Coming up short in the quarters

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Photo by Will Huang

The immediate focus of the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s football team is now on the future.

They saw their season come to an end on Saturday in London in their first playoff game against the Western Mustangs. It was a frustrating game for the club as they fell 25-10 despite a stingy defence which held the Mustangs out of the end zone for 58 out of the 60 minutes of the contest.

The momentum belonged solely in the hands of the Hawks in the early stages of the game. Star Mustang quarterback Will Finch was sidelined with a concussion and his replacement, Stevenson Bone, started the game.

Bone was the starter for the 61-20 win against Laurier earlier in the season. In that game, Hawks’ quarterback threw a pick on the first play of the game.

On Saturday, Bone dropped back for his very first pass on the day, and was met with the same fate by way of an interception by Laurier safety, Ben Millar.

For head coach Michael Faulds, that play was a surge he thought his team could really use.

“It was a great momentum boost,” he said. “It was good to jump off the bat with a big interception, and then we capped that drive off with a Dillon touchdown.”

“That was a great start and then we ended up getting a field goal to go up 10-0 but we just could not do enough in the second half offensively.”

Offence was truly the struggle for Laurier Saturday. Faulds touched on his team’s inability to put up points following the first quarter, allowing the Mustangs to claw back into the game and eventually take the lead.

“It was definitely a struggle. We had a couple of good runs from Dillon [Campbell] but the passing game was a struggle. I told James [Fracas], I’m super proud of him. He played the last three games with a broken thumb. Not to use that as an excuse, but you could see that it affected him,” he said.

That description is an accurate microcosm of the entire season for Laurier. The offence — which did have its moments — relied heavily on the running game this year. More specifically, they relied on Campbell to combat their insufficient air attack.

The team finished the year with an average of 467.6 yards a game. This is up from 380.6 yards last year. However, this year they ranked tenth in passing yards with just 201 per game, down from 243 last season — a season where they won just a single game.

Their running game improved by 194 per cent this season, carrying the offensive load with 267 yards. Campbell alone had 46 per cent of the team’s total offence.

Collectively this may not be ideal, but it did create efficiency for the Hawks in some situations this season. Their ability to run helped them significantly in the red zone. They finished first in the province in red zone efficiency, going 25 for 26.

The defence on the other hand, was Laurier’s calling card in their lone playoff game, coming away with a total of five sacks, of which defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng had three. He said he believes this game was a building block for a young team.

“I think it just comes down to our great coaching staff, and just the motivation and how much we want it. With a young group, we are all tight knit, and eventually we will become that elite team like you see with Western,” he said.

Faulds, who only assumed the role of head coach last season, put things in perspective for the club, who saw a massive improvement this year. According to him, this is just one step in a long growth process.

“You can see the progression and the steps that we have taken. Obviously you are never satisfied until you are the team holding up that Vanier cup at the end,” he said. “But, I’m proud of how our guys have battled and gone from the bottom of the pack to more of the middle of the pack.”

Faulds has preached determination and effort from the day he arrived in Waterloo.

It is something that Boateng says has resonated in the locker room and in the gym.

“You go to lift at six in the morning and you might think that, ‘I don’t have to go because coach won’t be there.’ But no — coach is there watching you and writing everything down. It forces you to be a lot more disciplined,” he said.

The team embodied their coach’s spirit though their hard preparation throughout the season, and Faulds is showing has no plans to let up.

“It’s the end of the road for our seniors, but for everyone else it just continues. There really is no end to the season for us. We’ll have workouts, we’ll continue to practice,” he said. “This thing just never ends. It’s a 12 month of the year job.”

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