For almost 10 whole minutes TD Stadium was quiet Saturday (Oct. 25).
With just over a minute to play in the second quarter, a Windsor Lancer player accidentally kneed Will Finch in the head after the Western Mustang quarterback took off running.
The crowd heckled the referees about a late hit, but then was absolutely silent like there was no one in the stands — like the stadium will be in a couple of weeks.
The Mustangs ended up beating the Lancers 43-21, despite being down 14-0 in the first quarter. The win gives Western a third-place finish and a home game in the first round of the playoffs against the Laurier Golden Hawks. The victory is a secondary story despite it having major playoff implications on the whole Ontario University Athletics (OUA).
Barely a word was uttered by anyone while Finch lay motionless on his back attended by trainers. Not a noise was made until the crowd clapped as Finch left the field on a body board and taken away on a cart. He was alert and talking when carted off.
Mustang head coach Greg Marshall said Finch took a head scan and had x-rays done on his neck and nothing showed any serious damage.
The eight-year coach struggled to find the words and fought back tears as he spoke about Finch and how his team rallied behind their injured quarterback to pull out the win.
“When you do a scan, obviously I’m not a doctor right, but you can still have a concussion without it showing up on a scan. It just means it wasn’t anything really severe, that was good news,” Marshall said. “It’s hard to talk about it, sometimes when that happens you just wonder what you’re doing, who knows? It’s hard these are kids are our family.”
Finch has proven he’s tough. He showed it last year when he played in a game just a few days after getting his appendix out. He confirmed it again this season when he received a concussion against the McMaster Marauders and then missed only one game.
You can never count Finch out, but a second concussion in the same month — just 21 days apart — might be the thing to keep last year’s OUA MVP on the sidelines for good this season.
It might also be the thing keeping the whole Mustangs team on the sidelines for good too.
“Our kids are pretty resilient, probably more resilient then the coaches, but they did a good job and I was proud of the way they came back,” Marshall said. “It was hard to get back at it, but I was really pleased with the way our team responded.”
Stephenson Bone is the backup for Finch. He’s proven more than capable having entered games in Mustang blowouts or covering for an injury.
Bone went 6-for-12 against the Lancers for 127 yards and one touchdown. Those are comparable numbers to Finch in the game, who went 6-for-11 for 131 yards and one touchdown.
Bone, however, is no Finch.
Western was expected to tear through teams this year with an undefeated season not out of the question. They were unbeaten last season and looked like they might have been a better team this time around with a lot of returning players and one more year of maturity under their belt. Finch led all those expectations.
Two losses in three games put thoughts of a perfect season to bed. It wasn’t necessarily a case of Western being overrated.
A last-minute touchdown from McMaster and a last-second field goal from Guelph are the differences this year taking the Mustangs out of a first-round bye and guaranteeing them just one playoff home game.
“It’s obviously devastating news for our team and our thoughts are really just with Will and make sure he’s OK,” Marshall said. “At the end of the day this is a game, I’m worried about Will, but our team will rebound and we’ll be OK.”
Western will end up playing Laurier to open the post-season Saturday (Nov. 1).
The Mustangs are in for a tough time in the playoffs. A team without a first-round bye hasn’t won the Yates Cup in 10 years. The odds will be stacked even more against Western with Finch on the sidelines.
“We just got to go out and play 60 minutes, I don’t know what will happen but we’re going to play hard every down we can in the playoffs,” Marshall said. “It’s a new season now.”