Hawks back in top 10 after three years

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By Will Huang

Michael Faulds will be returning to a very familiar field when the Wilfrid Laurier men’s football squad takes on the Western Mustangs this Thursday.

The former Western quarterback standout and current football head coach will return to the TD Waterhouse Stadium for the first time since taking over the helm of the Golden Hawks last season. He’ll do it with a squad that has cracked the Canadian Interuniversity Sport top 10 for the first time since 2011.

“I think I’ll have a little bit more excitement,” Faulds said Saturday after the Hawks defeated the York Lions 27-10.

“I’m an excitable guy, but I think going down there will be even more exciting for me and I’m excited to get our guys ready to go down there.”

The York victory was their fourth of the season, putting them in a four-way tie for second place in the Ontario University Athletics conference.

Among them sits the Windsor Lancers, the Guelph Gryphons and the Mustangs, who dropped a dramatic 32-29 decision to the undefeated McMaster Marauders.

“Our guys are ready,” Faulds said. “I told the guys, ‘You’re not always going to win pretty, sometimes you have to win ugly.’ It’s nice as a coach to know we can win several different ways.”

On Saturday afternoon, Laurier certainly had their ugliest win of the season and had their toughest game since the Lancers matchup in week two.

The Hawks were unable to generate substantial offence and quarterback James Fracas threw his first interception of the season.

A tight defence allowed Laurier to escape giving up their first touchdown since the game-winning touchdown against Windsor on Sept. 6, and a breakout fourth quarter put the game out of reach.

“The game was still up in the air at the start of the fourth and we put together a couple solid drives in the fourth, and defence played lights out.

We weren’t doing much for offence for those first three quarters, but the defence kept us in the game,” Faulds said.

In Saturday’s win, running back Dillon Campbell once again made his mark, as he became the fifth player in Laurier history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. He finished the day with 171 yards, totaling 1,021 yards on the season.

“It’s unbelievable when you think it’s only been five games,” Faulds said.

“What he’s doing — and I know he’s going to give all of the credit to the offensive line — but I’ll stand here and give him credit. He’s an unbelievable running back [and] he works extremely hard.”

Five games into the season, Campbell sits 544 yards ahead of the next closest running back in the OUA and an outstanding 368 yards ahead of the second-place leader in the country. But the fourth-year is looking farther than the milestone.

“Honestly, I’m just thinking forward to Western,” he said. “It’s great to get over 1,000, but to get this win, it [was] a tough win and we faced adversity, but we overcame it to take over the Lions.”

With a short week to prepare to take on the defending Yates Cup champions, Laurier will have to mend the mistakes made against the 0-6 Lions. They’ll also be looking to prove something after being one of the only teams that held Western to less than 50 points last season — dropping a 45-24 decision. Campbell also scored a 100-yard touchdown against the Mustangs’ defence.

“I’m excited. The four years I’ve been here, Western’s always been my favourite team to play, just because they always give us a real serious task every time. I like to get challenged, so it’s going to be a good battle,” said fourth-year defensive lineman Ese Mrabure-Ajufo, who finished Saturday’s game with 5.5 tackles and 2.5 sacks for 18 yards. “I’ve got my eye on [quarterback Will] Finch, their running back, their o-line, their receivers. Everyone.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday in London.

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