Hamilton, ON- When the McMaster Marauders played the York Lions last year, their victory was short lived. This time, it stood.
The Marauders defeated the Lions at home in 2022 before forfeiting the game due to fielding an ineligible player. On Sept. 9, 2023, they went out to a quick lead and didn’t look back.
McMaster moved the ball crisply. They got stops and turnovers on defence. They made plays on special teams. They outgained the Lions 570-112 in yards and 36-7 in first downs They kept scoring and scoring and scoring…
It was 7-0 after receiver Jacob Patten caught a touchdown from quarterback Keagan Hall. It was 14-0 after a touchdown run by Brayden Kelly – one of three on the day for him. It was 31-0 after a run by Ricardo Chisholm and then 38-0 after another run by Kelly.
It was 52-0 at halftime and by that point, some of the backups were on the field. It ended 71-0. It marked their biggest margin of victory since 2004 – a 80-0 win over the Toronto Varsity Blues.
“I think we came out with a fire lit,” backup quarterback Stephen Narancic said. “We had a close game last week and kind of kept the momentum rolling for this week.”
Narancic notched his first OUA touchdown in his first-ever game action with a touchdown pass to Aidan Nemeth. He added another touchdown to Noah Puskas. He called the experience surreal.
The team’s performance was a surreal one as well. It was also a balanced one. They had four rushing touchdowns and four passing ones. Four different receivers – Patten, Nemeth, Puskas and Jackson Cooling – found paydirt.
The defence also stood out, holding the Lions to only 71 yards passing. They had three interceptions. “They’re always on it,” first-year receiver Mathieu Gale said.
Marauders head coach Stef Ptaszek credited defensive coordinator Scott Brady for controlling the line of scrimmage. “They were smothered,” Ptaszek said. “And that meant we were getting short fields.”
The team capitalized in their field position by finishing many of their drives with touchdowns. Finishing in the red zone had been a theme throughout the past year. The Marauders only scored one late touchdown in their season opening loss to Windsor. Against York, they scored eight.
“That’s a good thing for the Marauders, good visual,” Ptaszek noted. “We’ve got to carry this momentum into the next game.”
The game also marked McMaster’s first win of the season. After losing close games to Windsor and Western, the team is back in the thick of the playoff race. The Marauders are sixth in the OUA.
Despite losing to Western, their performance could end up being crucial. They hung with the Mustangs for most of the game and were within one score all the way until the last minute. “That really showed us we can hang with anybody,” Narancic said. “I think that was very important.”
He pointed out how after playing Western and Windsor close, the team came out with confidence against York.
“From that game, we realized we had the potential to be a really good team,” Gale said. “We found a lot of confidence in that loss.”
Ptaszek said the hard part was losing those close games at the start of the season. “That’s hard to reconcile with how hard we’re working to be 0-2,” he added.
One positive to carry into their next game: how they’ve gotten progressively better in all three aspects of the game – offence, defence, special teams – according to their head coach.
“We’re moving in the right direction from week one to two to three,” Ptaszek said. “So that’s a great thing and we’ve got to keep going. It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish and [we’ve] got lots of time to get better.”
Next up, the Marauders take on a Guelph Gryphons at home on Sept. 16. It’s a Gryphons side coming off two straight losses – drubbings against Windsor (41-18) and Laurier (60-21). It’s a game with playoff implications.
“We can’t afford to go 1-3,” Ptaszek noted. “It’s as important a game as we’re ever going to have.”
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics