Hawks fall in shootout

As a football fan, you couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly-scripted contest between the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the Windsor Lancers on Saturday.

But as a Hawks fan, the bitter after-taste of the 41-40 loss may have just soured the experience of a football game for the ages.

Under the lights on a gorgeous home opening night for Laurier, the Hawks (1-1) were ready to claim their second win in as many games during the young season.

And early on, they looked primed to do so.

A 30-yard pass from quarterback Shane Kelly to receiver Dillon Heap just over five minutes into the game had the Hawks rolling.

The purple and gold looked like they had picked up exactly where they left off a week ago against a lesser York University team, scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter after a slow start.

Running-back Anton Bennett even boosted that lead to 16-0 when he completed a nine yard pass from Kelly and showed the Hawks brass that they may have just found their consistent tailback. Bennett rushed for 132 yards, finding chinks in the Lancers’ (2-0) defensive armour that weren’t present against York.

But the Lancers hung around.

Starting quarterback Sam Malian completed two of five passes before falling awkwardly off a Mitchell Bosch tackle. Malian broke his arm, was taken off on a stretcher and whisked away in an ambulance.

For the Lancers, it was a sight seen far too often. Malian has been injured numerous times, never completing a full season with Windsor.

But if ever there was a silver lining in anything, it was there in Malian’s fall.

Backup quarterback Austin Kennedy came in to relieve Malian and subsequently tore apart the Hawks’ normally stalwart defence.

Kennedy, whose claim to fame is his scrambling and running game, tore through the Hawks’ defensive line and found open Lancers in the end zone all night.

“We thought we’d see them both,” said Laurier head coach, Gary Jeffries. “The kid [Kennedy]’s a special athlete and the plays he made at the end of the game were outstanding … Certainly that dimension [mobile feet] makes it tougher on defence.”

Kennedy rocked the Hawks, completing 25 of 37 passes for 443 yards, rushing for 112 yards and completing five touchdowns.

Kelly went 21 of 33 for 242 yards and three touchdowns, finding Heap, Mark Surya and Bennett.

The Hawks never trailed in the game.

But it was the final second and the final play that decided this one.

Lancers’ punter Dan Cerino lined up at the Hawks’ 20-yard line and booted the football towards the end zone.

Famed punt-returner Heap caught it and kicked it back out, but Cerino fielded it and blasted yet another counter-punt into the Laurier end zone for the single point.

The Lancers’ had just shocked the Hawks.

“It was a hell of a football game … They had the ball last,” said Jeffries.

“We didn’t get what we came here to get,” said the Hawks’ game star Felix Odum, who scored a touchdown off a 92-yard kickoff return.

“We’ve got a bunch of great returners. It just happened to be me today,” said Odum.

Odum and his Hawks will now travel to Kingston to take on the Queen’s Gaels on Saturday before returning to Waterloo to host Western on Saturday, Sept. 24.

With the loss, the Hawks lost their national ranking, falling from no. 8 to being erased from the top ten.