Hawks prevail in battle of Waterloo
It seems, finally, that the dark days of the season are well behind the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.
And good riddance, says head coach Gary Jeffries.
“We just wanted to execute,” said the coach. “That’s the best running performance we’ve had this year by far and that bodes well for the future.”
Last Thursday’s 69-3 demolition of the neighbouring Waterloo Warriors (0-6) seemed to have been just what the doctor ordered for a team, which three weeks ago was ailing on all fronts.
Now, with two games remaining in the eight-game schedule, the Hawks (3-3) are looking more like the perennial contenders that the prognosticators had them pegged for at the start of the year.
Quarterback Shane Kelly leads the nation in yards gained with 1,902 and 20 touchdowns in six games.
Before his injury, Anton Bennett emerged as the team’s threat at tailback, rushing for 280 yards in five games.
Shamawd Chambers has 486 yards receiving on 27 catches and five touchdowns.
Mitchell Bosch, Sam Aird and Dan Bishop have led a rejuvenated defensive effort, which has limited its opponents to just 19 points in the Hawks’ past two games.
And Dillon Heap, the record-breaking focal-point all year, has evolved to become the heart of this team’s leadership, special teams,and offence.
Kelly’s offence has been firing on all cylinders after firing blanks for their school’s tumultuous three-game losing streak that had students and alumni in a frenzy.
But Jeffries never swayed from his message, the team will find itself, and it will find itself in time.
The Hawks find themselves in sixth-place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), and will try to take down the second-place McMaster Marauders (5-1) this Saturday.
But last week’s victory didn’t belong to those aforementioned veterans, although Chambers and runningback Rashad La Touche found the end zone twice.
Retiring after three quarters of labour, the first-stringers took to the benches and the second-stringers came out against a Waterloo team which had been completely shut down all game long.
And the new kids were alright.
First years Karsten Beney, Ashton Rochester and Tyrrel Wilson all scored their first university touchdowns within five minutes of each other to end the game.
“The guys tonight, that don’t have the chance to play that often, we all came out here and played great,” said the Oakville-raised Rochester. “It feels great, I mean from the time I got on the bus to when I got the word I would be dressing, it was exciting.”
“I saw the ball in the air, and I was just drooling,” said the hometown boy, Beney. “In my mind, I had to catch this one … When you get a touchdown yourself, it feels great but when you see a fellow rookie get one too, it’s unreal.”
The Hawks’ depth is becoming a factor in games down the stretch. Alex Anthony, the third-year receiver has returned to help shoulder the load between Chambers and fellow receivers Mark Surya and Russ Jirgens.
Kicker Ronnie Pfeffer has performed admirably in Nathan Hawkes’ absence from a leg sprain.
Backup quarterback Steven Fantham has found the end zone a couple times during the few occasions he’s seen the field.
And even Heap, the elusive punt-returner, has his own sidekick in Felix Odum, who has proven to be just as difficult to bring down as Heap on most days.
But a date with the Marauders looms, and McMaster is a more formidable opponent than Ottawa or Waterloo. The game starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’re certainly looking forward to it,” said Jeffries. “It’ll be a big game. We want to take another step forward.”