Defense and Special Teams lead Laurier to a dominant 37-6 win in first game back
After 700 days away from football competition, Coach Michael Faulds and the Laurier Golden Hawks didn’t miss a beat, putting together a dominant performance to defeat the York Lions 37-6 in the season opener.
“I told the guys after 700 days off, a 31-point win is nice. It feels really good to have this win against a well-coached football team,” Faulds said.
Playing a complete game on all three phases of the ball, the purple and gold extended their winning streak against York to six straight games and will start the shortened OUA season on a winning note.
With massive changes to their roster since their last game in 2019, Laurier relied on a few of the team’s veterans on offense and defense. Returning wide-receiver Ente Eguavoen had seven receptions for 121 yards, while returning starts on defense, Tommy Bringi, Will Amoah and Christian Hutter-Coppin each had an interception.
The first big play of the season came 10 minutes into the first quarter, when defensive back, Will Amoah picked off York quarterback, Noah Craney. The interception gave Laurier great field possession, and the offense was able to quickly find the endzone.
Golden Hawk quarterback, Connor Carusello connected quickly with Eguavoen before a five-yard touchdown pass to Ben McAlpine. The first touchdown of the season for Laurier and McAlpine’s first career touchdown in the OUA.
Less than three minutes later, a high snap by York, was recovered by Golden Hawk defensive lineman, John O’Reilly, and resulted in a Dawson Hodge field goal, the first make in his Laurier career.
Upon receiving the ball back, Laurier’s energetic defense forced a quick stop and the special team’s unit, led by a new coach, Marcello Simmons was able to block the first of two punts in the game. Hodge connected on another field goal as three Laurier takeaways on three consecutive York possessions, increased the Golden Hawk lead to 13 after the first quarter.
The Lions could not get anything going on offense in the first half as the turnovers continued to pile up and undoubtedly became the story of the game. After a safety and another blocked punt in the second quarter, Laurier quarterback, Taylor Elgersma slinged it to Kavantye Bailey in the left side of the end-zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass to extend the Laurier lead to 22-0 after the first half. All 22 points as a result of a defensive or special teams’ takeaway.
Elgersma stepped in at the start of the second quarter after Carusello left the game in the first and did not return in what Faulds called a shoulder injury. The OUA rookie and strong-arm quarterback, Elgersma was recruited by Faulds in the summer of 2020 and played extraordinary well in his first career game, especially given the circumstances.
“Obviously it’s tough when you lose your quarterback in the first quarter, I’m heartbroken for Connor Carusello,” Faulds said.
“Taylor stepped in, and he was ready to go. [Elgersma] is a sponge. He is very attentive in every meeting and his command of the huddle was great,” he continued.
The third was much of the same as the Golden Hawks blocked a York field goal, recorded another safety and had an interception. The offense took advantage of the short field, tacking on five more points and holding a commanding 27-0 lead at the end of the third.
The beginning of the fourth resulted in a lengthy delay after a scary moment saw York’s offensive lineman, Santino Pasquale taken off of the field on a stretcher and transported to Grand River Hospital. Coach Faulds and the rest of the Laurier staff wish Pasquale well as the rookie o-lineman receives care tonight in Waterloo.
While York did get a touchdown in the final frame, Laurier was able to close the game out with a 20-yard touchdown run by 2019 OUA All-Rookie, Tanner Nelmes who had 118 total rushing yards and the fourth field goal of the game by Dawson Hodge.
“We thought we were getting the best kicker in the country when we recruited him and he proved that today,” Coach Faulds said of his first-year kicker. Hodge hit all four of his field goals and had eight punts as he started his career off well, attempting to fill the big shoes of Nathan Mesher, Laurier’s all-time leading scorer who graduated in 2019.
Laurier’s defense was dominant, holding the Lion’s starting running back, Justin Fawcett to only 11 yards on the game. The two York quarterbacks could not generate anything against the Laurier defense, combining for only 19 completions on 44 attempts, while also throwing four interceptions.
York’s largest play on offense was a 17-yard reception, and as a unit, they were held to only 250 yards, compared to Laurier’s 434 offensive yards.
Laurier could not have asked for a better performance to start their sixtieth season. The veterans played well, several newcomers stepped up, and rookie quarterback, Elgersma came off the bench prepared for the moment.
“I missed a couple of throws, but overall, we got the win and that’s really all that matters,” Elgersma said.
“Coach Galloway’s offense is so much fun to play in. He understands the game better than anyone I’ve ever met, I love playing for him,” he continued.
After a dominant victory in their first game back, Coach Faulds and his team already have their sights set towards the battle of Waterloo next weekend. The two teams will meet for the first time since Laurier won an instant-classic game, 53-50 in triple overtime two years ago.
Faulds is unsure of his starting quarterback next week, as Carusello’s status is “week to week,” as of now. If Carusello can’t play, Elgersma will be ready for the opportunity in a game that he has “dreamed of playing in” since joining Laurier in 2020.
The homecoming matchup between the city rivals is set for kickoff at 1:00 PM next Saturday at University Stadium.