Hawks return to form, fall short
They stared in the mirror for a week-long session of soul-searching.
Then they stared greatness in the face and didn’t flinch.
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ shushed their harshest critics by playing their most
masterful game of the season against their most hated, but most respected opponent,
the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) No. 2 Western Mustangs (4-0) on Saturday.
Punt returner and fifth-year Dillon Heap led an inspired and altogether different Laurier
football team against the powerhouse Mustangs, but even with their newfound strength
and cohesiveness, the Golden Hawks (1-3) fell for the sixth time in a row against the
Mustangs, 34-28 in front of 2, 688 at University Stadium.
Heap racked up 102 yards off the punt return including a game-opening 63-yard punt
return touchdown just short of nine minutes into the contest to put the Hawks up 7-0.
The Mustangs’ nationally-acclaimed offence led by quarterback Donnie Marshall and
running-backs Nathan Riva and Tyler Varga met a stone cold Laurier defence.
Varga cashed in for three touchdowns, but all were within six-yards or under on the run-
ins, and the first-year Western phenom from Kitchener was held to 88 yards in rushing.
Varga had racked up 368 net yards in rushing in Western’s previous three games,
averaging just over 122 yards per game.
Defensive tackle Mitchell Bosch was instrumental in halting one of the best offences in
the country with 7.5 tackles, stopping Varga on the goal line numerous times and even
engulfing Marshall in a scramble play.
Linebacker Samuel Aird lent a hand with eight tackles in what was the Laurier defence’s
finest effort of the year and looked more reminiscent of the not-so-far-off glory days of
Laurier’s defensive dynasty led by defensive co-ordinator Ron VanMoerkerke.
But while the defence was stellar, it was the unorganized offence that hurt the Hawks
against their arch-nemeses.
Shane Kelly threw 27 completed passes out of 48 attempts for 325 yards but was
caught red-handed for four interceptions with Western’s Sean Blake converting on a 25-
yard run touchdown.
Kelly’s counterpart Marshall completed 19 of 32 passes for 195 yards.
But the most lethal facet of Laurier’s arsenal was the punt returners.
Heap completed 346 all-purpose yards, playing the role of Kelly’s favourite receiver as
recently-injured Shamawd Chambers played a minor role in his first game back from a
one-game absence due to a lower-body injury.
Felix Odum provided the theatrics for the crowd, which included almost as many
Mustangs supporters as Hawks’ faithful. Odum’s quick feet, spinning evasions and
creative rushes led to 67 yards in seven punt returns and 55 yards rushing off kick
Eventually, the Mustangs stopped kicking the ball to the dynamic duo and preferred to
boot the pigskin out of bounds near the end of the game.
Backup punter Rashad La Touche, usually a running-back, looked uncomfortable filling
in for starting kicker Ronnie Pfeffer. La Touche made a couple decent punts but finished
the game with 318 yards on 12 punts.
Cambridge native and rookie defensive back Chris Ackie had a solid first outing as a
starter, finishing with three tackles at key points in the games.
The Hawks face the Ottawa Gee-Gees during their homecoming weekend next
Saturday at 1 p.m.