|Western Mustang's running back Tyler Varga runs in the first touchdown of the game against the Waterloo Warriors in London on September 5, 2011. (DEREK RUTTAN/QMI Agency)
HAMILTON — When Tyler Varga is in full flight avoiding tackles, he looks like an Olympic slalom racer zipping down a snowy mountain.
His mother Hannele is an accomplished alpine skier.
When the Western freshman running back is chugging towards the goal line, the 5-foot-10, 218-pounder has power to spare.
His father John is a long-time body-builder who was once Mr. Eastern Canada.
“Having the influence of an athletic family never hurt,” the Kitchener native said with a grin, after a four-touchdown, 149-yard rushing performance in a 48-21 Mustangs victory to spoil nationally third-ranked McMaster’s home opener Saturday afternoon at Ron Joyce Stadium.
There have been Hec Crighton winners, CFL champions and even an NFLer who have carried the football at Western.
But Varga is something else.
He has seven touchdowns in his first two games with the No. 2 ranked Mustangs. He is still just 17 years old.
One Western alumnus said Varga already looks like he has the same tool kit former Buffalo Bill Tim Tindale did in his fourth year as a star rusher at Western.
“I’ve never really let pressure bother me and I’ve never been much of a numbers guy,” Varga said. “People joke around with me and tell me I’m going to score so many touchdowns or run this many yards, but whatever happens is going to happen.
“If I end up with zero touchdowns, the biggest thing at the end of the day is that we get the ‘W.’”
Going forward, it will be big news if Varga gets shut out.
He scored three majors against the Waterloo Warriors in his first career game on Labour Day. But rushing for four in a nationally-televised tilt against a top contender ratchets up the hype to another level.
“He’s special,” said Western head coach Greg Marshall, who won in his first game back on McMaster. “He can catch passes, he blocks. We’ve got a lot of good (running) backs on this team and he’s one of them. We’re going to be hard to stop on the ground. They (Mac) tried to load up the box on us.”
But Varga and Nathan Riva are churning forward.
“Guys were trying to tackle him high too much and he was bouncing off,” Mac’s veteran linebacker Ryan Chmielewski said. “If we see him again this year, we’re going to have to go for the legs and wrap him up. We have to go back and watch the film and clean a few things up.
“It was closer than the score indicated.”
The Marauders had a glorious chance to pull within one touchdown at the end of the first half. But the Mustangs put together a stunning goal-line stand and stopped Mac quarterback Kyle Quinlan’s offence three straight downs from within the two.
“That was the game,” said Marshall, who won in his first visit back to the campus where he oversaw a Canadian university powerhouse a decade ago. “It was a great defensive stand, the best one in my time (in the last five years back at Western) and then we managed to get the ball out (of the danger zone to end the half up 14).”
When the Mustangs made the third-down stop, Western defensive co-ordinator Paul Gleason questioned secondary coach P.J. Edgeworth about the historical impact of the series.
“I couldn’t remember the last time we had one like that,” he said. “Peej said we had one a couple years ago but there was a fumble involved. Not three straight bam, bam, bam like that.
“We work on the goal-line defence every night, we prepared for everything they did and I told the guys watch that film because they couldn’t have done it any better. They got to every gap. (Mac quarterback Kyle) Quinlan had nowhere to go and it was huge because this was probably the two best offences in the conference.”
Sophomore defensive back Beau Landry played a huge role in the stand. He recorded six tackles, sacked Quinlan for a huge loss and was a presence all over the field.
“We didn’t let them get the momentum,” he said. “The whole D did a great job. (On his sack) we picked our spots when to go after him and it worked out.
“We’re a close group. We know we’re all in this together.”
Big defensive lineman Daryl Waud, a Hamilton native, put the game to bed with a 33-yard interception return touchdown in the third quarter.
Landry, who played his high school ball at Kitchener Resurrection, has seen up-close the kind of talent Varga possesses.
“He’s a great player,” he said, “and I’m glad he’s on our side.”
Mustangs 48, Marauders 21
Western touchdowns: Tyler Varga (4), Nathan Riva (2), Daryl Waud
McMaster touchdowns: Matthew Peressini, Michael DiCroce, Kyle Quinlan
Next: Western faces the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday, 1 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium.