Football – The Cord https://thecord.ca The tie that binds Wilfrid Laurier University since 1926 Sat, 22 Sep 2018 22:23:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://thecord.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/logofavicon-32x32.png Football – The Cord https://thecord.ca 32 32 42727683 Hawk’s are 2-2 after second loss of the season against McMaster https://thecord.ca/hawks-are-2-2-after-second-loss-of-the-season-against-mcmaster/ https://thecord.ca/hawks-are-2-2-after-second-loss-of-the-season-against-mcmaster/#respond Sat, 22 Sep 2018 22:23:08 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51433

Drop one game late to a rival? Fine. Two games in a row? Now that’s a different story. Following a loss to the Waterloo Warriors after being outscored 17-3 in the fourth quarter, the Laurier Golden Hawks had another game slip through their fingers to McMaster in a sloppy 21-20 loss in Hamilton.

Starting out smooth, the Golden Hawks didn’t have too many issues moving the ball, thanks in large part to their run game led by fourth-year Mississauga native, Levondre Gordon. After a 12 play, 72 yard touchdown drive halfway through the first quarter though, McMaster would catch a big break. 

Letting the ball hit the turf on a punt, Kurleigh Gittens Jr. got out-hustled by Marauder linebacker Jayden Lawson who hit the ball out of bounds to get his team the ball back at the Laurier 23 yard line. Following that, it would take 3 plays for the Marauders to capitalize, as running back Jordan Lyons would close the drive with a 2 yard run into the endzone to tie the game.

In the second, after a Nathan Mesher punt that was only returned to their own 9-yard line, the Marauders were forced to take a safety as Laurier held them to one yard on the possession. 

Following the safety, the Golden Hawks would march on an 8 play, 75 yard drive that would be ended off with a strong catch by Brentyn Hall in the right corner of the endzone ripping the ball away from the defender’s hands, followed by a stare down only suited for such a play.

Down 16-7, McMaster refused to go into halftime without any momentum, as they would close the half with a 78 yard touchdown drive of their own to make it 16-14.

The momentum never made its way back to Laurier, as the Marauders turned up the heat on the defensive end, stifling the Golden Hawks’ air attack, picking off two passes and forcing costly mistakes. 

One mistake Laurier couldn’t recover from was Tristan Arndt’s interception under duress that would be returned for six from 12 yards out by defensive back Mitch Garland.

Nathan Mesher missing his 43-yard attempt wide left with less than a minute to go, down 21-19 would close the game. 

Despite the strong effort from Laurier’s defense (3 interceptions), the offense could not hold its own. 

Finding themselves outside of the playoff race halfway through the year, every game will count for the 2-2 Golden Hawks starting with their homecoming game against the Guelph Gryphons next Saturday.

 

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Warriors finally break 15 year drought against Golden Hawks https://thecord.ca/warriors-finally-break-15-year-drought-against-golden-hawks/ https://thecord.ca/warriors-finally-break-15-year-drought-against-golden-hawks/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:58:28 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51286

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

The much anticipated Battle of Waterloo had a different vibe to it this year, especially for those who have paid attention to the rise of the Waterloo Warriors. That different vibe led to a different result as the Warriors broke Laurier’s 15 game win streak against them in a nail-biting 34-32 win.

Led by Tre Ford, second-year quarterback, and Tyler Ternowski, star receiver, the Warriors have built a very dangerous and dynamic offence, and a consistently improving defence. While this may have surprised many, it did not surprise Laurier coach Michael Faulds.

“I don’t think anything surprised us. We knew they were improving each and every week defensively and we knew offensively, their quarterback is super talented and they’ve got a good receiving core. We knew it was going to be a hard fought game,” Faulds said.

“Despite the score from previous years, no one internally thought it was going to be that. I think some of the outside expectations were of scoreboards in years past but we knew they were a much improved football team.”

After feeling each other out for the first couple of drives, Waterloo would break the game open first on a 49-yard pass from Tre Ford to fullback Kevin Boismier. From that point on, it would become a back-and-forth shootout until the end of the first half, with the score being 22-17 for the Golden Hawks.

There was no encore in the third quarter to the show that was put on in the first half though. Defence became the name of the game, especially for Laurier as they held the Warriors scoreless and went up 29-17.

While they managed to get past half field, the Golden Hawks offence fell short in capitalizing on their opportunities and were not able to be their dominant selves in the clutch.

