Golden Hawks will battle for the Yates Cup for the first time since 2006

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Last Saturday, in University Stadium, the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks hosted the McMaster Marauders on a beautiful afternoon in the Yates Cup semi-finals match up. This was the first time since 2009 that the Hawks hosted a playoff game. The winner was to advance to the Yates Cup and the loser would pack up and go home.

Hastings made a great pass on his first possession for a first down and the Marauders looked to make a charge downfield.

It didn’t last long, as the next pass was picked off by Laurier’s Ron Kinga and the Hawks were back to the offence.

On the next drive the Hawks took a few penalties and couldn’t get anything going. They were once again forced to punt, which put the ball back in Hastings’ hands.

This didn’t last long, however, as on his second play of the drive, Hastings thres another interception. This time into the hands of Laurier defensive back Isaiah Guzylak-Messam.

On the first play of the next drive, the Golden Hawks gave running back, Eric Guiltinan the ball and he made a nice run up the field, but was unable to get back up.

In an eerily familiar sight, a Golden Hawks’ star running back was injured in an OUA semi final game. The outcome didn’t appear to be good for Guiltinan, as he was unable to put any weight onto his leg and was subsequently carried off of the field.

The Hawks attempted a 28-yard kick to get the game’s first points. Thanks to Nathan Mesher, the Golden Hawks advanced with a 3-0 lead, with seven and a half minutes left to play in the quarter.

With three minutes left in the quarter, McMaster was pressing forward and Asher Hastings made a 30-yard completion down field and suddenly they were on the Laurier 15 yard line.

The Marauders wasted their first down going offside and the penalty was declined for the Hawks. On the second down, Hastings was sacked by Laurier all-star, Kwaku Boateng.

The Marauders were able to convert on their field goal and tied the game up at three a piece with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter.

On the next drive, Laurier quarterback Michael Knevel made a great pass to Kurleigh Gittens Jr. He was able to break free and take it all the way to the house for a 63-yard touchdown.

The first quarter finished with the Golden Hawks leading 10-3 after one.

Gordon made a great run to pick up a first down as he hurdled a defender to pick up some extra yards.

The Golden Hawks got into some more penalty trouble and were forced to punt.

On the ensuing punt, the ball bounced right off the chest of a McMaster player and right into the hands of Laurier’s Brandon Calver. The Hawks would take over on the Mac 19-yard line.

The Golden Hawks were forced to go for the field goal and converted to extend their lead to 10.

With Just over two minutes left in the half, the Marauders were putting the pressure on and marching down the field towards the Laurier end zone. The Golden Hawks defence, however, came up big, stopping the Marauders at the 24-yard line, forcing them to settle for a field goal.

The score was 13-6 in favour of the Golden Hawks with less than two to play in the half.

The Hawks wasted little time as Knevel had an impressive run down the field to put the ball on the 13-yard line. The Hawks were pressing late.

The second half kicked off and the Golden Hawks defence was looking to continue their roll.

With four minutes left in the second quarter and one yard to go, the Marauders went for their first third  and one of the game. It paid off, giving them a fresh set of downs with the ball on the nine-yard line.

The call worked out for the Marauders, as they were able to get their first touchdown of the game on a pass to end zone. Laurier’s lead was cut to 21-13 with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter.

With 11 minutes left in the quarter, the Marauders decided to go for a 50-yard field goal in hopes of cutting into the Laurier lead.

The kick was wide left and taken out of the end zone by Gittens Jr., who was hit hard at the end of the play.

The Golden Hawks were unable to escape the Maraduers defensive coverage and ended up punting the ball back to McMaster.

On the McMaster drive, the Marauders quarterback threw another pick, this time right into the arms of Calver.

Once again, the Mac defence came up big and the Golden Hawks were forced to punt once again with under seven minutes to go in the quarter. The Marauders were pressuring again, running the ball up the field and into scoring range.

Their efforts paid off as McMaster scored a touchdown and would go for a two-point conversion to try and tie up the game. The Hawks lead was down 21-19, with just over five to play in the game.

This one came down to the final seconds where the Golden Hawks defence managed to stop the Marauders on third and short. This allowed to Hawks to regain possession and run out the clock.

“What an unbelievable performance by our guys today,” head coach, Michael Faulds said.

“This game felt a lot like the Guelph game. How we had a lead at halftime and it felt it kind of almost come all the way back and against us, but obviously we made a great defensive stand We made enough first downs towards the end of the game to run the clock down.”

Knevel was also named the Porter player of the game and Faulds was very happy with how he handled the pressure of his first ever OUA playoffs start.

“Knevel was unreal today,” Faulds said.

“Even at the end there, we were like ‘Michael, you’re going to have to throw it’ and he threw it. He was calm back there and using his legs. He hadn’t used his legs a ton this year and we knew they hadn’t seen it on film, so he was able to turn that into a couple of huge runs today.”

Knevel was quick to differ the attention from himself and praised the fans and families that have supported the team throughout the season and this game.

“We’ve got to give back to the fans, the friends the families, the supporters and everyone that came to watch us. Laurier is a great place and that’s why a lot of us chose to come to Laurier because of that family feel that we have here at Laurier is just so tremendous,” Knevel said.

“Having everyone here to watch us play and win this tight game, it means the world to us.”

The Golden Hawks are headed to the Yates cup for the first time since 2006 and will face off against a familiar opponent: the Western Mustangs, the only team that the Golden Hawks lost to this season.

“[Western has] been a premier team in this conference for a long time. That’s the one team we’ve never beaten. Obviously we respect them a ton and we’re going to have to play a perfect football game, but our guys are up for that challenge,” Faulds said.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. next Saturday at TD Stadium in London.

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