Hamilton, ON- After over 57 minutes of game time, the McMaster Marauders finally found the end zone.
The Marauders’ football team had moved the ball through the air and on the ground in their season opener versus the Windsor Lancers on Aug. 26. However, it wasn’t until a Jacob Patten touchdown reception when McMaster found pay dirt. However, by then, it was too little, too late.
The Lancers left Ron Joyce stadium with a 21-17 victory. They outgained the home team in rushing yards (184-81) and total yards (377-268). They won the turnover battle and the time of possession.
The Marauders took an early 6-0 lead thanks to a couple of Michael Horvat field goals. Windsor struck back with a ten-yard run by quarterback Danny Skelton. Back-to-back Lancer touchdowns in the third quarter increased the lead to 21-9 before a late McMaster push fell short.
Starting quarterback Keagan Hall said “it just came down to execution.”
“We didn’t do the little things very well, especially on offence,” Hall said. “We had a bunch of opportunities, small opportunities. It was a bounce here, a miss there and they ended up scoring more points than we did.”
The Marauders moved the ball into scoring position but couldn’t find the end zone. They fumbled a fourth quarter punt which led to the Lancers scoring a touchdown to make it 21-9.
It’s an eerily familiar theme to last season, when missed opportunities and small details cost them multiple one-score games. McMaster lost those games to finish 2-6 and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
This time around, it’s a different quarterback but the same theme. Hall backed up former starter Andreas Dueck for the past two years. Now, the Burlington native was making his first OUA start.
Hall made plays with his arm and his feet but also threw two interceptions. He was also sacked twice. He called it a different pace of play for him. He credited his teammates and coaches for helping him and took responsibility – including for not finishing in the red zone
“I’ve got to finish drives, be focused the whole drive and keep my eyes in the right place,” Hall noted. “We have to be really tight when you get into the red area.”
Wide receiver Jacob Patten said Hall did great in his first start. “He was under a lot of pressure,” Patten said. “He worked with what he could and he gave his heart for our team.”
Patten, a UBC transfer, finished with a team-high five receptions, 76 yards and one touchdown. However, he pointed out how he could have played better.
An improved performance from the team overall could very well be needed as they travel to London to face the reigning Yates Cup champion Western Mustangs on Sept. 3.
How does the team address the red zone production and executing the small details going into that game?
By practising faster and not leaving anything to chance, according to Hall. By getting their heads on assignment, according to Patten. “We’ll just need to finish and we’ll be good,” he added.
Lancers continue Upward Trajectory
For the visitors, the game marked another step forward from a program moving in that direction.
Windsor finished 1-7 in 2019, 2-4 in 2021 before finishing 4-4 in 2022 – making the playoffs for the first time in eight years. On offence, they relied on the offensive line and running game. They ran the ball and coverted all four of their third down tries – including one to seal the victory.
“To be honest, the O-line did everything,” running back Chris John said. “We had to protect the quarterback, we threw the ball. We did everything in our power to get the ball rolling.”
The Lancers sustained key drives and finished them off with touchdowns. On defence, the defensive line had consistent pressure while the secondary picked off Hall twice.
John led his team with 71 yards rushing on 13 carries. Joey Zorn also added 68 yards on 12 carries. For John, it’s a return to the stadium where he made his East-West bowl debut three months earlier. The experience helped him with his patience.
“My patience and just the speed that I’ll be playing with at the next level,” he noted. “I’m playing with the best of the best and I have to prove myself somewhere.”
The Toronto native has seen the program’s progression throughout his five years. He’s seen the culture head coach Jean-Paul Circelli’s brought to the team since joining in 2019. He talks about everyone being on the same page.
“Everyone’s working together. We’re all brothers,” he noted. “We’re all fighting for the same thing. We all have the common goals.”
The Lancers’ next game and home opener is against the Guelph Gryphons. It’s another chance for them to continue their upward trajectory towards another possible playoff berth.
Featured Image: Michael P.Hall/Windsor Lancers Athletics