Hawks miss chance to secure playoffs, lose to McMaster 30-21
It was a bundle of missed opportunities as the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s football team lost a close battle with the No. 6 nationally-ranked McMaster Marauders 30-21 Saturday afternoon. The Hawks were unable to secure a playoff spot and will have to win against the Queen’s Gaels next Saturday in Kingston to make the postseason.
“Today wasn’t a lack of focus,” head coach Michael Faulds said after the game. “I thought we’ve had great focus, that’s a good football team we just played. I don’t think anyone is leaving here thinking we got beat down.”
The first quarter was a run-and-gun game, with both teams scoring 42 total points, 21 on each side. The Hawks came out firing as starting pivot Eric Morelli connected with first-year Kurleigh Gittens Jr. for a 37-yard pass and then two minutes afterwards, Ben Millar picked off McMaster star quarterback Asher Hastings for a 65-yard interception to take an early 14-0 lead.
McMaster would find their groove, however, scoring two touchdowns on subsequent drives to tie the game up with four minutes remaining.
The Marauders would take the lead late in the first quarter on a touchdown from receiver Andrew Sinclair before Laurier tied it up with 54 seconds remaining when Gittens Jr. returned a 101-yard kickoff to end the quarter.
The game would turn into a defensive battle as both Laurier and McMaster would work their respective offences. Over the next two quarters, the Hawks would concede a safety to give the Marauders a 23-21 advantage going into the final quarter.
Kwaku Boateng sacked Hastings twice for seven yards while rookie Matt Williams would lead the Hawks with 12 tackles.
However the Hawks missed out on prime opportunities. Fifth-year running back Dillon Campbell broke out twice with a 40-yard rush and a 33-yard rush respectively before Laurier was halted and could not convert.
Morelli fumbled which was recovered by McMaster on the 18-yard line and second-year Nathan Mesher 39-yard field goal was incomplete.
Morelli ended the day 17-for-30 with 198 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception while Hastings went 31-for-43 for 365 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The two interceptions matched his total interceptions the last six games.
Despite the loss, Morelli was optimistic about keeping up with the Marauders in the tilt.
“Obviously there’s some critical plays in the game that we’d like to have back on offence especially, me personally. But at the same time we have to be proud of how we battled today with one of the best teams in the country. There’s a reason why they are number six in the country, but at the same time we showed that we can compete with any team in this league,” he said.
Laurier will have one more opportunity to secure a playoff spot when they face off against the Queen’s Gaels in Kingston in the season finale. Kickoff is at 1 p.m., at Richardson Stadium.