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Mustangs running back Cedric Joseph (#21) runs the ball through the Carleton defense at the OUA semifinal game.

The Western Mustangs have won 30 Yates Cups in their 87-year history.

On Saturday it could be 31.

The last time the Mustangs and the Golden Hawks faced off for the provincial championship was in 2005.

Laurier won that game 29–11 for their second straight Yates Cup. Since then, their program has had a tumultuous period highlighted by a nine-year absence from the Yates Cup game.

And after that loss for Mustangs, Greg Marshall took the reins of the program and led Western to four Ontario University Athletics titles in 10 years.

The two teams have met in the postseason three times in the last five years. But this time the stakes are higher.

For Western, the win would be another in a long line of Yates Cups for Ontario's most storied college football program.

And for Laurier, the win can finally signal to the nation that this program that has suffered so many lows in the last decade is finally back.

Western and Laurier took the same path to this game. Both teams are 7-1 and ranked in the top five nationally. Both teams have won most of their games in dominant fashion.

But after their 45-26 win over the Golden Hawks on Oct. 1, the Mustangs will be the overwhelming favourite to take home the Yates Cup.

That game, at that point, a battle between a Western team still searching for its identity and an undefeated Laurier team rolling through their schedule, was a shocking blowout.

From start to finish the Mustangs dominated the contest. Quarterback Chris Merchant threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns while the Mustangs defence held Laurier and it's OUA leading rushing attack to only 140 yards of the ground.

That win propelled the Mustangs to the top of OUA and they haven't looked back since. They've overcome every challenge that has come their way. After an imperfect but impressive 51-24 victory over Carleton in the OUA semifinals the Mustangs continue to dominate.

The Golden Hawks won their semifinal matchup with the McMaster Marauders 21-19. But with star running back Eric Guiltinan questionable for the championship game after suffering an injury in the semifinal, Laurier could possibly be heading into hostile territory without their number one offensive weapon.

Without Guiltinan, the Golden Hawks will need production from backup running back Levondre Gordon and third stringer Osayi Iginuan.

Gordon ran for 637 yards and six touchdowns this season while Iginuan had 356 yards and three touchdowns.

While both teams have produced at a high level offensively this year, their defences could make the difference. Laurier ranked second in the OUA in points allowed per game with 15.8, while Western was third with 18.5.

Laurier's stalwart defense is anchored by Nakas Onyeka who accumulated 58.5 tackles and 5.5 sacks this season and Kwaku Boateng who was third in the OUA with 6.5 sacks.

Western's defense is led by the trio of Jean-Gabriel Poulin, John Biewald and Philippe Dion.

Poulin had 39.5 total tackles in the regular season, while Biewald recorded seven sacks and three forced fumbles along with Dion, who led the Mustangs with 53.5 tackles.

These two teams have had incredible seasons. They have made it clear who the best two teams in the province are. On Saturday the OUA will crown its deserving champion.

In the end it will come down to turnovers, discipline and the run game. If the Mustangs get the same kind of production from running backs Alex Taylor (if he's fully healthy) and Cedric Joseph that they saw last weekend against Carleton the Mustangs should come out victorious.

The Yates Cup is the oldest football trophy in North America. The 109th cup will be awarded at TD Stadium on Saturday. Laurier and Western will be ready.

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Mike is a sports editor for Volume 111 of the Gazette. He is currently a fourth year history major. Contact Mike at mike@westerngazette.ca.

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