Though the games stayed closer than many people expected, for longer than anyone might have suggested, ultimately the teams that were favoured both prevailed Saturday in the Ontario University Athletics football semifinals.
The undefeated regular season champion Western Mustangs led the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks by just three points with a little more than 12 minutes left in their game at London, but they went on to post a 32-18 victory in one of those games.
In the other, a 31-yard field goal by Michael Domagala with 12:03 left in the fourth quarter drew the Carleton Ravens to within 19-14 of the Guelph Gryphons, but a pair of touchdown runs by Johnny Augustine, less than four minutes apart in the last six minutes of the game, gave the Gryphons a 33-21 victory.
Those outcomes set the stage for a Yates Cup match Saturday between Western, 8-0 in the regular year, and Guelph, 7-1. It’s a long awaited contest, since the teams did not meet during the season.
At London, the Mustangs conceded a safety early in the fourth quarter that cut their lead to just 18-15. Matt Uren scored a touchdown on a five-yard run about five minutes after that, but a 39-yard field goal by Laurier rookie Nathan Mesher made the score 25-18 with 2:29 to play.
Western then marched 75 yards and a touchdown on a three-yard run by Cedric Joseph with 48 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
Both teams lost a key player in the game, as Laurier running back Dillon Campbell left the game after a 53-yard gain early in the second quarter, and Western quarterback Will Finch was carted off the field early in the third quarter, after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Whether Finch, whose season ended last year due to a concussion, will be able to play in the Yates Cup game is in doubt.
“I think it was the jaw,” Mustangs coach Greg Marshall told Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press. “He got hit in the jaw. It might be a broken jaw but I don’t know.
“He was taken to the hospital and they are doing some x-rays there.”
At Guelph, Augustine finished the game with 245 yards rushing, the third-best single-game total in the OUA this year. It was the biggest part of a 534-yard Gryphons attack that finally overpowered the Ravens.
It was Guelph’s 20th consecutive win at home. The Gryphons haven’t lost at Alumni Stadium since a 15-10 defeat against Laurier, Oct. 22, 2011.
Carleton stayed close in the game thanks largely to the work of quarterback Jesse Mills, who completed 28 of 38 passes for 353 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
This will be Guelph’s third trip to the conference championship game in the last four years. Western has been in the Yates Cup game six times in the last eight seasons, winning four of them, most recently in 2013 versus Queen’s. Guelph last won the OUA title in 1996.