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Looking ahead to the Western Mustangs’ 2023 season

The Western Mustangs football team has exactly one loss in each of it last four seasons — one.

But each of those one loss-seasons are an incredible example of just how slim the margins can be in sports.

In the shortened 2021 year Western fell to Guelph in Week 2. They did not lose again and hoisted the Vanier Cup as champions in November after beating the Saskatchewan Huskies on an icy field in Quebec City, Que.

In all three of the other seasons, Western’s one loss ended their year.

They were perfect until they weren’t.

In 2018 the defeat came in the Vanier Cup championship game.

In 2019 in came against the McMaster Marauders in the Yates Cup.

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And last season it came in a national semi-final against a surging Laval side who found a way to erase a 13-point deficit in the second half.

The margins are that close.

But the Mustangs enter the 2023 OUA season with the confidence that many of their key players know what it takes to achieve the ultimate goal of winning it all and and who also known exactly how it feels to fall just one win short of that final goal.

“We believe we have a very good blueprint in place. We have had a very successful run

Offence

Evan Hillock is back at quarterback. Keon Edwards is back at running back. Savaughn Magnaye-Jones is back at receiver. Add in names like

The changes on offence come along the offensive line. Western has boasted some of the best O-Lines in University football and they could certainly have one of the best again this season but it will be without names like Elliot Beamer who has graduated and Phil Grohovac and Zack Fry have moved onto pro careers so it becomes next lineman up for their spots and others along the line.

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Academic transfer Ethan Weber will add immediate reinforcement. Weber was a starter for McMaster in 2022 and is hoping to eventually go to law school at Western. Phil Jeffs spent some time at the University of Massachusetts and now returns to Canada. Jeffs will play tackle for the Mustangs. Finally Tyrone Webber was at Oklahoma State and had returned home and is now returning to University and to football.

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At running back Edwards led the OUA in just about every category associated with rushing the football but he won’t have to carry the load alone. Western’s offence has traditionally gone through the offensive line and the run game and this year promises to be no different. Keanu Yazbeck has battled injuries in the past but is healthy this season and Troy Thompson saw playing time a year ago.

Western always has backs in the stable waiting their turn. One of those players is former Parkside Stampeders and St. Joseph’s Rams running back Ethan Dolby from St. Thomas, Ont. Marcel Phillips could also see some carries.

Western will not have Edouard Wanadi who played a key role in 2022. Wanadi was handed a four-year suspension in May for violating ant-doping rules.

At receiver there will be changes. Magnaye-Jones led the Mustangs with nine touchdown catches in eight regular season games but the hands of Griffin Campbell and Justin Nickson have graduated. That means players who have played smaller roles will be thrust into larger spotlights.

Brayden Misseri is one of those players. He has played a great deal on special teams as has Zavier Allan and both will get more opportunities to be part of the offence in 2023. Raeshawn Blake is heading into his third year and has looked great after a good off-season. Mohsen Jamal will also be in the mix.

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Seth Robertson returns and is expected to play the slot for Western.

Defence

The Mustangs look to be very strong up the middle.

Riley MacLeod is an anchor as middle linebacker and is considered one of the best backers in the country. Brendan Murphy is not back but MaxNixon could find himself filling some of the roles that Murphy played.

Lourenz Bowers-Kane will also play linebacker this year. He has incredible speed.

Rob Panabaker had been with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but after being put on the suspension list and that made him eligible to return to the OUA.

Jackson Findlay is coming off an excellent season at defensive halfback but could be moved to free safety.

There is more next-man-up on the defensive line but Max Von Muehldorfer is back. He had to rehab a broken leg but returned with a flurry a season ago and also represented Canada in power-lifting at the Commonwealth Games. He might just be the strongest player in the OUA.

Defensive end could lack some experience. Marcus Robinson could be physically ready as a freshman and while it would be unusual to see that kind of youth at that position, Western feels he could be ready.

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Richard Aduboffour and Jake Saunders are back at the back of the defence as well.

Kojo Odoom was not at training camp as he continues to rehab an ACL tear.

Western will open the season at York on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.

The Mustangs will play their home opener on Sept. 3 at Western Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.

Click to play video: 'Queen’s Gaels Football Head Coach Steven Snyder recaps the team’s home/ season opener'
Queen’s Gaels Football Head Coach Steven Snyder recaps the team’s home/ season opener

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