The fourth quarter is where everything changed. Starting out with a drive where the Warriors scored a field goal to only be answered by Laurier with one to make it 32-20, they would flip the switch.

Led by Tre Ford, the Warriors would go on a 75-yard touchdown drive with seven minutes left to make it 32-27, making the game close again after it seemed Laurier would run with it.

“It’s not about stopping them. You try at times to maybe limit how much they get into free space,” Faulds said, in regards to the Warriors dynamic duo.

With 2:37 left in the game, the Tre Ford to Tyler Ternowski connection would hit the jackpot in free space once again. Ford connected with Ternowski for an 88-yard touchdown down the middle on an intermediate route, the only play of the drive to stun the Laurier faithful making it 34-32.

With the game on the line, the ball would be in Tristan Arndt’s hands to lead the Golden Hawks offense to victory alongside star receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. & co., who had a dominant performance for much of the day.

After being stopped by Waterloo’s defence at their own 49-yard line on the first drive, the defence would get the Laurier offence another opportunity with 43 seconds left at their own 17-yard line.

While they managed to get past half field, the Golden Hawks offence fell short in capitalizing on their opportunities and were not able to be their dominant selves in the clutch.

“We knew we needed three points. The first drive, obviously we’re throwing it. We’re not opposed to running it but we knew we had to get chunks of yardage,” coach Faulds said.

“We didn’t, so we gambled on the third down and our defence did a good job giving us another shot. So we had another opportunity and we made it a decent way down field but not close enough to get a field goal.”

With the Golden Hawks having McMaster up next, coach Faulds was still optimistic about how his team will fare as the season progresses.

“They were the better football team today, they were the better coached team. I just told the guys when we broke it down at the end, ‘the Yates Cup and the Vanier Cup isn’t decided on Sept. 15.’ So, we’re going to find out how we’re going to deal with this adversity and how we’re going to respond.”

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Hawks break 15-year winning streak against UW at Battle of Waterloo https://thecord.ca/hawks-break-15-year-winning-streak-against-uw-at-battle-of-waterloo/ https://thecord.ca/hawks-break-15-year-winning-streak-against-uw-at-battle-of-waterloo/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 18:06:38 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51246

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

The Battle of Waterloo has taken place once again. Had these teams not been so close by, this game probably would not be made out to be much due to Laurier consistently beating Waterloo for the past 15 years. 

In a nail-biting 34-32 win on Laurier’s home field, Waterloo finally broke the streak against the Hawks.

While this may have been a surprise to many considering Waterloo’s reputation for being the basement dwellers of the OUA, Coach Faulds was not surprised as to how good of a team the Warriors are.

“I don’t think anything surprised us. We knew they were improving each and every week defensively and we knew offensively, their quarterback is super talented and they’ve got a good receiving core. We knew it was gonna be a hard fought game. Despite the score from previous years, no one internally thought it was gonna be that,” said Coach Faulds.

“I think some of the outside expectations were of scoreboards in years past but we knew they were a much improved football team.”

In a game that started out as what would seem to be a shootout, ended up taking everyone for a ride. After an exciting back and forth first half that ended with Laurier leading 22-17, the shootout would cool down.

Defence took over, especially for Laurier, as they held Waterloo scoreless in the third and it looked as if Laurier found the recipe to victory.

This was until the dynamic duo of Tre Ford and Tyler Ternowski took over. The Warriors scored with seven minutes left to make it 32-27. The on the first play of their drive at the 3:08 mark, the duo struck again as Ford found Ternowski for an 88-yard touchdown on an intermediate route to make it 34-32.

With 2:32 left, Laurier failed to capitalize on not one but two drives to get a field goal to win the game as they took their first loss of the year. 

Next up will be the McMaster Marauders in Hamilton next week for the Golden Hawks as they look to bounce back. 

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Hawks continue strong start to season with win over Queen’s Gaels https://thecord.ca/hawks-continue-strong-start-to-season-with-win-over-queens-gaels/ https://thecord.ca/hawks-continue-strong-start-to-season-with-win-over-queens-gaels/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 16:41:27 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51023

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof
Hawks take on Ottawa Gee Gee’s at their first game of the season

The Hawks continued their hot start to the season with an emphatic 44-18 win over the Queen’s Gaels on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018.

Just like last week, the Hawks scored a touchdown on their opening drive through Osayi Iginuan as he would eventually punch it in from six yards out.

