Golden Hawks defeat Varsity Blues 54-3

Photo by Paige Bush
Photo by Paige Bush

Halfway through the first quarter of Thursday’s football game, second-year receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. received a punt at the Wilfrid Laurier 18-yard line and ran 92-yards all the way down to the Toronto Varsity Blues for Laurier’s first touchdown.

That set the pace for the game, as the No. 7 nationally-ranked Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks routed the Varsity Blues 54-3 at Varsity Stadium last night, improving their overall record to 5-1.

“He’s dangerous, which he showed last week on special teams,” head coach Michael Faulds said on Gittens Jr. “He’s getting more comfortable in that realm, and he’s getting healthier. He was pretty banged up in the beginning of the year, but you can see his speed is right where he needs to be.”

That was only one of Gittens Jr’s three touchdowns. Two minutes later, he caught a 34-yard pass from Hawks starting pivot Michael Knevel to take a quick 14-0 lead with only five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Hawks shut down the Varsity Blues afterwards, with Toronto managing a field goal by Ryan Grandell from the Laurier 13-yard line. Laurier’s offence went back to work, as Gittens Jr. scored his third touchdown of the night, a 44-yard reception from Knevel to take a commanding 36-3 lead. Gittens Jr. finished the night with three touchdowns and 241 all-purpose yards.

“Coming into this game I felt healthy, I felt good,” Gittens Jr. said. “I hadn’t a few good weeks before, this week I just wanted to establish myself.”

The Hawks got their passing game going against Toronto, as Knevel threw for 274-yards, completing 13 of 19 attempts with three touchdowns and one interception. His counterpart, Marcus Hobbs, threw for 170-yards, completing 17 of 31 passes and three interceptions. Faulds said that it felt good to get the passing game going again against Toronto.

“Michael Knevel’s third start, I think we’ve seen progression in all three games that he’s gotten better and better throughout the year,” Faulds said. “He just spreads the ball around so well.”

The Hawks produced offence on all sides of the ball. On top of shutting down the Varsity Blues offence, second-year defensive back Malcolm Thompson intercepted the ball from Hobbs and ran 110-yards to the Toronto endzone, matching the longest return in team history, previously held by Rohan Dove and Scott McCahill.

The rest of the Laurier defence remained stout, with Nakas Onyeka leading the way with 5.5 tackles and a sack. Scott Hutter accounted for the rest of the interceptions against Hobbs, while Jalen Price recorded two of Laurier’s seven sacks. Faulds highlighted the defence and their strong play against Toronto.

“Yeah, they’re in a tough predicament. Their quarterback is forced to throw early because of the great play by our defensive line and when you do have time to throw it, you’re throwing it against great DBs and linebackers,” he said. “We’re able to cause sacks. We’re able to force turnovers with interceptions.”

And with the Guelph Gryphons coming to town next Friday, the Hawks will turn their attention to their next opponent. Faulds said that he told the guys to enjoy their Thanksgiving weekend, but recognize that the Gryphons are in a desperate situation, in a  similar position that the Hawks were last year when they were 1-4 and every game was a must-win game to reach the playoffs.

Kickoff is at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 14 at University Stadium.

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