Laurier Golden Hawks win their first Yates Cup championship since 2005
Story by Rob Fifield, Photos by Will Huang
On a beautiful fall afternoon at TD Waterhouse stadium, the Western Mustangs were set to host the Laurier Golden Hawks in the 109th Yates Cup.
The Laurier Golden Hawks defeated the the McMaster Marauders in their semi-final matchup to advance to the Yates Cup, while the Mustangs handily defeated the Carleton Ravens to stamp their ticket to finals.
The Laurier Golden Hawks have had an impressive and historic season lead by head coach ,Michael Faulds, who recently received the Dave ‘Tuffy’ Knight Award as OUA coach of the year.
When Faulds first took over as head coach of the purple and gold in 2013, the football program was at a low, finishing the regular season 1-7 in his first year.
Since then, the team and its players have only gotten better going 4-4 in the last two seasons and then this year, finishing the regular season an impressive 7-1.
Not only has Faulds contributed to this transformation of the purple and gold, but many of the Golden Hawks’ key players including Kwaku Boateng, Nakas Onyeka and Brandon Calver were also present for the team’s ups and downs.
The team grew up together, with Faulds leading the ship to the Yates Cup.
The national anthem was sung by the crowd and the fans from both teams were loud, anxiously awaiting kickoff. The energy was undeniable.
The Golden Hawks kicked it off with a great return by Mackenzie Ferguson and the Hawks were already backed up to their own 30-yard line.
Less than three minutes in, the Mustangs would take the game’s first points as Alex Taylor ran it into the end zone.
Just like that, the game was 7-0 for the Mustangs.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Mustangs attempted an onside kick and were able to pull it off according to plan. The Mustangs had the ball back inside the Laurier 40.
The Mustangs would go for the field goal on the drive, as they extended their lead to 10-0. You could already see some doubt in the faces of the Laurier faithful.
The Hawks had the ball back and Michael Knevel was able to make some solid completions downfield and the Hawks settled for a field goal, cutting the Western lead to 7.
On the next drive, The Mustangs would attempt a fake field goal, but were given a penalty because the holder’s knee was down and the Hawks got the ball back.
On the next Laurier drive, the Golden Hawks attempted a fake punt, but this was sniffed out by the Western defence and they forced a Laurier turnover on third down.
This would wrap up the first quarter with the Hawks trailing 10-3.
To start the second quarter, the Mustangs led a charge downfield and coverted a field goal to extend their lead and bring it back to 10.
On the next drive, Laurier was forced to punt, but the Mustangs fumbled the ball and the Golden Hawks were able to recover in the Western end.
The Hawks were unable to score a touchdown but managed to pick up three points on a field goal.
The Mustangs lead 13-6 with under seven to play left in the half.
On the next drive, Western’s Chris Merchant threw a pick six to Godfrey Onyeka and the Hawks took on the Western 42.
Laurier wasted no time, as Levondre Gordon ran it all the way to the house on the next play and Laurier tied it up at 13 a piece. Things were looking up.
The Hawks had the ball back and with a few big plays, including an impressive run by Osayi Iginuan. The Hawks were inside the Western 10-yard line searching for more points.
The Hawks were able to convert on their field goal and for the first time in the game, had the lead.
On the Mustangs’ next drive, they were charging downfield with George Johnson making back-to-back grabs to move the chains.
The Western drive would come to an abrupt end as they fumbled the ball and the Golden Hawks were able to recover it.
The Hawks were able to add another field goal before the half ended and the teams would break with Laurier leading the Western Mustangs 19-13.
The Mustangs started the second half with a bang, scoring a touchdown just over two minutes in and Western had taken a 20-19 lead.
Western got the ball back and Merchant escaped danger on a few occasions, making some high pressure completions before Taylor was able to run it in for the score.
Western missed the extra point and was back up by seven, halfway through the third quarter.
On the Mustangs next drive they were able to get the ball moving down the field again.
Merchant made a run for the end zone and was hit hard, forcing him to temporarily leave the game and backup Stevenson Bone was subbed in.
This didn’t stop the Mustangs offence, as they were able to score a touchdown, courtesy of Alex Taylor, again.
The Mustangs didn’t stop there, as they quickly scored another touchdown, thanks to a nice catch and run by Harry McMaster.
The Golden Hawks played strong as they charged down the field and made some key third down completions.
The drive finished up with Laurier’s Michael Knevel airing one out to Brentyn Hall in the end zone for the touchdown.
The Golden Hawks stopped the Mustangs and got the ball back, looking to try to come back.
The Hawks had a huge drive, making the best use of their third downs and Knevel was able to find Carson Ouellette in the end zone to cut the Western lead to seven, with less than three minutes to play.
Tensions were high. The crowd was on edge.
Western was trying their best to slow down the clock and hold onto their lead, but the Laurier defence was making things very difficult for the Mustangs’ offence. The pressure forced a Western fumble by Taylor and the Golden Hawks recovered the ball on Western’s three-yard line.
Knevel found Kurleigh Gittens Jr. in the end zone and the Golden Hawks had come back to tie the game after being down by 21 points.
On Western’s next possession, they failed to get a first down and the ball was back in the hands of the Laurier offence. A charge downfield led by Gordon left the Hawks in search of a field goal to take the lead with less than a minute on the clock.
The Hawks were able to get some first downs and were standing on the Western 14-yard line before they killed the clock down to 0.9 seconds in the game.
Laurier kicker, Nathan Mesher, took the field with all eyes on him. Mesher’s 25-yard field goal caused the Laurier bench to erupt.
The Laurier Golden Hawks were the 109th Yates Cup Champions. This was the first time the Hawks had defeated Western in ten years.
The celebration got even bigger as the fans who travelled from Waterloo jumped over the railings at TD Stadium and joined in on the celebrations on-field.
Michael Faulds was extremely pleased with the comeback but was already looking forward to the task at hand.“Obviously, this is the one team we’ve never beaten, so it feels absolutely phenomenal … I’m the type of guy that I’m already moving on to Laval, so I want to prep for them tonight.”
Michael Knevel was at a loss for words. “It’s totally surreal. It’s crazy,” he said.
Michael Knevel was also named the Dalt White trophy winner and the Porter Airlines player of the game.
Kwaku Boateng was quick to praise the play of his quarterback.
“We always knew Knevel could do this, since we saw him in first-year, we all knew he had the skill set and once he figured out the systems and the playbook he would lead us to a Yates cup.”
“When we were down by 21 points it hurt a lot, but we knew we could just slowly chip away and we knew our defence had to stop their offense and that’s exactly how it played out,” Boateng concluded.
With the win, the Golden Hawks will now travel to Quebec City to take on the Laval Rouge et Or on November 19 in the Uteck Bowl. national semi-finals, with a trip to the Vanier cup on the line.