Golden Hawks fall to Gee Gees on Homecoming

The Ottawa Gee Gees combined with torrential rains to spoil Laurier’s homecoming celebration on Saturday afternoon. The Gee Gees downed the Golden Hawks 27-25, while a thunderstorm chased the majority of the boisterous homecoming crowd from the bleachers as lightning caused the game to be delayed at half time.

“It was very disappointing,” said manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “[The Hawks] played their hearts out right to the last second, but you’ve got to give [Ottawa] credit, they made a lot of plays.”

The teams were deadlocked at 14 at halftime, but the Hawks’ offence stalled through the majority of the second half and the Gee Gees pulled away, going up 27-16 by the midway point of the fourth quarter.

A 25-yard field goal from veteran kicker Chris Mamo made the score 27-19 and after the Hawks’ defence shut down the Gee Gees twice, the Hawks offence got the ball, needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game, with 1:48 left.

“We kept fighting right to the end,” said safety Courtney Stephen of the defence’s resilience.

“I’m proud of everyone on our defence.”

The stagnant Hawks’ offence finally sprung to life as quarterback Evan Pawliuk marched them down the field, looking nothing like a quarterback who was making just his second career start. The drive culminated with running back Mike Montoya – who was playing through a shoulder injury – scoring on a one-yard touchdown run with five seconds remaining in the game.

“It was tough to get the momentum going,” said Pawliuk. “But it shows the true character of the team when the game comes down to it, [you can] march down and score.”

This put the Hawks just a two-point conversion away from sending the game to overtime. After a pass interference penalty on the first attempt gave them the ball on the one-yard line, Pawliuk attempted to run into the end zone and was met at the goal line by a number of Gee Gees defenders.

While the few Laurier fans that stuck it out through the rain were certain that Pawliuk crossed the plane, the referee signalled otherwise, leaving the Hawks on the short end of the 27-25 final.

“I really thought I was in,” said Pawliuk. “But the refs are going to make calls like that; that’s life and you’ve just got to deal with it.”

In the end, the Hawks simply had no answer for Gee Gees quarterback Brad Sinopoli. The third-year not only passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns, but added 94 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

“[Sinopoli] was terrific today,” said Jeffries. “He throws a good balland he made a lot of plays with his feet, he’s a great athlete.”

Almost lost in the heart-breaking loss was another spectacular performance from the Hawks’ receivers.

Foremost among the group was Waterloo native Dillon Heap. The third-year gained 274 all-purpose yards in this game, bringing his season total to 1310, putting him in first place in the country.

“We’ve definitely got a lot of talent and we really push each other in practice,” said Heap of the Hawks’ receivers.

“In the beginning of the season we weren’t making many plays, but now we’re getting opportunities and making plays.”

The Hawks’ loss coupled with McMaster’s shocking Saturday afternoon defeat of formerly undefeated Western creates a mess at the top of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings.

Laurier, Guelph, McMaster and Ottawa are all tied for third place at 3-2, just two points behind second place Western and four points back of undefeated Queen’s.

“There’s lots of football left,” said Jeffries. “I think we grew today and we’ll come back. We know that we can play with anybody in this league.”

The Hawks, who are currently outside the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) top 10 for the first time since week five of last season, look to rebound this Saturday when they take on the 2-3 Windsor Lancers at University Stadium.