The University of Windsor Lancers football team is looking to put together a run towards the Yates Cup this fall as they get set for their 2015 OUA campaign.
The Blue & Gold open the season this Sunday when they host the Western Mustangs on Sunday at Alumni Field.
The Lancers will aim to improve on the 2014 season that saw them finish with a 5-3 conference mark, good enough for fourth place in the OUA standings. A quarter-final playoff exit for the third straight year, suffered at the hands of the Ottawa Gee Gees, left Windsor hungry for both regular season and playoff success.
"I am excited about the 2015 season. This the fastest and most athletic team we have ever had," said head coach Joe D'Amore. "We have a lot of new faces, but bring back a large group of veteran players in key positions. We have to continue to grow as a football team and I feel if some young guys step up early we could have a shot to compete with anyone."
The graduation of key veterans Austin Kennedy, Evan Pszczonak, and Dylan Whitfield has left some holes to fill in the line-up, but graduation also brings opportunity for others who believe their time has arrived.
Although the Lancers lost all-star quarterback Kennedy, offensively Windsor has two solid quarterback options in Casey Wright and rookie Liam Putt who will look to move the ball on the ground as they have a strong pair of choices in the running back position.
Fourth year running back Tarrence Crawford led the Lancers in rushing in 2014 with 477 yards in just six games played. The Windsor, Ontario native averaged 79.5 yards per game and finished the year with three touchdowns, while third year running back Beau Lumley led the Blue & Gold in all-purpose yards in 2014 with 929 (463 rushing, 326 receiving), and had three touchdowns in seven games played.
The Lancer backfield features a dynamic group, including fullback Nathan O'Hollaran, and wide receivers Gilbert Stewart, Clark Grace and Scott McEwen. On the line, four experienced starters return including 2015 East-West Bowl participant Randy Beardy, Jeremy Veres, Dan Benson, and Brett Boersma. They will be joined by third year lineman Greg Bolger and rookie Drew Desjarlais.
In addition, Austin Crumb (Harrow, ON) led the Blue & Gold with eleven kick-off returns for 207 return yards and also topped the Lancers in punt returns (29), punt return yards (272) and average yards per punt return (9.4). Both will be key components to Windsor's special team success.
The Lancers will look to leaders Crumb, Joe Iatzko, and Marcel Ugoh to be the backbone for Windsor's defense. Crumb, a 2015 East-West bowl participant, finished 2014 with 22 tackles (18 solo, 8 assisted) and led the team in interceptions with two, while Ugoh finished the 2014 season second in team defense with 33.5 tackles (21 solo, 25 assisted). Windsor native Iatzko averaged 3.6 tackles per game in 2014 finishing the season with 28.5 total tackles in eight games played.
Again this year, head coach Joe D'Amore has brought in a solid recruiting class that includes a number of standout players from the local Windsor-Essex area. Combined with the return of a strong group of veterans, the Lancers enter the 2015 season with a sense of optimism and excitement.
"With a good core of veterans and some newcomers that are going to contribute immediately, we feel like we can compete with every team in the OUA and be in a position to have a great season," said D'Amore.
Last season against the Mustangs, Windsor closed out the regular season with a 43-21 loss in London and have not won a regular season contest against Western since 2003.
The Lancers will aim to kick of the 2015 season with a win on Sunday August 30th at 1:00pm at Alumni Field. The gate for the game will open one hour prior to kick-off at 12:00pm. 2015 season tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.goLancers.ca/tickets.
(COURTESY, WINDSOR LANCER SPORTS INFORMATION)