Laurier would add a pair of field goals before scoring another touchdown, this time through the air as quarterback Tristian Arndt found Brentyn Hall with a perfectly placed pass from just inside the red zone.

Although the Gaels responded with a touchdown of their own, the Hawks would go into halftime leading by a score of 23-7 after tacking on a field goal.

In the second half, the Hawks showed their superiority by exploding for some huge plays on offense.

At the seven-minute mark in the third quarter, reigning OUA MVP Kurleigh Gittens Jr. would catch a 34-yard bomb from Arndt for his first touchdown of the season.

The Hawks continued to pile on the misery after that as rookie Ente Eguavoen caught the first touchdown of his career, making a tough sideline catch from 23 yards out.

Laurier didn’t look back from there and went on to win by a comfortable margin to say the least.

Tristan Arndt finished the game with 313 passing yards and three touchdowns, while six different Laurier running backs rushed for more than 250 yards combined.

The Hawks have put on an offensive showcase so far this season and Arndt has shown that he can lead this passing attack to be just as good as it was under Michael Knevel.

The defence has some key pieces as well and although it hasn’t cost the Hawks too much so far, it will be interesting to see how the purple and gold improve on that side of the ball.

Up next, the Hawks will take on their cross town rivals, the University of Waterloo Warriors, in the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ on Sept. 15, 2018 as they look to continue their perfect start to the season. Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m. at University Stadium.

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Alex Pigozzo wins gold with Team Canada https://thecord.ca/alex-pigozzo-wins-gold-with-team-canada/ https://thecord.ca/alex-pigozzo-wins-gold-with-team-canada/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 11:00:46 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=50861

Contributed Image

On July 22, history was made. Canada won gold at the 2018 IFAF U19 Championship, the second of back-to-back gold medals, the first time a country has done that in the event’s history.

In front of a crowd of 25,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico, Canada prevailed by a final score of 13-7 over Mexico with the game coming down to the final seconds.

A key cog for Canada on offence was Laurier’s own Alex Pigozzo. The second year offensive lineman, carrying his past experience with Team Ontario in high school and his one year at Laurier, played a big role, playing every spot on the offensive line during the tournament and helping secure win after win.

“It was absolutely incredible. It’s a very humbling experience to know that we were the first ever to go down there and to win back-to-back championships. But not only that, just to know that I was able to represent Canada with a bunch of other absolutely amazing players, it’s absolutely incredible and it’s a memory that I’m definitely going to hold very high,” Pigozzo said.

“With coming back from a big championship team, the top dogs in this tournament, it kind of translates back to university and that’s the energy I wanna bring here, is that, whereas Laurier, we’re a good football team, we’re striving to be great and we want to win another championship and with that comes a championship kind of energy and mindset.”

Considering how invaluable versatility is in football, the hope is that the experience that comes out of this tournament for Pigozzo is that he can take it with him and be that much better of a football player and of great help to the Golden Hawks.

“It really helped me out in terms of furthering my football career. The goal was for me to be a more reliable player so that if the time comes and when, if a coach needs me to go in this or that, tackle, guard or centre, whatever, they can trust me in that spot because I’ve had experience playing all of them. So really, it just sort of helps round me out as a football player a little more reliable and versatile,” Pigozzo said.

While he knows there is still things to clean up and improve upon, Pigozzo knows he performed well and is proud of his performance. The biggest thing he gained outside of experience though, is a boost of confidence.

“The confidence boost is great because it helps you come into camp knowing that I can play at a very high level. With that being said, university football is an extremely high level of sports, especially for my age, it’s definitely the highest sort of competition I could find out there for football,” he said.

“But [Team Canada experience] certainly taught me a lot of things to appreciate more about football about my game. A lot of the minor details really do make a huge difference.”

Another thing he hopes to take with him is the championship mentality he gained from the tournament win.

“With coming back from a big championship team, the top dogs in this tournament, it kind of translates back to university and that’s the energy I wanna bring here, is that, whereas Laurier, we’re a good football team, we’re striving to be great and we want to win another championship and with that comes a championship kind of energy and mindset,” he said.

While Laurier hopes to rebound from their Yates Cup loss to Western in 2017, obviously the expectations and confidence still remain high for this upcoming 2018 season.

As for Pigozzo, things seem to be looking up as he looks to work his way up and push himself and his teammates with a confidence boost coming from one golden experience he’s had.

