Hamilton, ON- Entering their game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees this Saturday, the McMaster Marauders received some news that would make winning the game even more important.
It stemmed from a player who was deemed not eligible to play. “The ineligibility is due to an administrative oversight in the paperwork involved in a student transfer between institutions,” the Marauders wrote in a statement.
It left the team sitting 0-2 going into the Ottawa game. Furthermore, any point differential advantage from their 39-1 win against York was gone as well. That game now stood as a 1-0 Lions victory.
“A little shell shocked and stoic for sure,” Marauders head coach Stefan Ptaszek said of the team’s reaction to the eligibility news. “I think they sensed the urgency and what they needed to do to not let that affect today’s outcome.”
“I felt like it gave us a little fire,” defensive back DeEmetrius Masuka noted. He said the team focused on the game against Ottawa instead of the forfeited games.
Ptaszek said he takes responsibility for the eligibility violation error. He thought the team did a pretty good job mentally handling the news. However, on the field, the Marauders had their struggles as they lost 20-14.
Ottawa went out to an early 13-0 lead after a J-P Cimankinda touchdown run from the goal line. Kicker Campbell Fair scored a rouge and a field goal while the defence forced a safety.
McMaster’s offence meanwhile moved the ball at times but couldn’t get close to the red zone. Just after halftime, they got some good starting field position and marched the ball into scoring range. Quarterback Andreas Dueck found Jackson Cooling in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown to pull within six points.
“That’s an anchor taken off my offensive back and we were hoping it was going to be [helping a] relaxed football team to get going,” Ptaszek noted. “One score football game with how good our defence was playing was where we want it to be.”
Despite having good field position in the following couple of drives, the home team couldn’t get closer as the Gee-Gees defence held strong. They had a big run that would have gotten them into field goal range called back due to a holding penalty.
Then Ottawa scored again as Ben Maracle passed to Daniel Oladejo in the end zone to make it 20-7 early in the fourth. Then the Marauders offence became one-dimensional, according to their head coach.
“That changed the complexion,” Ptaszek said. “We had to open it up and be less patient and we were more vertical paths and they’re dropping a lot of guys.”
Dueck threw two interceptions in the second half – “Un-Dueck-like” as Ptaszek called it. McMaster scored a late touchdown as Dueck ran into the end zone. They recovered the onside kick and had a chance at one last game-winning play but Dueck’s pass fell incomplete.
McMaster had more yards (321-245) and first downs (19-15) but couldn’t take the lead in the second half. Running back Daniel Bossett said the challenge was execution. “We put some drives together there and we shot ourselves in the foot,” he added.
The Marauders struggled in the red zone against York last week as well. “Just focusing on the little things,” Bosett said as a key to improving execution. “Putting the ball away, dropstep and getting up field, redirecting – meaning after the ball is [caught], finding the next guy you see.”
Now the Marauders face a challenge of making the playoffs. Ptaszek said the team will have to win four of their last five games to have a shot. They visit the Waterloo Warriors next before having a bye week that “they desperately need,” according to him.
“If we can beat Waterloo and get to the bye at 1-3, that means we’ve got to win three of the four on the backside and we’ve got the ability to do that,” Ptaszek said.
“Playoffs start tomorrow,” Bosett added. “Just got to treat every game like a playoff game. It’s do or die, kill or be killed.”
Gee-Gees Rebound from Home Opener Loss
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees waited out a rainstorm in their home opener loss to the Queen’s Gaels. One week later, they moved to 2-1 by beating McMaster.
“I think the biggest thing was doing your job, one play at a time,” Gee-Gees head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said. “Trusting your reads, trusting your aligned responsibility techniques.”
It was a return to Hamilton for the former Tiger-Cats head coach. He said he was impressed by the defence, having made McMaster earn every point. “I really felt they played assignment smart football,” he noted.
The focus on assignment smart football also leads to improved execution, according to him. Bellefeuille pointed how the Gee-Gees’ offence didn’t make many mistakes.
Ottawa outgained McMaster on the ground with 116 rushing yards to 85. Cimankinda had 102 of those yards while also being among three Gee-Gees players with at least 30 receiving yards. Maracle finished completing 15 of 27 passes for one touchdown and no interceptions or turnovers. He was also only sacked once compared to Dueck, who was sacked four times.
Their improvement comes from practice, according to their head coach. The Gee-Gees’ execution and progression will be tested as they go up against three possible playoff teams coming up – Guelph, Laurier and Carleton. A home game against defending Yates and Vanier Cup Champion Western also awaits.
“When we play assignment smart football, we’ll have a chance to be in every game,” Bellefeuille said. “That’s all you can ask for. We have a chance to be in the game. We have a chance to win it.”
Featured Image: Marisa Settimi/McMaster Athletics