Hamilton, ON- McMaster Marauders quarterback Andreas Dueck capped off his first East-West Bowl in style.
Dueck weaved past defenders to score on a two-point conversion to give his West team a late 11-8 lead over the East. One play earlier, he found Waterloo Warriors receiver James Basalyga for the go-ahead touchdown. The West would win the game 11-8, their fifth straight East-West bowl victory.
The Marauder players got to play the game at home at Ron Joyce Stadium. It was the first East-West Bowl since 2019 and the first one at McMaster since 2008.
“We struggled through it a little bit in the beginning,” Dueck said. The game was a low-scoring affair with some dropped passes, rouges and fumbles. The score was 3-1 in favour of the West at halftime before the scoring picked up in the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough, especially with the skill level of the defence,” Dueck noted. He added that – as often the case with all-star games – it’s tough to build timing with teammates given the teams only had one week of practice.
The East-West bowl game marked the end of a week of practices as well as combine drills. It brought some of the top 2023 CFL draft-eligible players together, a notable part of the U Sports and CFL calendar.
“It’s always fun. Whenever you compete with the best, it just brings your game up so much,” Dueck said. “That’s how I kind of looked at it. I just wanted to come in here and really be able to compete with the best, get as much information as I could and really try and get better through the experience.”
The fifth-year Winnipeg native has gotten better throughout his McMaster career. He didn’t play much during his rookie season in 2017 before seeing more playing time as the starter in 2018. By his third season in 2019, Dueck enjoyed arguably his best season yet, with 17 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and 3,187 passing yards as well as 230 rushing yards and one touchdown.
The Marauders also won the Yates Cup over the Western Mustangs that year with Dueck winning the Dalton White Award as the game’s most valuable player. McMaster would end up losing to the eventual Vanier Cup champion Calgary Dinos in the Mitchell Bowl.
After returning for his fourth season, he continued to help lead the offence with another strong season but the Marauders missed the playoffs. Dueck was named a OUA second-team all-star and was second-leading passer with 232.3 yards-per-game while leading the OUA with a 70 per cent completion percentage.
After their season-finale win over the Guelph Gryphons, Dueck said he wasn’t sure if he was going to return or not for his fifth season. Now, at the East-West Bowl, Dueck was back playing football at McMaster.
“I just love football too much,” he said of his decision to return. “I’m going to play football as long as I can…love the sport, love the people and just want to keep competing and keep having fun.”
Dueck was joined at the game by several teammates including full-back Jacob Mason, linebacker Eryk Bujalski, offensive lineman Taylor Burns on the West team as well as long-snapper Blaise Barber and receiver Deemitrius Masuka on the East side. Dueck said the experience will “help a ton” for his teammates.
Dueck also pointed out how practising and playing during the week meant playing at a faster speed. “Everyone’s faster, everyone’s stronger,” he continued. “You really got to just be faster and you have to make less mistakes because as soon as you make mistakes, they’ll make you pay type thing.”
What does the quarterback and his teammates have in store for 2022? The Marauders will have some tough opponents on the schedule, which goes back to the normal eight games after only six games in 2021. It starts with a trip to Carleton on Aug. 27 to face Dueck’s former offensive coordinator, first-year Ravens head coach Corey Grant.
McMaster will host reigning Yates Cup champion Western on Oct. 1 before road games against a perennially strong Guelph side and the Yates Cup finalist Queen’s Gaels.
They will be led behind centre by Dueck, who said he’s still working on being more consistent, including in the East-West game. “I felt like the decisions I made today were pretty good,” he noted.
“Just putting it all together, being more consistent throughout the whole whole game,” he added. “Instead of just being able to put it together for one drive, being able to put it together for every drive.”
As he enters his fifth season, Dueck will continue to strive for consistency – drive-by-drive, game-by-game – all the way until another possible Yates or even a Vanier Cup.
Featured Image: Jojo Qian/McMaster Athletics