Hawks get stomped by Mustangs in OUA final
The Hawks bid to repeat as Yates Cup champions failed this past Saturday, as the Hawks were outplayed by the Western Mustangs in the OUA final.
In what was a rematch of last year’s Yates Cup, the Hawks defense just couldn’t find an answer for the Mustangs’ run game. The contest finished with a final score of 75-32 for the Mustangs.
Western managed to score on their opening two drives, taking a 10-0 lead early in the game.
The Hawks responded quickly by pinning the Mustangs deep in their own half, which forced Western to take a safety.
On the next Laurier drive, they efficiently carried the ball down field and capped off the run with a passing touchdown from Michael Knevel to Brentyn Hall, cutting the deficit to one point.
The back and forth action didn’t stop there, though, as Western managed to score a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.
The noise from the crowd didn’t seem to affect Laurier, however; on their very next drive the Hawks pulled off their best play of the game on a 74-yard touchdown bomb from Knevel to Brendan McCracken.
That would make the score 17-16 at the end of an exciting first quarter.
The first 15 minutes of the game had everyone thinking that this game would be a shootout that would be decided on the final few plays. But the Mustangs had other ideas.
The Hawks gave up 37 consecutive points between the second and third quarters, making the score 54-16.
The offense seemed to hit a wall after the first quarter and the defense looked powerless against the Mustangs rushing attack.
In the end, the Hawks didn’t have enough gas in the tank to make the game competitive, as Western won by a final score of 75-32.
“We were optimistic early on,” head coach, Michael Faulds, said. “Obviously we knew going against Western [that] there was a good chance it would be a high scoring game.”
“We got 16 points fairly early and then we just kind of hit a lull in the second quarter. But huge credit to them; they’re the better football team. We had some shots, we made it interesting at times, we had some good plays, but in the end, we lost to a better football team.”
Even though the game was never really close after the first quarter, one bright spot for the Hawks was quarterback Michael Knevel’s performance.
Coming off an injury which kept him out for a month, Knevel showed no signs of rust. He finished with three touchdowns and an interception, completing 25 out of his 49 passes on the day for 432 yards.
“He was absolutely phenomenal. He threw to all of our outstanding receivers. So [for] Michael having not played in four weeks … to come back and have that performance was pretty remarkable,” Faulds said of Knevel’s performance.
For five Hawks, this was the last time they would represent the purple and gold, as they have completed all five of their eligible years with the team.
With the inevitable departure of these players on the horizon, emotions were understandably riding high for Laurier after the game.
“It’s sad every time your season ends because you reflect more not on the game you just lost, but more on the players you’re about to lose. That’s where it’s tough for everyone; it’s an emotional time,” Faulds said.
“Those guys put in a ton of hard work and now – all of a sudden – football is over. From the rest of the team’s standpoint, we’re back to practicing on Tuesday and you just kind of take that flag and march it back on forward.”
Although no one would have expected this game to be decided by such a huge margin, it’s important to realize that playing the best team in Ontario on home turf is no easy task.
The ground-and-pound style of this Western team was always going to be a tough matchup for the Hawks, who like to air it out.
It’s vital for the fans and the team to look at the positives from the season. This is still a young team with plenty of room to grow.
The roster will keep most of its core players on offense and defense. With the likes of Jalen Price, Brandon Calver and Edward Cadougan leaving the team, there are now spots open for some of the young, up-and-coming players on the team.
Laurier also gets some of the best recruits in Ontario year after year, and fortunately they get to develop under one of the best coaches in the game.
The Hawks weren’t the best team in the OUA this year, but with all the talent and depth on this squad, expect another Yates Cup run in 2018.