Football Hawks down to the wire after Homecoming heartbreak

Anthony Pizzuti makes a catch in the endzone that was ruled out of bounds during Saturday's 26-25 loss. (Photo by Rosalie Eid)
Anthony Pizzuti makes a catch in the endzone that was ruled out of bounds during Saturday’s 26-25 loss. (Photo by Rosalie Eid)

Two games sit in front of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ football team.

Two games against the tough Queen’s Gaels during their first Homecoming since 2008 and defending Yates Cup champions, the McMaster Marauders.

And they’re heading into it all with a 1-5 record.

But is that stopping head coach Michael Faulds and his players?

“Our expectations are that we’re going to win this football game. We’re going to practice really hard and like we’re going to win this football game. We’re going to prepare like we’re going to win this football game. You can’t ask for anything else from a football team.”

After a devastating Homecoming loss against the Windsor Lancers by one point in overtime, the Hawks have moved their focus onto the next two games. Particularly, the game against Queen’s.

“That’ll be a good opportunity for us,” Faulds said. “We know they’re going to be out in full force and our guys are excited also for our first road trip.”

“I think it will be kind of fun for our guys, we’ve played most of our games within the tri-cities,” he continued. “We get a chance to get on a road, leave Friday, get in a hotel, get away from here and just go play some football.”

After starting the season with inconsistencies, Laurier has managed to figure out particular components of their program. Offensively, second-year quarterback James Fracas has used his scrambling abilities to complete passes to his receivers, while using the impressive running game of Dillon Campbell, who for four games straight has eclipsed over 100 yards in rushing — an issue that Laurier had throughout the entire year in 2012.

But there still are issues. Penalties have hurt the Hawks in nearly every game this season. A faulty snap to third-year kicker Ronnie Pfeffer on third down gave Windsor fantastic field position on Laurier’s five-yard line on Saturday.

And despite how much Laurier’s offence delivers, they cannot hold onto those leads, giving up the advantage in three games this season.

Faulds believes that with every week, those issues are solved with a dedicated roster — something he didn’t see with his former team, the York Lions.

“[Morale is] the one thing that hasn’t been a problem. Our guys are confident because they played so well and because they got better,” he said. “It was a lot different with me in my coaching past when we had a team with a similar record, but the games weren’t as close. So it was tough to get them really motivated for practice.

“But with this group, they’re continuing to get better every week and they’re believing in to what we’re doing and what we’re preaching, which is a good sign.”

With only two games left in an eight-game season, it’s hard not to look at the potential of playoffs for teams in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference.

And at this point, playoffs seem like a long-shot, as Laurier will need to win their next two games and have help from a few other teams in the OUA in order to even contend.

In fact, it could be the first time since 2002 that Laurier won’t be in the playoffs. That year, they finished with a record of 1-7.

But it doesn’t mean that Laurier won’t want to play spoiler.

“We’re going to go out swinging, we’re going to go out fighting,” Faulds said. “And if we’re not going to get ourselves into the playoffs, we’re going to ruin some other team’s chance to get into the playoffs.”

Currently, Laurier sits ninth in the conference, ahead of only the Waterloo Warriors and the Carleton Ravens. With the middle of the OUA still undetermined, there’s plenty of time for upsets.

“[Spoiler would] be a good opportunity for us,” Faulds laughed. “We know they’re going to be out in full force and our guys are excited, also, for our first road trip.”

With two weeks left, anything can happen in the OUA. Aside from the Western Mustangs, everyone has at least one loss, with the reigning Yates Cup champions, the Marauders, currently sitting only two points ahead of the Hawks.

But despite the thoughts of no playoffs for the first time in over ten years, Faulds is still staying positive.

“I’ve got a really strong heart and I’m not going to allow them to bow down. We’re going to be a tough football team … and we’re going to continue to be a tough football team.”

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