Gaels ready for Yates Cup final

This Saturday, the Queen’s football Gaels will face the Western Mustangs in the 114th Yates Cup championship game. Photo via Ontario University Athletics.

This Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022 marks the 114th running of the Yates Cup — the provincial football championship for Ontario University Athletics (OUA) — as the Queen’s Gaels head to London, Ontario to battle the Western Mustangs in the finals for the second year in a row. The Gaels come into Saturday’s contest following an impressive 35-13 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees last weekend in the OUA semifinals. 

“It was a huge win,” Queen’s head coach Steve Snyder said after last weekend’s victory. “I’m really proud of everybody because there’s a lot of people that work at this, and you want to be able to secure another championship game opportunity. Two years in a row now is a big deal for our program. We’re definitely pushing in the right direction right now, so it feels great.”

This Saturday’s game serves as a rematch of last year’s Yates Cup, which saw Western dominate the hometown Gaels 29-0 in front of 5,300 fans at Richardson Stadium. While that loss was a tough one for the team, Snyder explained that things are different for his squad heading into this year’s clash. 

“I think we’re more experienced; I think we’re a better football team… Making that playoff run last year was powerful for our program, but I don’t think we were ready to go win a championship. I think this team is in a much better place to be able to compete at a high level,” he said.

As for how the team is preparing ahead of Saturday’s matchup, Snyder said they are familiar with the long journey ahead of them. “It will be a big road trip. We’ll go down the night before and stay in a hotel. But the good thing is we’ve done… similar trips this year. Our football team has done a really good job of just treating it like a business trip, being really professional, and staying loose… and close together as a team. I think we’ll be in a good spot.” 

The Western Mustangs, meanwhile, were able to clinch their spot in this year’s Yates Cup championship game after a dominant performance over the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks at home last weekend in their semifinal. Following a close first quarter between the two schools, Western took control of the game in the second, eventually going on to win 45-19. 

Throughout the entire 2022 season, Western has led both the OUA and the USports national rankings, consistently coming in as the best team in Ontario and Canada. This means the Gaels will be in for a tough challenge as they look to unseat the Mustangs as provincial champions. “They’re definitely one of the best teams around; they do some things really well,” Snyder said. 

The two teams have already met once this season, with Queen’s falling to Western 35-11 in London on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. However, Snyder noted that both programs have made some significant gains since then. “It was interesting to see how we matched up with them early in the season, but that seems like a long time ago. I think they’ve evolved a ton, and so have we… We’ll definitely go back to that game and look at it, but I think at this point… it’s almost like two different teams going back at it.”

Heading into the weekend’s championship final, both teams boast rosters full of provincial and national award winners. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, Queen’s receiver Richard Burton was named the USports special teams player of the week, further cementing his position as one of the strongest players in the country.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 20220, nine different members of the Gaels’ organization, including running back Anthony Soles, were named OUA All-Stars, as kicker Tyler Mullan also joined the All-Rookie team. For Western, running back Keon Edwards has consistently been one of the strongest offensive players in Canada, having recently been named the national offensive player of the week.

A championship with a storied past

The Yates Cup is considered the oldest trophy in North American football. It was first awarded back in 1898, preceding all other Canadian football prizes, including the Grey and Vanier Cups.

The Mustangs head into Saturday’s game as the winningest team in Yates Cup history, with 33 titles since 1931. 

The Queen’s Gaels sit in third place on the all-time wins list with 23 Yates Cup victories. It should be noted, however, that the university missed out on a number of opportunities to lift the historic trophy throughout the 1980s and 90s, as it competed for the Dunsmore Cup as part of the now-defunct Ontario-Quebec Intercollegiate Football Conference. The last time the Queen’s Gaels won the Yates Cup was in 2009 when they defeated Western 43-39, en route to defeating the Calgary Dinos in the Vanier Cup to become national champions.

Saturday’s 114th Yates Cup is set for 1 p.m. at Western Alumni Stadium in London, Ontario. Fans who cannot make it to the game in person can catch all the action at cbcsports.ca or on CBC Gem. The winning team will then go on to host the Quebec conference champions in a national semifinal next Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. This year’s Vanier Cup national championship takes place at Western Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

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