Football team looks to correct mistakes
Fate has given the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks one more chance.
Despite losing five of their eight regular season games, being shut out twice in the same season for the first time in history and being out-scored by the opposition 229-109, the Hawks managed to sneak into the playoffs as the sixth and final seed.
With help from last week’s rival, the Western Mustangs, Laurier was able to barely scrape into the final spot after the Mustangs defeated the Ottawa Gee-Gees on a last-second field goal.
A Gee-Gees win plus an unexpected Waterloo Warriors win— a 48-29 victory over the fifth-place Windsor Lancers— would have knocked the Hawks out of playoff contention.
And now, with the third-place Queen’s Gaels waiting patiently for their sixth-place opponent to arrive Saturday afternoon, Laurier focuses on the common errors that have haunted them all season.
“We just, somehow, need to find a way to move the football and generate some offence. If we don’t do that, it’s just too hard. For heaven’s sakes,” head coach Gary Jeffries said Saturday afternoon after the No. 1 McMaster Marauders defeated the Hawks 43-0.
The Hawks were unable to generate any offence against Mac, with only 10 first downs and 121 total yards. Red-shirt freshman James Fracas had seven completions on 14 attempts for 94 yards after coming on in relief of Travis Eman.
“We definitely moved the ball; we just need to remove a lot of the mistakes that we have as a team and I think moving from this game, we take a lot from it,” Fracas said.
Laurier’s only tangible opportunity for points came on a field goal attempt from second-year kicker Ronnie Pfeffer, who missed just wide to the left.
“I gotta keep my head down,” Pfeffer said of his attempt. “Last game I brought my head up before the kick and I made a mistake of that.”
Jeffries highlighted the constant mistakes of his team.
“We had a chance to make some plays and we didn’t. Then we’d make a big play then snap it over the quarterback’s head 20 yards. Or we’d make a big play and then get sacked. We can’t do that.”
However, regardless of their performance to end off the year, players on the Hawks’ squad did manage to make the record books. Fifth-year linebacker Drew Galpin cracked the Laurier top five all-time tackles and finished first among the OUA with 59 tackles.
Pfeffer finished fourth among Laurier’s all-time punting records with 72 for 2,499 yards, which also lands him fourth in the OUA.
In the first matchup between Laurier and Queen’s this season, the Hawks fell in their home opener 42-16 following a 19-0 defeat to the hands of the Toronto Varsity Blues.
“It’s a team that we were very competitive with for 28 minutes when they came down here,” Jeffries said of Queen’s. “In all likelihood there might be some bad conditions down there. We could have lots of muck and slop so it’s going to come down to what it usually does, and that’s mistakes.”
Pfeffer shared Jeffries’ sentiments, saying that the Hawks could stay with the Gaels if the mentality is right.
“All you gotta do is think the team is like any other team,” he said. “You can’t really think that they’re better or bigger or stronger than you are because when you do that you just get intimidated and that’s what’s going to make you make mistakes in the game.”
This week, the focus in practice was fixing the mistakes that have cost Laurier the majority of their games, including their devastating loss against Western a week ago where the Hawks saw their early lead erased by 56 unanswered points.
“We’ve got to drive together. And move the football down,” Jeffries said. “And if we ever score one, we might score two.”
Now, the focus is on keeping the motivation and effort in the players before they make the trek to Kingston on Saturday for a 1 p.m. quarterfinal start.
“Playoff season is a brand new season,” team captain and fourth-year Alex Anthony said. “Once you get into playoffs, it’s any given Saturday so you just come out on Saturday and play the best you can.”
Anthony also stressed that the characterization of a “young Laurier team” shouldn’t hinder their efforts in the upcoming game.
“We were young during training camp, but everyone’s been here now,” he said. “This is week nine. I think if we just come out and play hard and play fast we can take these guys for sure.”
Quarterback Steven Fantham will return to the lineup after being sidelined with concussion symptoms. It’s likely he will start, according to Jeffries.