In front of a thunderous crowd roughing the unseasonably chilly September wind, the Western Mustangs did not disappoint in their season opener. The overmatched Waterloo Warriors came into T.D. Waterhouse Stadium with hopes of revitalizing their once stagnant football program, only to be pounced on 31-0 in the first quarter on the way to an 86-22 rout.
“They were undermanned, they had a lot of young kids playing […] you can’t tell [your players] not to run hard anymore,” Mustangs Coach Greg Marshall said.
Fresh off of a self-imposed one-year suspension stemming from steroid use, the Warriors brought a young team to face the experienced Mustangs squad.
“Thirty-seven of them are right out of high school, so they are young and things move faster than they are used to and the kids they faced were bigger and stronger. But it was a great learning experience,” Warriors coach Dennis McPhee said.
The Mustangs domination began from the opening kick off as they forced the Warriors into a two-and-out leading Waterloo to down the ball in their own endzone for a saftey. The Mustangs’ first touchdown came at 4:44 into the first quarter as Tyler Varga scored on the ground from 39 yards out to make the score 10-0.
“We were doing well on the ground. The offensive line was opening some big holes for the running backs. It makes our jobs a lot easier when the offensive line blocks like that,” Varga said.
Varga and the rest of the Mustangs’ deep stable of running backs outrushed the Warriors 499 yards to 11. Though the Warriors were clearly overmatched, the game showcased what Western has to offer from its strong recruiting class.
“In terms of our rotation, that’s up to coach. He has to make the right decisions to keep us healthy and try to protect us while getting everybody the playing time, experience and preparation we need to play next week,” Varga said.
The Western offense put on a display for the 10,500 fans as they broke the school record for points in a game and the Ontario University Athletics record for extra point conversions with 11, despite missing one. Having eclipsed the old Mustangs record for points in a game, the OUA record of 90 points set by the Laurier Goldenhawks in 1974 was in sight, but it was clear that Marshall was focused on the future as opposed to the record.
“There is no joy in it, but if we were to get the scoring record against McMaster or Laurier it’s a little different,” Marshall said.
Marred by the steroid scandal that wiped out their 2010 season, the Warriors did not quit as the game wore on. The stands slowly emptied as the game got further out of hand, but McPhee continued to push his team to finish the game strong.
“We are who we are, we are the Warriors. They fought from the opening whistle to the last whistle,” McPhee said. “[It’s] the resiliency of youth — kids believe they can always come back and they will.”
With the score standing at 58-20 as halftime rolled around, the Mustangs had a chance to display some of their depth and young talent. Ben Rossong took over as quarterback for starter Donnie Marshall, while Garret Sanvido led the Mustangs in attempts and yardage with 13 touches for 141 yards.
The game may have been lopsided but the Mustangs walked away with an all-important win as they begin their journey to defend the Yates Cup. Traveling to Hamilton on September 10, the Mustangs will surely face stiffer competition facing off against the McMaster Marauders for the first time since their 34-28 victory in last season’s OUA semifinals.
“We’ve got to get ready for the next game. We can’t take a step backwards by not preparing for this game,” Marshall said.