Football back on track
Surrounded by inquisitive and prodding journalists, Dillon Heap suppressed a smirk.
The starting punt-returner for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks knew what those intrepid minds wanted out of him but damned if this was the day they were going to get it.
“I’d just like to win — make it to the playoffs, make it to the Yates Cup, make it to Vanier,” said the fifth-year after helping his Hawks (2-3) beat the Ottawa Gee-Gees 51-16 on Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd of 9,262.
But that’s not what the reporters wanted to hear.
They wanted to hear Heap talk about his Ontario University Athletics’ record-shattering performance for all-time punt-returning yards, amassing 1,946 with the purple and gold jersey on.
Heap gained 74 to eclipse the old mark of 1,886 held by Windsor’s Dan Hollerhead from 1971 – 1975.
“I put the team first, field position first, and if it comes it comes,” said Heap when devising how he plans to take down the Canadian Interuniversity Sport record of 2,517 held by Ottawa’s Chris Evraire.
The Waterloo native has been the one constant pleasantry under an initially tumultuous season by the football squad.
But they’re back on track.
“It was another block,” said coach Gary Jeffries. “We started to build this thing back together last week [versus Western in a 34-28 hard-fought loss]. We just keep elevating.”
”Sometimes you’re going to have a slow start,” said star receiver Shamawd Chambers who had a monstrous receiving game with eight catches for 201 yards, third-best in school history for single-game receiving.
“But our offence is very explosive … Shane Kelly is probably the best quarterback I’ve ever played with, he’s unbelievable,” said the projected second-ranked 2012 CFL draft pick, Chambers.
“We needed to do a little better with our execution and we proved it on the field,” said Heap. “We scored 51 points.”
It was just a feel-good day all around.
The boisterous homecoming crowd far eclipsed any previous attendance numbers this season, and provided the Hawks with energy, support and enthusiasm, which they made terrific use of.
Using a real hawk and a marching band to kick off the game, gold confetti and a smoke machine to greet the players as they entered the stadium and large ruby red fireworks to celebrate the opening kickoff and Laurier touchdowns, the game was as much sport as it was spectacle.
Lost in the festivities was the satisfying sensation of beating the Ottawa team (3-2) that booted Laurier out of the OUA playoffs in the semi-finals.
Ottawa lost many key players to graduation last year, including current CFL Calgary quarterback Brad Sinopoli.
Kelly finished the game completing 20 of 34 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns and continues to lead the nation in total yards and touchdowns (16) in five games.
The team travels to the University of Waterloo on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The short week is not welcome news to injured kicker Ronnie Pfeffer, receiver Russ Jirgens and defensive back Benjamin Millar.
All will be game-time decisions for the final game before Thanksgiving.