Coming off the rails
KINGSTON, Ont. — The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are making a lot of teams look good.
Their past two opponents, Queen’s and Windsor (two middling Ontario University Athletics squads), who should have no business toppling the Hawks have received two football player of the week honours.
First, it was Austin Kennedy, the scrambling quarterback speedster from Windsor who destroyed the Hawks by racking up 25 passes for 443 yards and rushing for 112.
Kennedy was dubbed OUA footballer of the week, then Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player of the week.
Next came Giovanni Aprile, the Queen’s wide receiver who compiled 177 yards receiving and 191 more on special teams on Saturday. Aprile scored four touchdowns.
Now with a 1-2 record after playing three teams, who the purple and gold felt they could have vanquished at the start of the season, the Hawks find themselves face-to-face with their arch-rival, top OUA team in the league and number-two CIS ranked, Western Mustangs.
The Hawks haven’t beaten the Mustangs since 2006. If ever there was a time for a 180-degree turnaround, now would seem as good a time as any.
The Hawks’ litmus test comes Saturday at 1 p.m. when the powerhouse Mustangs roar into town. If the Golden Hawks play the way they have the past two contests, with the defensive coverage almost non-existent at times, and the offence playing superbly only half the time they’re on the gridiron, the game will be a short one.
But there have been bright spots.
Rookies receiver Kelvin Muamba and defensive lineman Ese Mrabure-Ajufo have shined in their debuts.
Mrabure-Ajufo had five combined tackles on Saturday and Muamba has looked strong in catching the ball from quarterback Shane Kelly.
Kelly has also survived almost half the season without instance of injury and has not looked out of synch with his offence.
Tailback Anton Bennett has emerged as a rushing machine and punter Ronnie Pfeffer has done his job well.
Kick-off returner Dillon Heap is his same old self, racking up special-teams yards like he came out of the womb with a football in hand.
But the team knows a giant looms in the shadows.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said head coach Gary Jeffries. “Western’s coming in and we’ve just got to get back to work.”
“Everything’s in the past,” said Mrabure-Ajufo. “We’ve got to go to work.”
“We’ve got to take it back to the lab and continue to grow,” said cornerback Shane Herbert, who was part of one of the Hawks’ lone highlights on Saturday. Herbert intercepted a pass and ran for a 107 yard touchdown, Laurier’s third-longest in school history.
Jeffries can build on a positive second half of a Queen’s game which saw them score 28 of their 35 points in the loss.
“Excuses are for losers, but I’ll tell you what, a lot of kids are beat up like hell. A lot of kids weren’t playing and a lot of kids were playing hurt,” said the coach.
“We didn’t give a God-dang what the score was. We wanted to keep competing right to the onside kick. We were not going to quit and we accomplished that.”
The tough part of the schedule starts now.
The team plays Western this weekend, Ottawa during homecoming next week, and the sixth-ranked McMaster Marauders on Oct. 15.