Hawks fall short in OUA semi-final
The Western Mustangs continued to be a source of heartbreak for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ men’s football team on Saturday. For the second consecutive year, the Hawks saw their season end in a game dominated by the Mustangs, as the hated team from London won 26-16 in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semi-final.
“Of course we’re disappointed, but the kids played their hearts out and that’s all you can ever ask,” said manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “Whenever you get this far, you obviously want to keep going, and we really thought we could make it to that next game. But we know we have a good football team and we just came up short today.”
In some ways, this game was eerily similar to the semi-final game that ended the Hawks’ season last year.
Western running back Nathan Riva ran all over Laurier’s defence, rushing for 279 yards and two touchdowns. The Hawks’ offence was ineffective and couldn’t find any consistency all game; once again the purple and gold found themselves scrambling to come back late in the game.
“He gave us a lot of trouble,” said Jeffries of Riva. “He made plays, he kept drives going and had a couple of big runs, so all the credit to him.”
As was the case when the Hawks lost to the Mustangs in week two of this year, the Laurier defence did a relatively good job against the Western offence, but was on the field for too long to stay consistent.
The Hawks held Mustangs’ star quarterback Michael Faulds without a passing touchdown and only allowed him to complete 48 per cent of his passes.
“We had answers all game long,” said linebacker Courtney Stephen, who had eight tackles and a sack in the game. “[Riva] had a few big runs, but if you check the tape, we had answers for [Western’s offence]. Everyone out here gave everything they had today, so we have no regrets. I’m proud of all 45 guys wearing purple and gold.”
Hawks’ fullback Peter Quinney (28) is tackled by Western defenders Aaron Handsor (6) and Conor Elliott (24). The Mustangs’ defence smothered the Hawks, only allowing 252 total yards of offence, compared to the 547 gained by Western’s offence.
On offence, the Hawks struggled from the start of the game. Throughout the first half, quarterback Evan Pawliuk was unable to get into a rhythm with any of his receivers and the running game was unsuccessful.
The Hawks’ offence didn’t show any signs of life until the final seconds of the first half when veteran receiver Josh Bishop made a spectacular touchdown catch to put the purple and gold ahead 9-6 going into halftime.
“I thought that was a big confidence boost for us,” said Jeffries. “I really thought we would carry that over into the second half.”
But the Hawks couldn’t maintain that momentum. The Mustangs scored on their first possession of the third quarter and Laurier’s offence returned to its stagnant ways, unable to respond. Pawliuk continued to look shaky in his first career playoff game, completing just 13 of his 32 passes.
“We just couldn’t get it going today,” said fifth-year fullback Peter Quinney. “Our offence couldn’t take advantage of some opportunities and we really put a strain on our defence. It’s always tough when the season comes to an end like this.”
Quinney is one of seven Hawks who played their last game in the purple and gold on Saturday. The other being offensive linemen Adam Bestard, Wayne Brock and Adam Dietrich; kicker Chris Mamo; linebacker Luke Bendus and defensive back Jordan Van Horn.
“It’s always good to go on to new things, but I’m always going to look back fondly on my time here,” said Quinney. “Hopefully this won’t be the last game of football I ever play, but if it is, I’m certainly very proud of my career at Laurier. I wouldn’t want to have fought this battle with any other group of guys.”
The Hawks saw many ups and downs in their 2009 season, losing their starting quarterback in week three as well as multiple members of the receiving corps and key players on defence. With that in mind, the team showed great resilience to be able to come within one game of the Yates Cup.
“We certainly had a turbulent season,” said Quinney. “It was very up and down and we had to fight through a lot. We grew a lot as a team and we’re really proud of everything we accomplished. Obviously this wasn’t the finish that we wanted, but we’re happy with the road we took to get here.”
While the Hawks turn their sights to next season, the Mustangs now head to Kingston where they will play the Queen’s Gaels in the Yates Cup.
10 Hawks named OUA all-stars
Dillon Heap (WR and KR)
28 catches, 592 yds, 2 TD
1971 total yds (1st in CIS)
Steve Cormack (DT)
18.5 tck, 4 sacks, 4 break-ups
Paul Hancock (DE)
24.5 tck, 1 sack
Giancarlo Rapanaro (LB)
37.5 tck, 4.5 sacks, 3 int
Jordan Van Horn (HB)
20.5 tck, 8 break-ups
Taurean Allen (CB)
16.5 tck, 1 int, 2 break-ups
Courtney Stephen (FS)
44.5 tck, 2 sacks, 2 int, 5 break-ups
Adam Bestard (G)
8 games started
Mike Montoya (RB)
131 att, 847 yds (1st in OUA), 6 TD
Carlos Naranjo (Special Teams)
9.5 tck, 9 unassisted