb Girard kicked a 42-yard field goal early in the third quarter. York, however, tied the game at 25-25 with seven minutes to play when quarterback Jahmari Bennett scored on a one-yard run and threw for a two-point convert.

Warriors quarterback Jamie Cook put his team ahead with 3:20 to go on a 26-yard touchdown run but the Lions weren’t finished. Connor Anderson scored his second touchdown of the day, on a two-yard run, with 18 seconds to play to draw York within a point, but the convert was botched.

Nick Naylor successfully executed a short kickoff, however, and York recovered the ball at the Waterloo 49-yard line with time enough for two plays. The first was an incomplete pass and then Naylor’s 56-yard field-goal attempt was short.

At London, Windsor took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but the Lancers were unable to score again until the ninth minute of the fourth quarter, when Austin Kennedy and Evan Pszczonak connected for a touchdown pass, Pszczonak’s second of the game, that made the score 29-21.

A 41-yard touchdown run by Alex Taylor with a little more than three minutes left in the game gave the Mustangs some breathing room, and when Jordan Beaulieu returned an intercepted pass 58 yards with 92 seconds remaining the win was clinched.

Kennedy finished with 293 yards passing, from a 17-for-41 performance. He also rushed 12 times for 109 yards. Yannick Harou carried the football 21 times for a season-best 209 yards for Western, as quarterbacks Will Finch and Stevenson Bone shared duty, going a collective 12-for-23.

McMaster led the game in Ottawa 12-11 at halftime but the Gee-Gees came to life when Tunch Akkaya picked up a fumble and took it 86 yards for a touchdown in the third minute of the second half. It was the first time in the game Ottawa had the lead, and the Gee-Gees never surrendered it amid a tenacious defensive performance that included five quarterback sacks and three other tackles for loss.

Bryce Vieira rushed 19 times for a career-best 170 yards and a touchdown for Ottawa, while Bayridge Secondary School grad Lewis Ward kicked five field goals, of 35, 43, 37, 20 and 36 yards.

Marshall Ferguson completed 14 of 23 passes for McMaster for 148 yards but Derek Wendel, like Ferguson an alumnus of the Kingston Grenadiers, got the best of him with a 200-yard day. Two of Ferguson’s former Frontenac Secondary School teammates, brothers Ben and Mitch O’Connor, each had a pair of receptions for the Marauders.

They were the first two catches of Mitch O’Connor’s career.

Neither Ferguson nor starting running backs Wayne Moore or Chris Pezzetta played in the second half for the Marauders.

Sydenham High School grad Ben Fisher caught one pass for 38 yards for the Gee-Gees.

It might have been easy for Laurier to fold the tent when Guelph’s Rob Farquharson scored on a 75-yard run with 37 seconds left in the first half, giving the visitors a 36-4 lead. Instead, the Golden Hawks began to whittle that lead and when Anthony Pizzuti scored his second touchdown of the game, on a 17-yard pass from James Fracas with 5:12 left in the game, Laurier had drawn within 39-36.

Though the Hawks had the ball three more times after that, they couldn’t get close enough for a field goal try, as one drive ended with a fumble and another on an interception.

Guelph did serious damage with the big play. In addition to Farquharson’s run, the Gryphons got touchdowns from a 50-yard James Roberts pass to James Ingram and an 81-yard punt return by Ryan Nieuwesteeg.

With three field goals, Gryphons kicker Daniel Ferraro set a new national record for field goals in a season, 26, one more than Laval’s Christopher Milo kicked in 2008. The record-tying kick was an 18-yarder in the second quarter, sandwiched around field goals of 40 and 42 yards. McMaster’s Tyler Crapigna, who last week became the all-time CIS leader in career field goals with 83, also started the day with 23. He had one in the Marauders’ loss at Ottawa.

Roberts, who played the entire game for Guelph, completed 11 of 24 passes for 196 yards. Farquharson finished the game with 158 yards rushing. Dillon Campbell rushed 35 times for 203 yards for Laurier, Campbell’s third 200-yard rushing game of the year.

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