Golden Hawks drop “Battle of Waterloo,” finish regular season 3-3, with home playoff matchup set against Guelph
On the strength of 25 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, the Waterloo Warriors were able to defeat Laurier for the second time this season and clinch their spot in the OUA West playoffs.
The eighth-ranked Golden Hawks saw their two-game win streak snapped at Warrior’s field, while Waterloo ended their three-game slide and earned a pivotal victory – 36-8 – to keep their season and Yates Cup aspirations alive. Despite the loss, Laurier was able to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and will now prepare for a home playoff game against the Guelph Gryphons this Saturday.
The second matchup between the two cross-city rivals was eerily similar to the first battle in week two, as the Golden Hawks struggled to score points and had far too many self-inflicted mistakes. After 395 total yards in the first meeting, dynamic Warriors quarterback, Tre Ford showcased his talent through the air on the ground accounting for nearly 400 yards once again.
While it took longer than they would have liked, the Warriors offense kicked it into gear as the game went on and had 497 total yards, while outrushing Laurier 212-69 on the day – similar totals to their offensive output in week two.
Laurier was within three points at the start of the final quarter as both teams struggled offensively through the rainy conditions, trading punts throughout much of the first three quarters.
The defensive battle, turned into a Warrior onslaught early in the fourth quarter, as Ford and the Warriors capitalized on some big passing plays and a Laurier turnover scoring 21 points in a span of a minute and 30 seconds to blow the game wide open.
The Warriors opened the scoring midway through the first quarter after recovering a Kevin Wong fumble, one of Laurier’s four turnovers on the day. Waterloo kicker Cole Crossett made a chip-shot 16-yard field goal to give the Warriors a three-point lead.
Laurier answered on the ensuing drive, scoring their first and only touchdown of the game, as a 75-yard drive was capped off with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Connor Carusello to Kavantye Bailey. Bailey led the Golden Hawks on the day with seven catches for 104 yards. Over half of his yards (60) came on that 75-yard drive, by far Laurier’s best possession of the game, as the offense couldn’t score the rest of the way.
The Warriors were able to regain the lead right before halftime as they found the endzone for the first time, thanks to a two-yard touchdown run by Nicklas Sua. The drive featured several big passing plays from Ford, finding Gordon Lam on two 30+ yard completions to extend the Waterloo drive.
The Warriors headed into the halftime break, leading 11-7.
As the rain picked up, the defenses continued to dominate, holding both offenses off the scoreboard in the third quarter. Laurier was able to add one point from a punt to close in on the Waterloo lead and make it a three-point contest.
… And then the Warriors and their superstar quarterback took over. On their first drive in the fourth, Waterloo orchestrated an eight-play, 100-yard drive, capped off by a 27-yard touchdown pass from Ford to his veteran receiver, Rushon Dagelman.
On the resulting kickoff, Laurier’s veteran receiver, Ente Eguavoen fumbled the return, and the Warriors were able to recover on the six-yard line to start with an extremely short-field. Ford found Lam in the end-zone on the first play of that drive and the Warriors extended their lead to 25-8, scoring two touchdowns in a span of 11 seconds.
It didn’t end there as Laurier’s following offensive drive stalled and they quickly punted the ball back to the Warriors. On the first play of their drive, Waterloo hit on another big play and Ford connected on his third touchdown pass in just over a minute.
Dagelman ran behind the Laurier defense and scored a long 63-yard touchdown to put Waterloo up 32-8 and the game out of reach with just under 10 minutes to play. The Warriors’ third touchdown in under two minutes of play, spotlighting how fast a game can turn in the OUA, especially with a player like Ford on the field.
Crossett added another field goal, and the Golden Hawks offense was stopped at the goal-line as the game finished 36-8 for the Warriors in front of nearly 2,000 fans on their senior’s day.
Laurier’s offense struggled all game, punting a total of nine times and failing to produce with their rush game. The three Golden Hawk rushers, Wong, Tanner Nelmes and Quentin Scott combined for only 58 yards on 12 carries.
Through the air, Carusello had under 200 yards and threw two interceptions, while reigning USPORTS player of the week, Eguavoen was held to only 42 yards after his historic performance last weekend against Windsor.
The Golden Hawks defense played well throughout the game but didn’t record a takeaway for the first time all year.
Although a disappointing end to the regular season, the loss did not impact Laurier’s playoff positioning as they finished with the second seed in the wild OUA West division. Four teams, Guelph, McMaster, Laurier and Waterloo finished their season 3-3, while Western topped the division following their fourth-straight victory, a 66-point win against Windsor.
The OUA office had their hands full with tie-breaker procedures after Saturday as Guelph finished third and Waterloo finished fourth in the division. The defending Yate Cup Champion Marauders were eliminated due to the common opponent’s tiebreaker.
That sets the field for two playoff matchups this weekend as Laurier (3-3) will host Guelph (3-3) and the Warriors (3-3) will travel to London to face Western (5-1) in the other West quarter-final.
Laurier’s last playoff game was the 2017 Yates Cup against Western, a game that they lost 75-32. The seventh-ranked Gryphons have won two of their last three games and have won a playoff game in three consecutive seasons, making the Yates Cup in 2018 and winning the provincial championship in 2015.
The Golden Hawks and Gryphons last met over three years ago in 2018, a game Guelph won 27-24. Laurier has dropped their last two contests against Guelph, last beating them during their remarkable Yates Cup run in 2016.
Coach Faulds and his team will look to put this loss behind them and will shift their focus to the playoff matchup this weekend, hoping to win their first post-season game in four years. The OUA has not yet announced the start time for this weekend’s quarter finals. Stay tuned to the Cord for updates on the playoff schedules.