10 Things: OUA Week One
OUA Football is officially back and boy does it ever feel good to finally have U SPORTS football back in Ontario. This weekend 10 of 11 teams were in action as the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees had a week 1 bye. In a full slated Sunday of OUA action here are some of the big storylines.
1. Clay Sequiera is BACK!
In their week one debut the Toronto Varsity Blues went head-to-head with the Waterloo Warriors. Sequiera whose season was cut short in 2018 due to injury is looking to have a bounce back year. He took the field by storm and completely stole the show. The Varsity Blues offence erupted in the fourth quarter for 20-points, in large part due to the play of Sequiera. Sequeira in just one game threw for half as many yards as he had in all of the 2018 season. Sequeira was 29 of 50 throwing for 471 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the Blues the effort was not enough as they fell short by 3 points and were handed a heartbreaking 33-30 loss. However, the silver lining is that Sequeira’s offensive outburst led all quarterbacks in Week 1 of OUA Football action. The Blues can feel confident in their QB play moving forward as Sequeira looks set to have a very promising season ahead of him in 2019.
2. Purple Reign
The Western Mustangs are back and not going anywhere. On Sunday the Mustangs traveled to Waterloo, Ontario to take on the Laurier Golden Hawks at University Stadium. The defending Yates Cup Champions were down 3-1 heading into the 2nd quarter of action, but the tables quickly turned.
The Mustangs started the 2nd quarter with a 62 yards touchdown pass from Chris Merchant who connected with Wide Receiver Justin Nickson. Two drives later the Mustangs defence had the Golden Hawks backed up inside their own 20 and on 3rd and 13 the Golden Hawks were forced to punt. However, Mustangs’ Jacob Andrews busted through the line virtually untouched to block the punt in the end zone, which was recovered by Brett Ellerman to push the Mustangs lead even further.
The game concluded with the Mustangs cruising to a 32-19 victory over the Golden Hawks. Mustangs QB Chris Merchant finished his day 15 of 24 for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns. It’s safe to say that after watching the Mustangs play on Sunday they are going to be the team to beat once again in 2019.
3. Ravens Defence Soaring
The Carleton Ravens were in Kingston, Ontario at Richardson Stadium to take on the Queen’s Gaels. New Gaels head coach Steve Snyder was looking for his first win as a head coach in the OUA, however the Ravens had other plans. The Carleton Ravens allowed the 2nd fewest points (12) of any team in the OUA in week one and allowed the fewest total passing yards (132) of any defence in the OUA in Week 1.
The Ravens defence was headlined by LB Jack Cassar who led the OUA with 10 solo tackles this week, LB Josh Walsh who had 9 tackles, a sack, and 2 tackles for a loss. The Ravens defence looks to be the strength of this team early on in the 2019 OUA season.
4. Carusello Flies High
The Laurier Golden Hawks hosted the defending Yates Cup Champion Western Mustangs at home this past Sunday. Last Season the Golden Hawks ran with two Quarterbacks, Tristan Arndt and Connor Carusello.
Carusello took a back seat to Arndt who threw for more yards and had more passing attempts than Carusello. Now in the 2019, Causello was handed the start and he was Golden for the Hawks in his 2019 debut. Carusello had 34 completions on 48 passing attempts for 360 yards and 2 TDs. Playing Western is never an easy matchup for any team and despite the loss the Golden Hawks signal caller played a phenomenal game. Carusello remained cool under pressure and made very few mistakes. He remained calm in the pocket and made his way through his route progressions before settling on a target and throwing with conviction.
One of my wishes for the Golden Haws this season was to see them throw the ball more and to the genie that granted my wish I thank you because that is exactly what we saw from the Golden Hawks in week 1. Heading into Laurier’s week 2 matchup against York I’m excited to see what will be in store for Carusello and the Golden Hawks.
5. A Rare Week 1 WINdsor
After a dismal 2018 season where the Windsor Lancers didn’t win a single game, the sun seems to be shining a little bit brighter on the Lancers. They opened up their season with a 34-17 win over the York Lions. The Lancers jumped out to a 13-10 lead after kicker, Griffen Fenton hit a 21-yard field goal in the dying seconds of the 2nd quarter.
In the Second half it was all Lancers as they galloped their way into a victory. Quarterback Sam Girard seems to have found himself a new favourite target in Queen’s Gaels Transfer and CFL draft pick, Chris Osei-Kusi. Girard targeted Osei-Kusi more than any other Lancer and Osei-Kusi took his 8 receptions for 98 yards.
The Lancers also relied heavily on the ground game as RB Jacob Savoni had 179 yards and 3 TDs on 14 rushing attempts, an OUA best in week 1. It appears this is a new Windsor Lancers football team, something I’m looking forward to keeping my eye on for the remainder of the OUA season.
6. Double Debut for the Gaels
Sunday evening the Queen’s Gaels hosted the Carleton Ravens at Richardson stadium. The Gaels looking for revenge on the Ravens as the last time these two teams faced off it ended with a heartbreaking 42-39 overtime loss for the Gaels.
Sunday evening it was also the debut of the Gaels New Head Coach Steve Snyder, who was I search of his first win as an OUA Head Coach. It was also the debut of new Quarterback James Keenan. Unfortunately for the Gaels and coach Snyder the game ended with another heartbreaking loss as the Gaels could not find the end zone on the very last play of the game.
