HAMILTON, ON – At the end of the day, their playoff fate was out of their hands. The McMaster Marauders football team had done what they could by beating the Guelph Gryphons 27-22 in their regular season finale but alas it wasn’t enough. Results elsewhere left them outside the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Marauders defensive end Enoch Penney-Laryea said the team didn’t look at the other games’ scores during the game. McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek said he was told after the handshakes with the Gryphons that his team missed the playoffs. The focus was on their game, on what they could control.
“Coming in we knew it was a bit of a situational thing,” Penney-Laryea noted. “We just promised ourselves we would do everything to handle our business and handle things on our end.”
The Marauders did handle things on their end, especially defensively. Penny-Laryea and the defence forced a fumble, picked off Guelph quarterback Shawn Lal twice and stopped the Gryphons on third down numerous times, including once late in the game as Guelph was making their comeback.
Penney-Laryea credited the team’s defensive coordinator Scott Brady and the team’s preparation for their success.
The McMaster offence made plays as well as quarterback Andreas Dueck found Xander Tachinski with a 33-yard pass before Daniel Bosett ran into the end zone for the Marauders early lead. Both teams’ defences continued to hold strong, forcing punts and turnovers as the game stayed close heading into the fourth quarter. However, McMaster broke the game open with a Liam Putt rushing touchdown and a Jackson Cooling receiving one. That would end up being enough for the victory but not enough for a playoff spot.
The Marauders ended up fifth out of six teams in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Division with the same 3-3 record as the three teams above them (Laurier, Waterloo and Guelph). However, they lost out on the tiebreaker.
“Winners don’t make excuses and blame other people for coming up a little bit short,” Ptaszek said. “They look at why they are in this situation.” He mentioned the Marauders’ errors earlier in the season that led to them being in this tiebreaking situation. As well, he mentioned the penalties in their overtime loss to Windsor earlier in the season.
“There were a lot of things that contributed but the ones that were controllable. There were enough in ours that we should have gotten a win there [at Windsor] and if we do, we’re in second place [in OUA West] right now and going into the playoffs with a home playoff game,” Ptaszek added. “We didn’t do that and that’s how we’ve got to look at it so we don’t make those mistakes in the future. Winner is a word I don’t throw around lightly, and I don’t think there’s one young man on that field that I wouldn’t call a winner.”
As the game ended and the players learned of the scores elsewhere, the reality had sunk in that their season – and for the senior players, their McMaster careers – was over. It was senior’s night for veterans Penney-Laryea, Dueck, defensive tackle Donovan Glave and others.
Dueck said he’ll remember the family aspect of McMaster football and the character of those involved in the program. “Really, really quality people that hold up that organization,” he noted. The fourth-year Winnipeg native still has a year of eligibility left but has yet to decide whether he’ll return for his fifth season. He said he plans to take some time and talk to the coaches and his family members before making that decision.
For fifth-year defensive linemen Glave and Penney-Laryea, this is the end of the road for their Marauder careers. Glave pointed out how grateful he was as his experience at McMaster helped him build his character, including most notably his discipline. “We say keeping your eyes on the prize and certain aspects on doing the best you can do,” Glave said he learned about discipline. “Control what we can control and know that things that are not in your control don’t have to be and [you] can’t always have control over it.”
Penney-Laryea has developed over his five years at McMaster into a leader, a captain and a key player for the Marauders. He decided to come back for his senior season, Ptaszek pointed out, after already getting his degree and starting out life in the working world. “A senior coming back on a two-year hiatus, there’s a little more sacrifice, it’s a little more meaningful to come back with COVID in the break and these kids to make this program a priority,” the head coach said.
Penney-Laryea has built up a diverse working experience outside of football already. He was an intern at the United Nations Industrial Development Program (Armenia). He’s worked as an Archway mentor at McMaster and is currently a drug strategy coordinator with Marchese Health Care. Within the football program, when Ptaszek thinks of Penney-Laryea, he thinks about his leadership traits and how he impacts his younger teammates.
“When you talk to the young student-athletes, he’s the first guy they mention that’s looking out for them after practice or giving them extra help,” Ptaszek noted. “He’s a leader in every sense of the word and is just going to be a wrecking ball in our community and just a great human being, so I can’t wait to see how he changes his part of the world. It’s going to be fun to watch. It’s fun to work with him.”
Penney-Laryea called his final game amazing and “a true battle.” He said he’s happy – despite the ultimate result of missing the playoffs – that he ended his McMaster career with a win at home. The Kingston, Jamaica native also pointed out the family feel at McMaster, how it’s a place he looks forward to coming with people he looks forward to being around. He said he’s thankful for the opportunity to play his senior season at McMaster.
“I already feel like one of those old alumni who always tells players to give every play everything you have because it will come to an end,” he said. “I’m at the end of that journey, and you just want to encourage all the younger guys to really, you know, live in the moment and give everything their all because it’s going to come to an end eventually.”