Back to the drawing board

“We’re a lot better than that.”

That was the message that Laurier’s manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries emphatically instilled in his team after they were embarrassed 46-1 at the hands of the Western Mustangs on Wednesday night.

The season-opening defeat was the largest margin of defeat the Hawks have suffered since 1969, and marked their fifth consecutive loss to their rivals from London.

“They flat out beat us,” said Jeffries. “We’ve just been challenged, we’ve just been knocked down, but we’re going to get back up. We’re going to come right back tomorrow and start getting ready for Mac.”

Coming into this season, there was a lot of hype surrounding this Hawks team.
They had scooped up some of the top players from the suspended Waterloo Warriors football team. The majority of their defence, which ranked amongst the best in Canada, was returning.

And new quarterback Shane Kelly was generating considerable buzz thanks to his American college football pedigree, having played at both Columbia and Temple. Many were considering this team a lock to be in the Yates Cup final.

But on Wednesday night, the purple and gold looked like anything but a team ready to make a push for the provincial title.

Kelly looked lost in his first game north of the border, only completing seven of his 18 passes and throwing two interceptions, before giving way to back-up Evan Pawliuk in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the offence as a whole was only able to rack up 144 yards.

“Nothing seemed to go right for us tonight,” said Kelly. “We just couldn’t get in a rhythm, it seemed like no matter what we did we just couldn’t get anything going.”

Meanwhile, the defence that held the Hawks in so many games last year couldn’t seem to contain Western quarterback Donnie Marshall and the powerful Mustangs’ offence. Along with Marshall – who threw for 183 yards, ran for another 83 and had a passing touchdown – running back Jerimy Hipperson led the Mustangs’ offence, rushing for 100 yards and three touchdowns.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but they were a lot of fixable things,” said linebacker Giancarlo Rapanaro. “We just have to forget about [this loss]. We’re going to come right back tomorrow, and we’ll get back up at Mac and expect us to come out hard.”

The Hawks now turn their sights to proving that this thrashing was an anomaly. They are now charged with the task of showing that they were worthy of all their pre-season hype.

“We just have to learn from this game and then forget about it,” said Kelly. “It was the first game of the season and we definitely lacked some execution, but we just need to put it in the past.”
“It’s not about how you fall, it’s about how you get back up after you fall,” added wide receiver Dustin Zender. “We’re going to back to work, get our act together and next game we’re going to come out flying.”
That next game, that chance at redemption, will come tonight when the Hawks travel to Hamilton to take on the McMaster Marauders. The Hawks have had success against the Marauders in recent years, winning every regular season contest since 2002.

Last season, the purple and gold disposed of the Marauders 30-14 just a week after losing then-starting quarterback Luke Thompson for the season.
Following that win, the Hawks only lost one game the rest of the season, upsetting the eventual Vanier Cup champion Queen’s Gaels in the process.

If this Hawks squad wants to prove they’re for real, this game almost becomes a must-win situation.

“We’re going to find out a lot about our team [against McMaster],” said Kelly. “When you face adversity you really see who has heart, and who’s willing to pick themselves back up. We’re already focused on McMaster, and I know we’ll be ready.”

The Hawks and Marauders square off this afternoon at Hamilton’s Ron Joyce stadium.