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Golden Hawks start the season strong and show promise for Yates Cup final https://thecord.ca/can-the-hawks-return-to-the-yates-cup-final-for-a-third-straight-year/ https://thecord.ca/can-the-hawks-return-to-the-yates-cup-final-for-a-third-straight-year/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 11:00:17 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=50880

When asked to describe the goals for his offence in 2018, sixth year head coach Michael Faulds responded: “We're going to be balanced. We're going to be able to run the ball behind a great [offensive] line, great fullbacks, and great running backs, and then our young quarterbacks have outstanding weapons at receiver. The receiver group is super talented, one of the most impressive I've been around.”

The balanced offence comes with the departure of last year’s starting quarterback Michael Knevel. Coach Faulds addressed this loss, but also his confidence in the current quarterbacks on his roster.

“Obviously we're going to miss Michael. Michael was a big part in us winning the 2016 Yates Cup, but we're super confident as a team and as a coaching staff in the other quarterbacks we have, [specifically] Tristan Arndt, who will be our day one starter,” he said.

Dating back to a late-season victory in 2017 against McMaster, Arndt is 3-0 as a starter, and never during his tenure as signal-caller has the offence skipped a beat.

Through the air Arndt’s main target is Kurleigh Gittens Jr, because if the Golden Hawks offence is a finely tuned sports car, then Kurleigh Gittens Jr. is the fuel that makes it go.

After a 2017 season that saw Gittens Jr. selected as both a first team all-star and MVP for the OUA, and a CIS all-star at two different positions, there is no defence in Canadian football unaware of what Gittens Jr. can do.

But when shifting to their ground-game Laurier’s offence loses none of its potency, because in 2017 Laurier’s Levondre Gordon gashed opposing defences to the tune of 5.73 yards per carry on his way to a team-leading eight touchdowns.

The Hawks were led by running back Levondre Gordon and Kurleigh Gittens jr. on offence. Gordon rushed for 109 yards along with two touchdowns and Gittens Jr. contributed with 188 all-purpose yards

Already in his first regular season action Gordon piled up 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns behind a Laurier offensive line anchored by 2017 East-West bowl attendee Drew Mairleitner.

Despite the offensive firepower at their employ, Laurier’s defence should not be forgotten.

In particular, head coach Michael Faulds focused on the defensive line when he said: “On defense we've historically been led by our [defensive] line. We've always put outstanding pressure on opposing teams' quarterbacks… and whether it be Robbie Smith, Trevaughan James, Alfred Green, Sam Acheampong, the list goes on… and we're excited to see the sort of pass rush we can get this year.”

This elite level of defensive-line play helped Laurier to a +16.6 points differential per game in 2017, and while the defence did surrender the most passing yards per game, Laurier doled out equal punishment, placing second in the OUA with 27 quarterback sacks.

However, in their first regular season game it was Will Amoah from the defensive backfield who led the unit with 3.5 tackles on the day, in addition to a pass he intercepted in the third quarter.

Although my questions to coach Faulds centred around the defensive linemen, it should be remembered that the rest of Laurier’s defence is stocked with playmakers as well.

On Aug. 26, 2018, the Golden Hawks hosted the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees for the first regular-season game of their schedule.

After an immediate three-and-out to start the game Laurier’s first drive propelled them to a 7-0 lead from which they never looked back.

Midway through the fourth quarter Ottawa managed to pull within nine points of Laurier, but a late stand by the Golden Hawk defence handed Laurier’s offence the ball in the shadow of their opponents’ goalposts, and they wasted no time putting the game out of reach.

The Hawks were led by running back Levondre Gordon and Kurleigh Gittens jr. on offence. Gordon rushed for 109 yards along with two touchdowns and Gittens Jr. contributed with 188 all-purpose yards

With a final score of 39-21 Laurier wins its home opener, and they now look ahead to next week’s game (Sunday, Sept. 2) where the Golden Hawks will travel to Kingston to take on the 1-0 Queen’s Gaels, fresh off of their 42-21 win over York.

The Gaels promise a tough matchup with their well-rounded roster, but this week illustrated that the Golden Hawks are up to the task.

