Comeback falls short as Hawks lose 41-36

Laurier vs. Guelph (Heather Davidson)
Photo by Heather Davidson

It was a tale of two halves for the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s football team Saturday afternoon.

Taking on the Guelph Gryphons, the Hawks could host a playoff game with a victory in their hands. With a loss, they needed help from the rest of the Ontario University Athletics conference.

But a shaky first half that resulted in a 36-4 deficit after two quarters was too much to overcome, as Laurier dropped their final game of the regular season 41-36.

As a result, Laurier will head to London next Saturday afternoon to take on the Western Mustangs.

“It really was a tale of two halves. Offence, defensively and special teams we got out played severely in the first half, but I’m proud of how our guys rallied,” head coach Michael Faulds said. “We only went into the locker room at half for about three minutes and I told them we have to get out there, we have to stretch it out and we’ve got to be ready to play in the second half.”

The Hawks came out stale in the first half, only managing to put up one field goal from kicker Ronnie Pfeffer from 18 yards out and a rouge off a missed field goal.

Gryphons backup quarterback James Roberts got his first career start and put his team in solid positioning after the first two quarters, while Guelph’s special teams made Laurier pay for their mistakes, as third-year punt returner Ryan Nieuwesteeg would return a punt 81 yards for the major.

However, the second half was a different story. Laurier receiver Anthony Pizzuti scored his first of two touchdowns early in the third before Dillon Campbell scored his first of two with 12 seconds left in the third quarter to bring Laurier within two scores.

“Honestly, we just got focused second half. Coach had a really intense talk with us at half in the locker room, especially to the defence, we let up a lot of plays that we should be prepared for,” said defensive back Chris Ackie, who finished the game with seven tackles.

But the final attempt for Laurier to come back came up short, as Guelph’s kicker Daniel Ferraro would add a 42-yard field goal and two rouge points, while Laurier quarterback James Fracas wouldn’t be able to muster any offence on the final drive of the game.

Fracas would finish 19-for-36 for 234 yards and two touchdowns, while also throwing two interceptions. His counterpart, Roberts, went 11-for-24 yards for 196 yards and touchdowns, while throwing one interception.

Campbell eclipsed 200 yards for the third game this season, finishing with 203 and two touchdowns, while also surpassing 1,400 yards on the season in eight games.

Guelph kicker Ferraro would break the all-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport single-season field goal record on his third field goal of the day, finishing the regular season with 26 field goals.

Laurier and Western will collide next Saturday only three weeks after a brutal meeting where the Mustangs defeated the Hawks 61-20. Western will likely be without starting quarterback Will Finch, who left Saturday’s game on a stretcher after taking a knee to the head. Kickoff time is to be determined.

“We know what expect, we know how [the Mustangs] play and they know how we play. We’re going to go down there, look at the film, do our job and hopefully get the job done,” Campbell said.

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