At 2-2, #9 men’s football team prepares for pivotal home matchup this weekend against Windsor

Photo by Darien Funk

The Golden Hawks football program picked up a massive road win this past weekend in Hamilton, firing on all cylinders on route to a 22-0 shutout victory over the ninth ranked McMaster Marauders. 

Following their bye week, the team didn’t miss a beat, as they played energized from the starting kickoff and dominated the top-ranked Marauders offense to get back on a winning note and even their record at 2-2. The Golden Hawks earned national recognition following the victory over McMaster, ranked back in the country’s top ten for the first time since week two. 

“It’s the boost we needed coming out of the bye,” Head Coach, Michael Faulds said. 

“It’s a big road win for us that gets us to 2-2 and as you see with the OUA West standings, every single game is super meaningful these days,” Faulds continued.

Veteran quarterback Connor Carusello returned to the Laurier lineup this past Saturday after recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in week one against York. Carusello settled in and looked sharp playing in his first full game in over two seasons, however the defense turned out to be the story as it has been much of this season. 

Ryan Long opened the scoring, returning a McMaster fumble 46 yards for a touchdown, just four minutes into the game. On the very next play, cornerback Patrick Burke Jr. was able to intercept Andreas Dueck and return it 36 yards, to extend the Golden Hawks lead to 14-0, less than five minutes into the game. 

Burke Jr. recorded his second interception in as many games and is one of four players on defensive coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke’s squad that has recorded multiple interceptions through the first four games. As they did against York and the high-powered offense of Western, Laurier’s opportunistic defense was able to generate turnovers and get sacks, relieving the pressure on their offense. 

“The defense was outstanding. One of the most dominant performances we’ve seen, and they’ve done it two games in a row,” Coach Faulds said. 

“It’s a talented group with a lot of speed. We have seen contributions from a combination of veteran players, like a Tommy Bringi, but then a lot of new players as well, like a Luke Brubacher,” he said. 

The Golden Hawks were able to sack McMaster nine times on the day, 2.5 of them coming from rookie defensive lineman Luke Brubacher, who is second in the league in individual sacks. Despite a challenging schedule, facing their third straight nationally ranked team, Faulds and VanMoerkerke have seen some impressive stats from the defensive side of the ball. 

The unit ranks top five in the OUA in total defense, and leads the entire country, with 19 takeaways through the team’s first four games. The Golden Hawks also lead the OUA in defensive touchdowns with two and have been able to get to the quarterback, accounting for 14 sacks so far this season, top-five in USPORTS. 

With the takeaways forced on defense, the Laurier offense has been able to play a conservative type of football and did that perfectly against McMaster this past weekend. Carusello and the offense orchestrated long drives leading to two chip-shot field goals by Dawson Hodge. Hodge is second in the OUA having made nine of his ten field goals this season. 

“As the game went along, Connor really settled down, spread the ball around well and made some great throws,” Faulds said. 

Carusello was able to routinely connect with Romy Simpson and his favourite target Ente Eguavoen, both receivers recording four catches on Saturday. Coach Faulds believes the quarterback will be even better this upcoming weekend after a full week of practice.

“At this point of the year, no one is 100%, but Connor is feeling good, and he is going to be that much better this upcoming Saturday.” 

Laurier will be back at home this weekend as they will host the 2-2 Windsor Lancers in what will be a pivotal matchup for both school’s playoff hopes. The OUA West division has been ultra competitive and rather hard to figure out this year, with four teams tied at 2-2, and the defending Yates Cup champion Marauders at the bottom of the division, sitting at 1-3. 

So much can change over the final two weeks of the season, with only the top four teams in the division qualifying for the November playoffs. With Laurier and Windsor both at 2-2, Saturday’s game will go a long way in deciding the playoff hopes of each team. 

The loser may find themselves in a tough spot at 2-3, entering the final weekend of the season, while the winner will be guaranteed a top-four spot in the standings heading into the final week of the season. With the remainder of the division in action on Saturday, Western (3-1) against Waterloo (2-2) and Guelph (2-2) battling OUA East Toronto, Faulds is not worried about the out-of-town scoreboard. 

“Since the beginning of our bye week, it’s been a playoff mentality,” Faulds said.

“We control our own destiny. All we need to worry about is how Laurier football executes. We know we are going to get Windsor’s best game in all three phases and we’re going to have to play really well,” he continued. 

Laurier has won three consecutive games against the Windsor Lancers, having not lost since 2015, a 52-10 Laurier win in their most recent matchup two years ago. The Golden Hawks will play their final home game this Saturday against Windsor, before ending their season against fierce rivals – the Waterloo Warriors.

A win this weekend would be a massive step for Laurier as they hope to end their two-year playoff drought. Kickoff between the two teams is scheduled for 2PM this Saturday at University Stadium.

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