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Golden Hawks start their season strong with 39-21 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees https://thecord.ca/golden-hawks-start-their-season-strong-with-39-21-win-over-the-ottawa-gee-gees/ https://thecord.ca/golden-hawks-start-their-season-strong-with-39-21-win-over-the-ottawa-gee-gees/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 00:05:13 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=50783

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

Football season has officially made its return to Wilfrid Laurier University and in a big way. The Golden Hawks wasted absolutely no time, showing no rust in a blowout 39-21 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

After forcing a quick three and out, Laurier got to work with a flurry of strong runs capped off by an 8-yard Levondre Gordon touchdown run. The Hawks would go on to finish the first with a 16-3 lead.

After the quick start, Ottawa pulled a little closer hoping to close the quarter only down 9 points and receive the ball after half. Kurleigh Gittens Jr., last year’s OUA MVP flushed that hope down the drain with a 44 yard punt return that would set up a 21-yard touchdown run by Gordon on the next play to close the half out. 

The Golden Hawks would hold off on any attempts Ottawa could make at a momentum shift as the defence, with some new faces in starting positions showed up, such as Will Amoah who had a big interception in the third quarter.

“I thought the [defence] performed really well. Obviously it starts up front with the defensive line but I was also impressed with our secondary. Ottawa has some really talented receivers and a lot of speed so I thought our defensive backs and linebackers did a good job of covering that,” said Coach Faulds.

The offence behind Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (8 receptions, 129 yards) and Levondre Gordon (14 carries, 109 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Tristan Arndt who performed well, in addition to a defence that looked ready, look primed and hungry for another run at the Yates Cup.

“We’re a well-oiled machine but its still week one. It’s about steps, I tell the guys and I use the analogy that we’re at the base of the mountain. Ultimately, the Vanier cup is putting your flag on the top. So week by week we gotta climb it a bit.”

Next up will be Queen’s as the Hawks look to improve to 2-0 to start the season.

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Onyeka, Guzylak-Messam and Henry get selected at the CFL Draft https://thecord.ca/onyeka-guzylak-messam-and-henry-get-selected-at-the-cfl-draft/ https://thecord.ca/onyeka-guzylak-messam-and-henry-get-selected-at-the-cfl-draft/#respond Wed, 30 May 2018 11:00:03 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=50182

In this year’s Canadian Football League (CFL) draft, three Laurier Golden Hawks were selected: Godfrey Onyeka, Isaiah Guzylak-Messam and Rashari Henry.

Having one player from Laurier drafted is an achievement, having three drafted is outstanding.

This is the second year in a row where three players have been drafted from the Hawk team.

The Hawks once again made it to the Yates Cup final this past year and although they weren’t able to repeat as OUA champions, having three players drafted into the CFL is a testament to the amazing season they had.

Onyeka was the highest Golden Hawk selected as the Edmonton Eskimos took him tenth overall in the second round.

This doesn’t come as a surprise as Onyeka was arguably the best player on an excellent Hawks defence this past year.

Onyeka was recognized as an OUA First Team All-Star and he was expected to get selected towards the top of the draft.

Isaiah Guzylak-Messam and Rashari Henry also had very impressive seasons with the Hawks and their outstanding performances were why they were selected in the fourth and sixth round respectively.

Henry discussed what makes the Hawks football program so successful.

“It just shows how well they develop players and what pros are looking for. I know they’re always preaching what’s expected at the next level,” Henry said, regarding this draft class.

“They’re kind of getting you ready for this moment and it’s definitely a great honour to continue the tradition, and show that all that hard work that coaches put in that’s as well paying off, and hopefully you can have the same success at the professional level,” he added.

“Ask around and get as much information as you can and prepare yourself as much as possible. Because it is a very big process and without proper preparation you’re kind of at a disadvantage, so I’d say prepare, prepare, prepare.”

Guzylak-Messam and Henry were both selected to the BC Lions. Although they play different positions, both play on the defensive side of the ball.

“But being out here with Isaiah has been really good, just having someone who I’m familiar with that I’m comfortable with that I can kind of go through the whole process together and learn from each other, give each other pointers and just kind of progress together,” Henry said.

Having Guzylak-Messam and Henry on the same defence was a huge advantage for the Hawks this year because of their combined abilities to constantly come up with big plays.

They will now look to continue their camaraderie at the professional level.

Familiarity with each other will serve them well as they adjust into their new roles on the BC Lions defence.

The draft is over now and, with it, all the uncertainty that accompanies it.

All that is left now for those who were selected is to work hard to contribute as much as possible to the club that gave them their first shot at the professional game.

