Hawks rebound vs. Blues

After starting their season with a blow-out loss to the Western Mustangs and a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of the McMaster Marauders, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team could not have asked for a better opponent than the University of Toronto Varsity Blues for game three.

Coming into the game, the perennially bottom-feeding Blues hadn’t beaten the Hawks since 1996 and on Saturday night, the purple and gold continued that trend.

Playing in front of their home fans for the first time this season, the Hawks cruised to a 37-6 win, notching their first victory of the young season.

“Any time you start the season 0-2 and you get that first win, it’s really a monkey off your back,” said Laurier quarterback Shane Kelly. “Especially with the way we lost to Western and then the way we lost to McMaster, getting a win just gets everyone back on track and makes us realize that we’re a good football team again.”

Kelly was making his return to the lineup against the Blues after missing the McMaster game with an injury he sustained versus Western.

However, the injury wasn’t the only bad memory Kelly, a native of New Jersey and a former NCAA quarterback, took away from his first game north of the border. In that 46-1 drubbing, Kelly and the Hawks offence looked out of sync and overwhelmed as they struggled to just 157 total yards.

But against Toronto, the crowd at University Stadium was treated to an offensive display worthy of the pre-season hype the Hawks received. Kelly finished with 281 yards and a touchdown pass, but more importantly got the ball into the hands of his playmakers.

2008 provincial all-star Shamawd Chambers had eight catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. Last year’s All-Canadian Dillon Heap racked up seven catches for 77 yards. And second-year running back Anton Bennett rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns, atoning for his last-minute fumble against Mac.

“This is the team that we saw coming out of camp,” said head coach and manager of football operations Gary Jeffries. “This is the team I expected us to be and we’re just starting to build. We’re not nearly where we want to be now and we’re going to continue to get better.”

Defensively, the purple and gold smothered the Blues’ attack, limiting them to just 147 total yards.

Now with a win under their belts the Hawks will look to put their humbling start firmly in the rear-view mirror. They will now look to prove that they are capable of being the Yates Cup contender that so many believed them to be prior to the season.

“It’s better to peak late than early,” said Chambers. “Some teams are peaking now and I’d rather peak later in the season because that’s when it really matters… We’ve just got to continue to work.”

The Hawks now move into a bye week before taking on the York Lions – another perpetually basement dwelling team – at home on Sept. 25. Considering the grueling start the team has had Jeffries believes the bye came at the perfect time.

“The first thing we need is a rest,” he said. “It’s been a grind. 12 days of camp, three games in 11 days, in London, in Hamilton, and back here tonight, so we’re going to take some time but after that we’ll be right back to work, continuing to get better.”

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