Undefeated Western Mustangs start playoff path to Vanier Cup with key accidents

For the seventh time within the final eight seasons, the Western College males’s soccer workforce will enter post-season play on the high of the Ontario College Athletics (OUA) standings.

The dominant document is nothing new to the Mustangs, incomes a semifinal bye for the second straight yr with an 8-0 document, however this yr Western must navigate key accidents on the offence that might threaten to derail its season as quickly as Saturday’s conflict with Queen’s.

The rematch of final yr’s Yates Cup, which Western gained 44-16 off the power of its working sport, can have a totally completely different look within the Mustangs’ backfield in Saturday’s semifinal, which can be streamed dwell on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports activities app and CBC Gem at 1 p.m. ET.

After counting on a two-headed speeding assault that includes the dynamic pace of third-year Keanu Yazbeck and the reigning OUA MVP Keon Edwards this season, the Mustangs misplaced each for the yr with accidents in back-to-back wins over Toronto and Laurier to shut out the season.

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Already coping with a four-year suspension to final season’s No. 2 working again Edouard Wanadi for a violation of an anti-doping rule, Western working backs coach Jake Kirk might want to transfer even additional down the depth chart for Western’s playoff run, turning to third-year again Troy Thompson and first-year Ethan Dolby.

The 2 have a mixed 80 profession carries, however Western is assured in its working again depth.

“[Thompson is] a hell of a zone-runner [and] his imaginative and prescient is nice,” mentioned Kirk heading into the season. “He is much like Edwards within the sense that he is an even bigger again that may run between the tackles with no points.

“[Dolby] is technically sound in each facet of his sport. You ask him to do one thing and he applies it straight away… and he may be our greatest again in cross safety. He’s simply so constant and an awesome athlete; he was competing… as a [track] runner when he was nonetheless in highschool.”

Whereas Western usually includes a multi-back rotation every sport, Edwards grew to become accustomed to an elevated workload within the playoffs the earlier two years, carrying the ball over 20 instances in 4 of his eight playoff video games.

That seems to be the technique on the opposite facet of the ball, the place the Western defence must fight a heavy dose of the main rusher within the nation.

Fifth-year Queen’s working again Jared Chisari has collected at the least 140 speeding yards in 5 straight video games, together with a 15-10 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees within the OUA quarterfinals on Saturday.

The power of Western’s defence, led by defensive coordinator Paul Gleason, is defending the run, as its 104.8 speeding yards allowed per sport ranks fourth within the nation, and trails solely Queen’s mark of 102.5 within the OUA.

“Our first purpose is to cease the run and we take nice pleasure yearly in doing this,” mentioned Gleason. “Come playoffs in November you will have to have the ability to cease the run. We graduated three quarters of our defensive position final yr, so the play of our linebackers has been vital.”

Uncertainty surrounding beginning quarterback Hillock

As necessary because the working sport has been to Western through the years, the standout factor of the offence this season has been the passing assault, led by third-year quarterback Evan Hillock.

Having misplaced only one sport throughout 28 mixed common season and playoff appearances, the 2021 Vanier Cup champion posted a exceptional 2023 season, main U Sports activities in passing touchdowns and cross effectivity.

With the important thing accidents within the backfield, Hillock is aware of that extra will fall onto the plate of the passing sport, that includes three of the highest eight gamers within the nation for receiving yards in Mohsen Jamal II (700), Savaughn Magnaye-Jones (671) and Seth Robertson (590).

“I feel everytime you lose two all-star gamers it is on everybody to up their sport and perform a little extra,” mentioned Hillock. “I feel it’ll take all 12 guys doing their job each single play and profitable every play so as to achieve success.

“I am excited for guys like Troy and Dolby to get their second and seize it. However I feel I can communicate for our entire workforce in that we’ll be enjoying for [Edwards and Yazbeck] all through these playoffs and need them a speedy restoration.”

Whereas Hillock can little doubt communicate for his workforce as a key chief, his personal standing for Saturday’s sport stays unsure after visiting concussion protocol within the fourth quarter in opposition to Laurier.

Hillock’s exit final week set the stage for backup quarterback Jerome Rancourt to throw the go-ahead landing cross to high the beforehand undefeated Laurier 33-30 and safe a bye for Western.

The towering Rancourt has primarily been utilized in short-yardage conditions this season, accumulating 4 speeding touchdowns.

“[Rancourt and I] have been right here collectively my three years, and he is gotten higher annually,” mentioned Hillock. “He is carried out a very good job within the quick yardage stuff for us this season. He is a giant, robust man and he stepped up for us once we wanted him in that final sport after I could not go.

“We inform our workforce at first of the yr it’ll take every one in every of us to win a championship in numerous methods.”

Laurier can be taking up Windsor in Saturday’s different OUA semifinal, with the Yates Cup scheduled for Nov. 11 and the Vanier Cup set for Nov. 25 in Kingston, Ont.

Across the U Sports activities world:

  • The Ottawa Gee-Gees earned the No. 1 seed on the 2023 U Sports activities ladies’s rugby championship after defeating defending nationwide champion Laval 27-12 within the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) closing on Saturday. OUA champion Queen’s, Canada West (CW) champ UBC and Atlantic College Sport (AUS) winner StFX acquired the second by fourth seeds, respectively, on the Quebec Metropolis event, streamed dwell on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports activities app and CBC Gem starting Wednesday.
  • The brand new-look Victoria Vikes ladies’s subject hockey workforce can be aiming for its fifth straight nationwide title once they go to the Toronto Varsity Blues for a best-of-three sequence being streamed dwell on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports activities app and CBC Gem from Friday by Sunday. Toronto topped the York Lions 1-0 in a shootout within the OUA championship on Saturday to punch its ticket to the U Sports activities closing.

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