“Now it’s just about progressing every day. I think once you get here, you kind of have to adjust from university to professional. And that’s not only the physicality of it — it’s the mental aspect, so they demand a lot more of you and mistakes aren’t very tolerable, so you got to be on top of your game mentally and physically,” Henry said, on his post draft mindset.

Henry will be looking to contribute to the BC Lions Football Club and to do this he aims to bring physicality and intelligence to the table.

“I’d say I definitely bring physicality and just my mental aspect I think I am a smart player. I can take criticism and direction very well … I give it my all every time. So that's the type of player I think I am and what I bring to BC Lions,” Henry said.

Henry was always a problem for opposing offensive lines during his time with the Hawks due to his never say die attitude and that is a trait that cannot be taught.

Now that the draft process is over, Henry will benefit from his experience.

Now armed with hindsight, he is in a position to give some advice for future Golden Hawk draft hopefuls.

“I would say you definitely want to have everything laid out in front of you; whether it’s who you’re going to train with, where you’re going to eat or what teams are looking for. Sometimes you switch positions once you get to professional level, so it’s good to ask around … especially people that are in the league already,” Henry said.

“Ask around and get as much information as you can and prepare yourself as much as possible. Because it is a very big process and without proper preparation you’re kind of at a disadvantage, so I’d say prepare, prepare, prepare.”

The Cord reached out to Godfrey Onyeka and Isaiah Guzylak-Messam but did not receive a response at the time of publishing.

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The Hawks are ready to fly at the CFL Combine https://thecord.ca/the-hawks-are-ready-to-fly-at-the-cfl-combine/ https://thecord.ca/the-hawks-are-ready-to-fly-at-the-cfl-combine/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 11:00:31 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=49012

Photo by Luke Sarazin

On March 24 and 25, the nation’s top football prospects will gather in Winnipeg to compete in the CFL combine.

The combine functions as the most in-depth job interview imaginable, where players’ heights, weights, arm lengths, speed, strength and every other point of measurement are scrupulously examined by CFL coaches and scouts.

Then, with athletic testing completed, prospects will engage in a series of drills known only as ‘one-on-ones.’ One defensive player will face-off against one offensive player, and the two of them will compete under the eyes of dozens of CFL personnel. A lonely prospect no doubt, but also one that hundreds of U-Sport players across the nation are vying for.

However, it should be noted that getting invited to the CFL combine is an accomplishment in and of itself. Ron Kinga, a fourth-year defensive back and communications studies student at Laurier, competed in the Ontario regional combine on March 9, with the hopes of earning an invitation to Winnipeg later this month.

When interviewing Ron, he spoke about the intensity of his workouts leading up to the Ontario regional combine.

“I never leave [ESP in Brantford] without being drenched in sweat,” he said.

“[Our trainer] over trains us to the point past exhaustion where, when it comes down to performing, we’re never going to be as exhausted [as we are in training] when it comes down to the competition. It gets you pushing your limits in a way that you couldn’t push them yourself.”

When speaking with Rashari Henry, a fourth-year defensive lineman and economics student, he expressed many of the same sentiments as Ron in terms of work-ethic in the gym.

“Your why, the reason you do what you do, it has to come from within. If it’s external, then as soon as you hit a wall you won’t be able to keep going because your ‘why’ is too superficial.”

But football is not played in the gym, and much of the focus for prospects resides in their ability to both critique their own flaws, and then improve them.

When asked on which areas he most seeks to improve, Rashari answered without pause.

“I’ve been watching my [game] tape, just to see what has worked in the past and what hasn’t, trying to figure out what moves to use against a certain body type or a certain type of blocker,” he said.

“[I’m trying] to incorporate more moves and using my hands more, but for the most part I play to my strengths which are my power and my speed.”

Both Rashari and Ron have the physical ability to compete at the next level, as well as the technical proficiency. But, however desirable the physical and technical are, they can be entirely undone without adequate mental fortitude. Fortunately, this is where both Ron and Rashari excel. When asked about the mental preparation they have done in getting ready for their respective combines, both Ron and Rashari provided answers worth listening to.

“Visualizing myself [doing] the actual drills is what I’ve done, which I find helps a lot. [Just] doing the combine in your head, that way, once you get there, you’ve already done it so many times it’s not as big of a deal,” Henry said.

When asked the same question, Ron dove right to the heart of the matter.

“Your why, the reason you do what you do, it has to come from within. If it’s external, then as soon as you hit a wall you won’t be able to keep going because your ‘why’ is too superficial.”

