In what could be a preview of the 2019 Yates Cup, the McMaster Marauders hosted the Western Mustangs in a battle for first place.

On Saturday, Ron Joyce Stadium, it was the visiting Mustangs who would leave with the victory, downing McMaster 34-17.

Western’s quarterback, Chris Merchant picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns on the afternoon while Trey Humes added another to improve to 3-0 on the season. The loss by McMaster was the first of the season, falling to 2-1.

Andreas Dueck passed for a pair of Marauder touchdowns, throwing for 345 yards, but it wasn’t enough as the defense of the defending Yates Cup champions stood tall. Tyson Middlemost lead all Mac receivers in the game, hauling in 73 yards on four catches.

For three quarters the Marauders stayed within striking distance of the Mustangs before Western scored 17 unanswered points in the final 21 minutes of the game.

The final dagger came seconds into the final frame when Western ran their own version of the Philly Special which saw Brett Ellerman hit Merchant for a 15-yard touchdown to take a two-score lead.

While Marauders head coach Stef Ptaszek was not pleased with the loss, he did find a lot of positives from playing one of the top ranked teams in the OUA and the country.

"They weren't bullying us and running right over us," said Ptaszek. "I think that's a different feel for us and then certainly it was 17-17 in the third quarter, and we were playing football with them. So, I don't think anyone in my locker room feels like on any given day we can't compete with the Mustangs."

It is still early in the OUA football season, but this was a good test for the Marauder squad and coaching staff to see where they are against a top contender.

The Marauders spotted their visitors 10 points before they responded in the second quarter with Dueck found Noah Griffith with a 22-yard strike for a major. Adam Preocanin added a late field goal to even up the score at 10.

Unfortunately, Western was able to regain the momentum prior to halftime as they drove down the field 75-yards on eight plays to take a 17-10 lead.

Mac’s secondary would pickoff one of Merchant’s passes in the game with Mitch Garland nabbing it. The Marauders now lead the OUA in interceptions with nine.

What hurt McMaster the most on the day was penalties. The Marauders would take a step forward with a huge play, but it would be negated by a penalty. In all, Mac was flagged 15 times in the game for 183 yards.

Next week the Marauders head out on the road to face the 0-3 York Lions. The teams have not met since the 2017 campaign where Mac defeated the Lions 32-2 at Ron Joyce Stadium to extend their winning streak against York to 20 games. The September 14th game will kickoff at 1:00 PM.