Golden Hawks clinch playoff berth with decisive 33-8 victory over Lancers on Senior’s Day
Another dominant defensive effort combined with a historic performance from veteran wide receiver, Ente Eguavoen led the Golden Hawks Football team to their second consecutive victory, and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
A minute away from a second consecutive shutout, Coach Michael Faulds and his Golden Hawks played a perfect game on all three phases, recording six takeaways on defense, and nearly 500 yards on offense. Laurier scored four touchdowns, three of them through the air to win their fourth straight game over the Windsor Lancers as Windsor dropped their second in a row, falling to 2-3 on the season.
“Obviously we’ve been gaining momentum, I’m pleased with where we are at,” Coach Faulds said after the game.
“We went into the bye week at 1-2, but we told ourselves we’re going to get healthier, and we are going to execute even better coming out of the bye,” he continued.
Laurier – the ninth-ranked team in the country – returned home to University Stadium this weekend and honoured 21 graduating seniors in what was their final home game of the regular season. While many of the seniors made an important contribution to the game, one stood out specifically, etching his name in the Golden Hawk record books in the process.
Fifth-year receiver, Ente Eguavoen had himself a day, recording 10 receptions for 222 yards and two touchdowns. The speedy wideout showcased his talent, making impressive catches all game and accounting for half of quarterback, Connor Carusello’s completions on the day and 73% of the team’s 304 receiving yards.
“I kind of singled out four of the seniors who’ve exhausted all five years of eligibility and Ente is one of them,” Coach Faulds said.
“#2 was special today… What can you say about Ente? He’s always had the blazing speed, but his hands were incredible.”
His 222-yard performance was the fourth-highest single-game total in OUA history and the second-most in a game in Laurier football history. Eguavoen’s performance surpassed Laurier’s all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns and current McMaster head coach, Stefan Ptaszek who had 217 yards in September of 1994.
“Oh wow, that’s crazy,” a stunned Eguavoen said after the game when Laurier communication coordinator Dan Polischuk informed him of the milestone. Make note that the 1994 performance by Ptaszek was five years before he was even born.
“This feels amazing, everything connected today. Coaches, players, everything was just in tune,” Eguavoen said.
The senior wideout was full of emotion, mentioning that his family was in the stands to watch his performance and that he cried before the game, knowing that it could very well be the last home game of his Golden Hawk career.
In a defensively dominated first quarter, Laurier was able to break through and open the scoring ten minutes into the game, with a chip shot 15-yard field goal by Dawson Hodge. The Golden Hawks capitalized after starting their drive on Windsor’s 32 yard-line following a poor 13-yard punt by Lancer’s punter Callin Bethune.
Two Windsor drives later, the Golden Hawks who lead the entire country in both fumble recoveries and interceptions, recorded their first of six takeaways on the day. Star linebacker, Tommy Bringi picked off quarterback, Carter Zinger for his third interception in just five games.
A 68-yard Lancers punt return – the longest in the OUA this season – by first-year speedster, Jalem Catlin opened the second quarter for Windsor who started their drive just outside the red zone. However, Laurier’s special teams was able to recover and hold Windsor to no points after first-year Golden Hawk, Reignings Awah blocked the short field goal try.
Laurier’s ensuing drive featured a spectacular 40-yard catch by Eguavoen through double coverage, although the momentum stalled due to a holding penalty. The offense finally reached the endzone midway through the second, as Carusello threw a perfect ball and connected with Eguavoen in stride for a 54-yard touchdown as Laurier took a 9-0 lead.
“Connor and I have three years together. I knew exactly how he was going to throw the ball and I knew that I was going to catch them,” Eguavoen said.
The following Golden Hawk possession led to another touchdown after Carusello found Ben McAlpine for a 15-yard score to extend the Laurier lead to 16-0. McAlpine recorded the second touchdown of his Laurier career and has two of Carusello’s three touchdown passes this season. The drive was kept alive after veteran running back, Kevin Wong, took a handoff from Taylor Elgersma and converted on a third and two with a 40-yard rush.