Unfortunately, Ron was not invited to participate in the CFL combine, but his words ring no less true. With Godfrey Onyeka, Isaiah Guzylak-Messam and Rashari Henry set to attend the CFL combine, the purple and gold is well represented.

And these three players can look back on all of the early mornings, all of the late nights, all of the suffering they have done for their sport and know that there is only one test left between them and the professional stage. One more workout at the end of so many others.

March 24 is steadily approaching, and from the sounds of things, the Golden Hawks are ready.

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Godfrey Onyeka is highest ranked U-Sports prospect in latest CFL rankings https://thecord.ca/godfrey-onyeka-is-highest-ranked-u-sports-prospect-in-latest-cfl-rankings/ https://thecord.ca/godfrey-onyeka-is-highest-ranked-u-sports-prospect-in-latest-cfl-rankings/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 12:00:46 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=47347

Photo by Tanzeel Sayani

 

From Mar. 22-25 the best CIS prospects in the nation will converge in Winnipeg to take part in the annual CFL evaluation camp.

This evaluation camp (E-Camp) is designed to put players through a rigorous battery of physical tests and football-related drills where scouts and coaches representing all nine CFL teams will be in attendance, scrutinizing prospects’ every move. This year, there might not be a more intriguing prospect than Wilfrid Laurier’s own Godfrey Onyeka.

Standing 6’2” and weighing 200 lbs., Godfrey is already a physical specimen at the cornerback position, but to him this isn’t quite good enough; the first thing he cited when interviewed were ways in which he is trying to improve.

“I’m working on getting faster. That’s my biggest flaw,” Onyeka said.

“A lot of the time when I have to go against a guy like Kurleigh [Gittens Jr.] – Kurleigh’s obviously faster than me – so to play against Kurleigh I have to overcompensate and not be as patient as I could be playing against another receiver who isn’t as explosive.”

“There’s a big aspect of patience that comes into football and being fast enough to have the confidence in yourself to just sit there and wait for things to develop is a big part of it.”

“Flaw” may be an overstatement by the exceedingly humble Onyeka, because if his four-year career at Laurier demonstrated anything, it was that he is a dominant force and a player who helped anchor Laurier’s defensive unit.

Consequently, the next few months will be busy for Onyeka as he finishes up his final year at Laurier, competes at E-Camp and in May takes part in the CFL draft.

Godfrey Onyeka was named a First Team all Canadian in 2015, 2016 and 2017, joining Donnie Ruiz (1998, 1999, 2000), Stefan Ptaszek (1992, 1993, 1994) and Alex Troop (1983, 1984, 1985) as only the fourth Golden Hawk in team history to achieve three all Canadian nods during his university career.

When congratulated on this historic feat Onyeka was quick to divert the praise to his coaches.

“This isn’t me trying to sound modest, I was a decent contributor, but the scheme we have, anyone could step in and do it. Our scheme is so fundamentally sound that the only way you beat us is if we mess up. So it’s a really well-devised and well-coached scheme. Our coaches know what they’re doing.”

Onyeka continued on to detail more ways in which he feels his game can be improved.

“I have moments where I do really good things [on the football field] and I’m focused, then I have moments where I have lapses in my concentration and judgement … my footwork isn’t always the best, flexibility and obviously improving on the mental aspect of football,” he said.

“I’m working on quite a few things.”

Onyeka’s tenacity and dedication to self-improvement are traits that no successful player can be without. Furthermore, his amalgamation of these characteristics with a CFL-ready body and exceptional football resume make it obvious as to why coaches are so excited at the prospect of having him join their team.

When asked about which team he would most like to be drafted by Godfrey had this to say: “Honestly I don’t have a first choice. I’ll be getting paid to play football, something I would do for free, so it’s a dream come true for me.”

Currently ranked as the sixth-best prospect – the highest ranking of any prospect who played university football in Canada – it is too early to predict which team Onyeka will land with.

But one thing is certain, whichever team that drafts Onyeka will be lucky to have him. His combination of mental and physical attributes makes him a rare prospect and one that is sure to find a contributing role on a CFL roster.

Consequently, the next few months will be busy for Onyeka as he finishes up his final year at Laurier, competes at E-Camp and in May takes part in the CFL draft.

Regardless, there is no reason to think that he won’t soon be harassing CFL offenses the same way he did CIS offenses during his four years of wearing the purple and gold.

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