Hawks finally hit their stride; top Windsor 56-16

WINDSOR, Ont. – They may have taken possibly the strangest route imaginable to get there, but this Saturday the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team will be hosting a playoff game.

After a season which saw them lose to Western 46-1, open the year 0-2 and even forfeit a win, the Hawks’ 56-16 drubbing of the Windsor Lancers on Saturday afternoon guaranteed them fourth in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standing and a home playoff date with the Guelph Gryphons.

“We control our own destiny from here,” said Laurier quarterback Shane Kelly. “Nothing else matters. Earlier games don’t matter. We just have to keep winning, win or go home, it’s really simple and I know we’re ready.”

On Saturday, Kelly led a Hawks’ offence that broke out for 515 total yards, with the American pivot passing for 342. This marks the second consecutive strong performance for the Laurier offence as two weeks ago versus Queen’s Kelly passed for 253 yards and three touchdowns, while the offence racked up 44 points.

This is an encouraging sign for the purple and gold as the 100 points they’ve scored in the past two games is more than they’ve scored all season, excluding the 68-14 shellacking of the 0-8 York Lions.

“The last two weeks have been playoff games for us,” said manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “Our kids were focused, they knew what needed to be done and they came out and they did the job…. [the offence has] come miles and that’s what happens when you start to have success, your confidence builds.”

“As an offence, the best thing that you can possibly do is peak late,” added wide receiver Shamawd Chambers. “You don’t want to peak early, you don’t want to peak mid-season, you want to peak late, right before you go into the playoffs.”

On Saturday, Chambers along with fellow receiver Dillon Heap contributed to the point-scoring explosion on special teams as well as offence. Chambers returned a punt 101 yards for a touchdown – which earned him OUA special teams player of the week honours – while Heap scored on a 76-yard punt return.

“Dillon and I were talking about it all year that we wanted it to come to the point where they didn’t want to kick to either of us,” said Chambers. “I think we proved that today, that it’s not a good idea for any team to kick to us.”

For Heap, despite setting a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) record for punt return yardage last season, Saturday’s major was his first career special teams touchdown.

However, the 2009 All-Canadian has had three return touchdowns called back due to penalties.

“I was a little incredulous in the endzone looking around for flags,” said Heap. “But it’s a great weight off my shoulders.”

With the offence and special teams seemingly firing on all cylinders heading to the post-season, less pressure now falls on the Hawks’ defence, which despite some lopsided scores has been one of the best in Ontario all season.

The Hawks rank second only to the Western Mustangs in almost every defensive category, which is even more of an accomplishment considering the lack of help they received from their offence early in the year.

“They just compete like heck,” said Jeffries of his defence. “There’s a number of great athletes over there and if we sputter a bit [on offence] we can always count on them.”

With a regular season that was defined by distractions, complications and a failure to meet lofty pre-season expectations, according to Chambers, the Hawks only have one thing on their minds heading into Saturday’s game.

“Win,” he said. “That Guelph team is going come in and try and beat us. They’re going to try and get us off of our game, but we’re going to be ready for them, they’re coming back to our house and it’s going to be a great game.”

The last time the Hawks and Gryphons met was on Laurier’s Homecoming, where the purple and gold came away with a 36-2 win.

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