A phenomenal first half and the ability to outlast a hard charging Laurier Golden Hawks team have the Western Mustangs atop the OUA standings heading into the playoffs.
The Mustangs built a 27-0 lead by halftime and held through the second half to win 33-30 on Oct. 21 at Western Alumni Stadium.
But it wasn’t easy and it was certainly costly.
Mustang running back Keon Edwards and quarterback Evan Hillock left the game with injuries and neither returned.
Western had already lost running back Keanu Yazbeck who will miss the rest of the year with a broken ankle.
The victory did clinch the only first round bye that is awarded in the OUA, so the Mustangs will face the lowest remaining seed in the second round of the post-season and they will do it on their home field.
Facing a massive deficit coming out of the locker room the Golden Hawks caught fire and scored four third quarter touchdowns. Two of them came on passing plays over 35 yards and another was courtesy of a 75-yard punt return by Tyriq Quayson.
When that dust settled Laurier suddenly had the lead at 28-27.
And that’s when the scoring stopped for more than a quarter of football as the defences dug in.
With 1:54 remaining in the game backup Jerome Rancourt found Savaughn Magnaye-Jones at the five-yard line on a play-action pass and Jones ran in for the game-winning touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed but the Mustangs led 33-28.
Western’s defence stopped the Golden Hawks a final time and then the Mustangs surrendered a safety as time expired to prevent Laurier from getting the ball back one more time.
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Hillock threw for 327 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game. He was picked off twice to take his interception total on the season to just three.
Londoner and Golden Hawks quarterback Taylor Elgersma threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns and had one interception.
Troy Thompson was Western’s leading rusher with 51 yards of 11 carries. Ethan Dolby, who is from St. Thomas, averaged 9.5 yards on four carries for a total of 38 yards on the day.
Both could be counted on in a big way in the playoffs if Edwards injury is in fact serious.
Seth Robertson caught four passes for 96 yards. Magnaye-Jones and Brayden Misseri each caught seven passes and scored a touchdown.
Brian Garrity made two field goals on four attempts for Western and Rancourt ran in a ball from a yard out for the first score of the game.
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