There's a song that the Western Mustangs football team sings in their locker room after wins. It's almost inaudible to anyone outside of the dressing room — a raucous fight song, a victory ballad that has probably been passed down through the program for decades.
On Saturday, it was as loud as it's been sung this season. The Mustangs had just dismantled the Guelph Gryphons in a game that was supposed to be close but ended in a 66–12 demolition.
Nobody expected that score, not the players, coaches, fans or media in the press box.
The win was expected, of course. The Mustangs are currently the best team in Ontario University Athletics with an unstoppable combination of relentless defence and dynamic, balanced offence.
But to beat a team like the Guelph Gryphons, who took the Mustangs to overtime on Labor Day, by 54 points is something else entirely. The Mustangs emerged as a legitimate national championship contender after their near-perfect performance.
"It was a complete team victory; I've coached football for a long time, and I don't think I've seen as dominant a defensive performance as that game there," said Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall. "I've seen them but not against good offences like [the University of] Guelph: you know, [with] a good offensive line and shutting down the run, [we] shut the pass game down. It was as good a game as I've ever seen."
This coming from a coach who has won nine Yates Cups as a head coach at McMaster University and Western University and who has seen some of the greatest players in Mustangs football history play under his tutelage is a real compliment.
The Mustangs made Guelph look like an OUA bottom feeder. If the Mustangs play like that against the Laval Rouge-et-Or, the Calgary Dinos or any of the goliaths they could face in a potential Vanier Cup, they could take home the Canadian crown.
Saturday dispelled notions that the Mustangs team can't beat a team like Laval University's.
The Mustangs' defence has been acclaimed all season and showed why they deserve all the praise that's heaped upon them. The Mustangs limited the Gryphons to just 143 yards of total offence.
It's the defence that can win this team a Vanier Cup, the seventh in the program's history. It's the defence that can shut down those high-octane offences out west and in "La belle province."
On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs offence took care of business as they have so often done in the second half of the season. Offensive coordinator Steve Snyder has his unit working like a well-oiled machine, as the Mustangs compiled 262 rushing yards and quarterback Chris Merchant went 13-of-17 for 268 yards.
Much of the offensive success is due to the offensive line which owned the push throughout the season. This has allowed the Western running backs to find their holes while also giving Merchant time in the pocket to make throws.
While the offensive line doesn't get much of the praise, running back Cedric Joseph knows how important they are.
"I just have to give it up to the offensive line; for me, they had a pretty good game," said Joseph, who found the end zone four times on Saturday. "It's really easy for us as skilled players when the offensive line does a really good job blocking upfront and lets us do our thing."
Now the Mustangs are where they've wanted to be for the last 357 days, with a date for revenge on the horizon. Playing for a Yates Cup is always special. Playing for a Yates Cup against the team that stole it from the Mustangs, in the most dramatic of fashions last year, is something else entirely.
It's what the Mustangs have played this entire season for.
"I'm glad it's the Golden Hawks; there's no one I'd rather face," said defensive lineman Mitchell Stadnyk. "They are a good football team, but we think that they're another team that think they have our number, and we need to prove to a lot of people that we are the best team in Ontario, and we prove that every week."