Give credit where credit is due
Saturday afternoon, I witnessed my 14th Wilfrid Laurier University football game as the sports editor of The Cord.
In less than two years, I’ve watched the team go through three shutouts in the same season, a three-game span without a touchdown, a 3-5 record — which somehow got them into the playoffs — a 34-0 blowout quarterfinal loss, a four-game span without an offensive touchdown, a head coach stepping down, the sixth head coach in Laurier history being hired, an extensive training camp for ten days straight, a 0-3 beginning to the 2013 season, quarterback dramas and more that I probably missed within my tenure.
Excuse me if I’m a little cynical.
But, nothing surprised me more than that 14th game against the Western Mustangs.
I sat in my regular spot in the press box at Knight-Newbrough field. I’m placed in the corner of the press box— a small editor like myself doesn’t need much room — and I organized myself accordingly.
Receiver Brian Marshall was a game-time decision for the Mustangs, and he was said to be playing. Laurier was starting James Fracas as quarterback again.
And the rain was coming down harder and harder as I got myself ready for what I predicted as a blowout in favour of the Mustangs.
I got comfortable and watched as Laurier and Western came out of the tunnel below me. There was a decent crowd considering the rain didn’t want to let up.
Western was to receive Laurier’s kick — I was hoping Laurier would receive so the beating wouldn’t start so quick.
But it wasn’t like that.
As the fireworks went off to begin the game, Western received the kick, but was stopped at about their 30-yard line. From there, Laurier’s defence pushed Western to a 2-and-out.
Laurier found the board first with a field goal. They were leading. But I’d been here before — it was the score Laurier had before they lost 56-3 to the same Mustangs a year ago. I wasn’t convinced.
But something was different in this Laurier team.
In the first three games of the season, they were nervous, inexperienced and full of mental errors. They took beatings like they were meant to.
Against the Mustangs, the first-place team in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference and the No. 2 nationally ranked team, the Hawks had something they hadn’t had in those first three games that they could have won. They had something I hadn’t seen in those 13 games beforehand.
They had passion.
They had passion for the name on their jersey and they had a reason for being on that field. They had confidence in themselves. The Hawks knew it was going to be tough — you don’t get out of a game like that unscathed. But when everyone thought Western was going to walk all over Laurier or easily get the win, the Hawks just came clawing back.
I have become entirely jaded watching such a losing team. I expected the worst and was not surprised when the unfortunate happened.
But Saturday impressed me.
I don’t expect playoffs this year. I don’t even expect another win. Laurier meets with Windsor, Queen’s and McMaster to finish the year. It’s a hard road.
But it doesn’t mean this team is entirely down and out. They have the passion and the confidence to do things that people — including this sports editor — won’t expect them to do. For that, I give them credit.
And for the first time in a while, when I walk into University Stadium and take my regular seat in the press box, I won’t be expecting the worst.