Faulds hits milestone in upset

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

HAMILTON, Ont – The season for the Wilfrid Laurier men’s football team is turning out to have every component needed to write an underdog story.

Laurier begins the season 1-4. Check. The Hawks have a shocking loss that completely shapes the team’s mentality going forward. Check. The team turns their season around, delivering two losses to potential playoff contenders on their journey to the playoffs. Check. They secure a spot in the playoffs with a huge win in a stadium they haven’t seen victory in since 2007. Check. Laurier upsets the third-seeded McMaster Marauders in the quarter-final and comes out with a 29-15 victory, their first playoff win since 2010.

Check.

With the win, the next item on the checklist is revealed: score a date with the team coming in as the heavy-favourites to win the Yates Cup.

The Western Mustangs are waiting.

“Honestly, I love it when they count me out or plan to stop me. I use it as an additional challenge, take it that way,” fifth-year running back Dillon Campbell said. “Being an underdog doesn’t bother me because we came here ready to play.”

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Saturday was just another day in the office for Campbell.

He rushed for 285 yards, breaking the record for most rushing yards in a playoff game in Laurier history.

He also broke the record for most carries for Laurier with 39, and tied the Ontario University Athletics record in the process.

Despite not being at 100 per cent the entire year, Campbell continues to lead the nation, putting up a total of 1115 yards over the season and adding almost 300 in one playoff game.

“He’s still really banged up,” head coach Michael Faulds said of the fifth-year defending OUA MVP. “I give a ton of credit to our offensive line because that’s a really solid defensive line we just faced. They have two outstanding defensive ends and our offensive coordinator Mark Surya came up with an unbelievable game plan, we switched a few things in our game plan.”

“Dillon didn’t want this to be his last football game, and it’s not.”

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Campbell is not the only Hawk to have a strong season. Second-year quarterback Eric Morelli has gone 5-2 in his last seven starts in his first year as the starting Hawk pivot. He started his first career playoff game against McMaster Saturday and walked away with his first career playoff win.

Morelli’s comfort in the pocket was evident, as he used many tactics to move the ball, including the running game featuring Campbell, his various air targets featuring Greg Nyhof, Daniel Bennett, Zeph Fraser, Carson Oullette and Anthony Pizzuti. When nobody was open, Morelli ran it into the endzone himself.

According to Faulds, Morelli has grown into his role as a leader of the team despite coming into the position with a lack of experience.

“He’s like a puppy. Even though he’s a fourth-year player, he’s like a puppy in terms of quarterback play,” Faulds explained. “Eric’s gaining confidence, our receivers have unbelievable confidence in him, he’s a great leader for us. He keeps everyone calm and I’m really proud of him.”

The defence also stood tall, holding the new Canadian Interuniversity Sport single-season passing touchdown holder Asher Hastings to only two touchdowns. They also held him to 327 yards and a fumble, including four sacks courtesy of Nakas Onyeka, Trevaughan James and Kwaku Boateng.

The victory propelled the Hawks to ninth in the country, their highest since 2011 when they ranked No. 8.

Now with everything clicking at the right time, that next item on the checklist is waiting to be crossed off. Western comes in as the top seed in the OUA and No. 2 in the country. The winner gets a berth into the Yates Cup final, somewhere Laurier hasn’t found themselves since 2006.

Despite being underdogs, Faulds believes the Hawks will be up to the test and thinks disciplined football is the key to success.

“We’re the underdogs so we just have to go out swinging like we always do,” Faulds said. “I like adversity and I think our guys respond well to it.”

The showdown commences at 1 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium in London.

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