Windsor finally put a drive together, one of their best of the game as they drove down the field near the end of the first half, before Bringi forced a fumble and the Golden Hawks recorded their second takeaway. Laurier went into the locker room with a 16-0 lead, shutting out their opponent in the first-half for the third straight week.
The opportunistic Laurier defense took over in the second half with back-to-back interceptions to start the third quarter. Ayo Ajayi picked up his first interception of the year, while senior Christian Hutter-Coppin joined Bringi with his third interception this season.
Laurier then put the game away at the start of the fourth, with another long touchdown completion to Eguavoen, this time from the arm of Elgersma. The short-yardage package was successful again as Elgersma faked the handoff and executed on a perfect 48-yard throw to Eguavoen to put the Golden Hawks up 23-0 and the game out of reach.
Coach Faulds used the OUA rookie Elgersma in a few short-yardage situations throughout the game showcasing a package that wasn’t available earlier in the season due to Carusello’s injury.
“Taylor is our short-yardage quarterback. We thought that there might be an opportunity for a play-action… sure enough, we called it on a third and short and he made the most of it,” Coach Faulds said.
Laurier added ten more points in the final frame with running back, Quentin Scott recording his first career touchdown in the purple and gold, while Hodge made his 11th field goal of the season.
“I’m happy how the offense performed. The running game came alive,” Coach Faulds said after 185 yards on the ground and nearly eight yards per carry split between three of the team’s running backs.
In their lone bright spot, the Lancers were able to avoid the shutout with a Sam Girard touchdown pass to Justin Amoah with just over a minute remaining.
After four takeaways last week, Laurier recorded six more today – three interceptions and three fumble recoveries – bringing their total to 25 on the season. The team leads USPORTS with 13 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries in just five games this season, the next closest team – Queens – has 19.
With his outstanding performance, Eguavoen now leads the OUA in receiving yards (497), averaging nearly 100 yards per game and is third in receptions with 28. He is also top-five in the country in all-purpose yards, displaying the dynamic impact he has as a returner as well as a receiver.
The massive victory ensured the Golden Hawks a spot in the playoffs, ending their two-year post-season draught. While their spot is clinched, Laurier will play one more regular-season game against Waterloo next week, which will carry massive implications. The Warriors need a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive, while a Golden Hawk win will go a long way in their pursuit of a home playoff game and another chance for their seniors to play at University Stadium.
“I feel like our team has really just been climbing and the only place that we can go is up,” Eguavoen said after the game.
“Waterloo is going to see our tape and they’re going to realize that we are not the same team,” referring to the Warriors 36-12 victory over Laurier in week two.
At 3-2, Laurier is tied with Guelph (3-2) for second place in the OUA West, one game behind the 4-1 Western Mustangs who will finish their season against Windsor. Guelph will end their season against McMaster (2-3) who is also fighting for their playoff lives next week. With the top two teams in the division hosting the opening round playoff matchup, Laurier will look to finish their season 4-2 next week, which will guarantee them a home playoff game.
Given the wild nature of the OUA West this season, it remains possible that five teams will finish with a 3-3 record after next week, emphasizing the importance of Laurier’s victory today and their guaranteed playoff position.
Laurier will travel down the road to face a desperate Warriors team next Saturday in the second instalment of the “Battle of Waterloo.” With stakes high for both teams, Coach Faulds already has his eyes set towards the battle and what Waterloo might throw at them.
“We’re not satisfied, we still got to keep going,” Faulds said.
“They beat us here over a month ago, but we’re going to be a different team. It’s important that we are 3-2 right now but we know Waterloo is in desperation mode and we’re going to see everything from them. Trick plays, fakes, all of that and we’ll be ready for it,” he continued.
The Golden Hawks will look to continue their momentum and secure a home playoff game in their regular-season finale next Saturday against their cross-city rivals. Kickoff between the teams is set for 1PM EST at Warrior Field.