Hawks’ second-half woes continue
Ottawa, Ont. — 14-7. That was the half-time score of Saturday’s crucial football game between the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Despite struggling on offence in the opening 30 minutes, only racking up 79 total yards and six first-downs, the Hawks were trailing by seven, but had the conference-leading Gee-Gees well within their sights heading into the break.
Laurier’s defence held Gee-Gees’ Brad Sinopoli — who leads the country in passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions — to a completion percentage below 50%. They also sacked the fourth-year pivot twice and forced a fumble which led to the Hawks’ only major of the half, a one-yard Isaac Dell run.
“In the first half, I’ve never been a part of a better defensive football game,” said defensive back Patrick McGarry. “I thought we did a great job… but sometimes things go a little sour and you’ve just got to bounce back.”
As has been the case so many times this season, once the teams came out for the second half, the wheels seemed to fall off for the Hawks. After passing for just 31 yards, Evan Pawliuk was replaced at quarterback by Shane Kelly, but it didn’t make a difference.
A combination of Laurier miscues and Sinopoli finding his stride led to a second-half explosion of 30 points for the Gee-Gees, with the Hawks only mustering 14, for a final score of 44-21.
“We beat ourselves,” said manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “Our kicking game was as bad as I’ve seen it, we tossed [the ball] all over the carpet, we had the big return [being called back], and that hurt us. We can’t afford to do that in a big game like this against a really good team.”
The return Jeffries referred to was a second-quarter kick return touchdown from Dillon Heap that was called back due to a penalty.
“[The touchdown] would’ve been nice, it would’ve put us up, but we were still in the game in the third quarter,” said Heap. “We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, we have to move the ball better on offence.”
The Hawks did show a sign of life in the second half with running back Rashad La Touche tying the game with a 2-yard touchdown run, however that was were the positives stopped.
After a pair of Matt Falvo field goals gave Ottawa a 20-14 lead, Sinopoli hit Franck Ngandui for a 56-yard touchdown, extending the Gee-Gees’ lead to 13. Just over two minutes later, Ottawa’s Francois Rodrigue would pick up a Laurier fumble and go 36 yards for a touchdown, and all of the sudden the Hawks were down 34-14.
Sinopoli would widen the gap to 41-14 with his third touchdown pass of the game — Falvo would add another field goal to bring the Gee-Gees’ tally to 44 — on his way to finishing 18-38 for 309 yards.
Despite Sinopoli’s numbers and the lop-sided score, Jeffries was proud of his defence.
“Defensively, I thought we played a hell of a game,” he said. “Sinopoli’s as good as there is, their receivers are outstanding and we hung in there. We just couldn’t generate any offence…. We had to win all three phases and we didn’t.”
No matter who was at quarterback the Hawks’ offence was ineffective. Pawliuk completed just six passes, while Kelly only completed 11, throwing two interceptions. The running game didn’t fare much better as the team only racked up 87 yards, compared to Ottawa’s 181.
“Against a good team like Ottawa you’re not going to win if you’ve only got one phase going,” said Pawliuk. “They came out firing and we just didn’t have the answer on offence.”
Who will start at quarterback for the Hawks’ game next Saturday versus the Queen’s Gaels still remains to be seen, however one thing is certain, it is a must-win for the Hawks.
“Every game’s a playoff game now,” said Pawliuk. “Our backs are against the wall and we’ve just got to show the true character of this team and come out playing like we know we’re capable of versus Queen’s.”
The Hawks could either be 3-3 or 2-4 heading into their match-up with the Gaels, as they are waiting on the results of a second appeal regarding the eligibility of fifth-year defensive end David Montoya. Should the appeal fail, the Hawks will be forced to forfeit their week three win over Toronto and fall to 2-4 with just two games remaining.