James Keenan had a solid night in his debut as the Gaels signal caller. Keenan had 17 completions on 28 attempts for 123 yards and 1 touchdown. Keenan also led the Gales in rushing yards with 57 on 7 attempts, however most of these rushes were not called running plays for Keenan they were simply Keenan extending plays with his legs to get himself out of bad situations.
With the Gaels Coach Snyder very clearly seems to be adopting the offence that worked so well for him with the Western Mustangs. Western has been historically a team who tries to ground and pound to wear down a defence and this is exactly what we saw from the Gaels in their matchup against the Ravens. The Gaels ran the ball 36 times for 154 yards in their week 1 matchup. Snyder’s offence also included a fullback which was featured in almost every offensive set they ran. The Gaels ran a 22 set out of shotgun with 1 running back and a fullback lined up as an offset TE more than any other formation in the game. Something that Snyder ran a lot of last season with Western.
The Gaels looks as if they will be a Rushing centric offence in 2019 as they have a young quarterback and a head coach who ran the ball all the way to back to back Vanier Cup appearances.
7. Murderous Marauders
Staying on the topic of head coaching debuts, but travelling a little bit more West down the 401 the McMaster Marauders took on the Guelph Gryphons at Alumni Stadium.
This is not so much a debut as it is a return, the return of McMaster Head Coach Stefan Ptaszek. The Marauders defeated the Yates Cup finalist Guelph Gryphons 25-10 in Sunday afternoon action and while many thought with the return of Ptaszek the Marauders offence would be the story it was in fact the opposite. The Marauders defence was flying all over Alumni field on Sunday afternoon. The Marauders finished week 1 as the number 1 defence in the OUA. Allowing the fewest points (10), total yards (240) and rushing yards (67).
The Marauders also tallied 2 interceptions and 2 sacks. This defence completely shut down the high powered Gryphons offence and the dual threat aspect of Gryphons QB, Theo Landers. Landers finished his day with 178 yards on 14 completions and 1 interceptions, Leaders was also limited to just 30 yards on the ground.
Ptaszek is surely ecstatic with his teams defensive play this past Sunday. McMaster this week heads into another tough matchup against the uOttawa Gee-Gees who finished 6-2 in 2018.
8. Waterloo Narrowly Escapes
Waterloo hosted the Toronto Varsity Blues at home on Sunday evening. Waterloo was a team that many, including myself were relatively high on coming into the 2019 season. With weapons like QB Tre Ford, WR Tyler Ternowski, and RB Dillon Pellerin the Warriors appeared poised to have a big season in 2019.
Sunday evening may not have completely changed the narrative on the Warriors, but it certainly opened some eyes. Ford who threw for almost 3000 yards, 27 TDs and just 2 interceptions last season averaging 352 yards per game in 2018 had a relatively quiet night in the season opener for the Warriors.
Ford threw for 225 yards on Sunday and matched his 2018 interception total with 2. Ternowski also remained relatively quiet. The East-West Bowl selectee and 2018 USPORTS leading receiver had just 5 receptions for 29 yards and 1 TD Sunday night. Toronto seemed to have the Waterloo Warriors figured out on Sunday evening and losing OL Jesse Gibbons to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was certainly a big loss for the Warriors. While it may not be time to hit the panic button on the Warriors just yet as it still is early in the season, it will be interesting to see if the downward offensive trend continues.
9. Hunchak off to a Hot Start
York opened the season with a Week 1 matchup against the Windsor Lancers. The York Lions kept it close in the first half, but couldn’t keep their grip in the 3rd and 4th quarters and the Lancers began to pull away. The game ended with a 34-17 win in favour of the Lancers. In a disappointing loss, York QB Brett Hunchak was once again leaned on to sling the ball all over the field for the Lions offence and he did not disappoint. Hunchak set the record at York for most all time passing yards (7084), touchdowns (34), completions (586) and attempts (940) in 2018.
In his 2019 start Hunchak began to etch his name further into the York Lions history books. Sunday evening Hunchak threw 24 completions on 43 attempts for 325 yards and 2 TDs. While the York Lions took a disappointing week 1 loss to the Windsor Lancers, there is still room for optimism, especially with Brett Hunchak at the helm of the Lions offence.
10. Gryphons Stumble in Season Opener
The Guelph Gryphons opened their season Sunday afternoon at home against the McMaster Marauders. The Gryphons who had a strong team last year making it all the way to the Yates Cup final. Surely they were looking for a week 1 win against Mac to begin the push to get back to the Yates Cup in 2019.
Retuning dual threat QB Theo Landers was once again named the Starting Quarterback for the Gryphons in week 1 and looking to build on what was a solid performance from him in 2018. Landers had a rather disappointing outing throwing for 178 yards and an interception and rushed for just 30 yards in the opening game of 2019 with the Gryphons. The Gryphons couldn’t get much going on the ground either as Kaine Stevenson had just 46 yards on 11 carries. While the Gryphons did falter in their home opener it was against a tough opponent in the McMaster Marauders. Much like the Warriors it is not quite time to panic on the Gryphons season as it is still early in the OUA season and teams are still trying to figure out their identities. The Gryphons will have another tough matchup in week 2 taking on the Carleton ravens who are coming off a week one win against the Queen’s Gaels.
Connor O'Neil is a former UOttawa Gee-Gee defensive back with a passion for Canadian Football and a desire to stay connected to the game.