The Western Mustang football team clinched first place and a bye through the first round of the OUA playoffs on Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
In a game where yards were hard to come by and touchdowns even harder, the Mustangs edged the McMaster Marauders 19-18.
Wind and bouts of drizzly rain threw extra challenges at both offences all afternoon long. Throwing into a stiff breeze in the second half, Western managed just a single point courtesy of a missed field goal from Marc Liegghio with 5:30 to go in the fourth quarter, but that ended up as the deciding point in the game as Liegghio blasted a punt deep into McMaster territory late in the fourth quarter and the Mustang defense held, allowing Chris Merchant to kneel and run out the clock.
Merchant was 16 of 26 for 185 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass and threw two interceptions in the game. Liegghio took care of the rest of the scoring on the purple and white side, hitting field goals from 21, 25 and 28 yards.
Liegghio wasn’t the only difference maker on special teams as Fraser Sopik was able to block a fourth quarter punt by the Marauders which was recovered by Mustangs defensive back, Malcolm Brown.
Western’s only major on the afternoon came courtesy of a one-yard plunge from Stevenson Bone in the second quarter. That score put Western on top 15-8.
McMaster used the wind to their advantage in the second half and battled back to tie the game on a 35-yard pass from Asher Hastings to Mitch O’Connor and then a 50-yard field goal by Adam Preocanin.
Mustang running back Alex Taylor left the game with an injury late in the first half and somehow still managed to run the ball for 91 yards. Taylor returned in the second half, but will be only too happy to take advantage of the week away from games in the first round of the OUA playoffs.
Western’s defence held Mac to 76 yards on the ground and under 300 yards of total offense overall.
The Mustangs and the Laurier Golden Hawks will await the winners of Guelph-McMaster and Ottawa-Carleton next week. The Ravens were the only team to beat Western all season.