Ontario’s best: a look ahead to the first week of the OUA playoffs

Photo courtesy: Carleton Ravens

Ontario University Athletics (OUA) wrapped up its regular season this past weekend, creating three postseason matchups scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 29.

The conference has moved to a seven-team playoff structure after having eight postseason teams amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. The Western Mustangs earned a first-round bye after finishing the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record and have been the top-ranked team in U Sports all year. The teams listed below placed second through seventh in the standings as identified by the number in brackets.

Photo courtesy: Queen’s Athletics

Toronto Varsity Blues (7) at Queen’s Golden Gaels (2)

Queen’s beat Toronto in the first week of the regular season by a score of 47-25, blowing the game open in the fourth quarter after leading by only two points heading into the final frame. The Golden Gaels finished the contest with 343 yards along the ground and won the turnover battle after twice intercepting second-year quarterback Kinsale Philip.

Anthony Soles, Yann Longa, and Jared Chisari of Queen’s all finished among the OUA’s top ten rushers in yards per game, combining for 1,285 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. The club will surely look to continue producing along the ground as the weather begins to turn cold, which will put Toronto’s eighth-ranked run defence to the test on Saturday.

Philip is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the OUA, which should help him against a Queen’s defence that led the conference with 25 sacks. Toronto has now made the postseason for two consecutive seasons following a 25-year playoff drought, though they have still yet to win a postseason game since capturing the Vanier Cup in 1993.

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Gee-Gees

Windsor Lancers (6) at Ottawa Gee-Gees (3)

These two teams met in the first week of the regular season with the Gee-Gees coming away with a 19-16 victory. The Lancers outgained Ottawa slightly in the contest, though they were in the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium in Windsor.

Fourth-year running back Jean-Paul Cimankinda was the focal point of Ottawa’s offence this year, finishing the season as the second-leading rusher in U Sports with 159 carries for 976 yards and eight touchdowns. Windsor’s defence allowed 126.6 rushing yards per game during the regular season, which ranked fourth-best in the OUA.

Windsor struggled to move the ball through the air all season, relying mostly on first-year running back Joey Zorn to produce offensively. He will have to have a big game for the Lancers to record an upset on the road, while his teammates will have to remain disciplined. Windsor averaged an OUA-worst 107.8 penalty yards per game during the regular season, while Ottawa averaged the fewest in the conference with 57.3 per game.

This will be Windsor’s first postseason game since 2014. The school has not won in the playoffs since upsetting Ottawa in the quarterfinal round of the postseason in 2011.

Photo courtesy: Wilfrid Laurier Athletics

Carleton Ravens (5) at Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (4)

The Ravens and Golden Hawks both made first-round exits during last year’s postseason and are looking to win their first playoff game since 2018 and 2017, respectively. The clubs did not meet during the regular season, nor did they meet a year ago during the shortened 2021 U Sports campaign.

Fifth-year quarterback Tanner DeJong finished second in the OUA and fifth in all of U Sports in passer rating during the regular season among those with more than 100 attempts through the air. Carleton’s offence runs through him, so he’ll have to be at the top of his game while attacking a Wilfrid Laurier secondary that has churned out a number of talented CFL defensive backs over the past five years.

Second-year quarterback Taylor Elgersma was solid in his first full season as a starter for the Golden Hawks, throwing for 1,786 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He will look to take advantage of a Carleton defence that allowed 249.5 passing yards per game during the regular season, which was the worst in the OUA.

The McMaster Marauders (2-6), Guelph Gryphons (1-7), Waterloo Warriors (1-7), and York Lions (1-7) missed the playoffs.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.