Hawks suffer key injuries in win

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ men’s football team came away with a win in their home opener on Saturday; however, they suffered two huge losses at the same time.

On their way to downing the Waterloo Warriors 29-18, the Hawks saw two key players – quarterback Luke Thompson and defensive end Chima Ihekwoaba – fall to injury.

Thompson went down late in the second quarter and had to be carted off the field with what is believed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Although the team is still waiting on an MRI, it appears as though the knee injury will end the third-year pivot’s season.

“Early indications are that it’s a pretty serious injury,” said manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “You never know for sure, but at this point it seems like he’ll be out for a while.”

With Thompson out, back-up quarterback Evan Pawliuk, who had never even dressed for a game before this season, was thrown into the fire and expected to lead the offence.

“I knew it was my time to step up, and that was the only thing I could think of,” said Pawliuk.

“At first it was tough getting used to the game’s pace, but the offensive line really helped out, they gave me a lot of time and in the end we were able to finish what we started.”

Pawliuk’s entry into the game was tough to say the least.

He threw an interception almost immediately after replacing Thompson and shortly after suffered an injury of his own when he sprained his ankle and had to, as Jeffries described it, “Play on one leg the entire second half.”

Though this injury doesn’t appear to be serious, it could keep Pawliuk out of practice this week, something that could be extremely detrimental to a quarterback preparing to make his first career start.

However, Jeffries is confident that Pawliuk and the rest of the offence will be able make the necessary adjustments to deal with the loss of Thompson.

“Anytime you lose your starter there’s an adjustment, but we certainly think Evan [Pawliuk] is very capable,” said Jeffries.

“I thought he [Pawliuk] did a terrific job [against Waterloo]. He handled himself extremely well in a very difficult situation and I think he’ll only get better from here.”

Pawliuk also shows no signs of concern about being able to step in and take over leading the Hawks’ attack.

“The team expects me to be a leader, and that’s what I have to be,” he said.

“I have to be able to come in and pick up where we left off….We have some little things to work on but I think we’ll be able to keep moving the ball and making plays.”

Further bad news on the injury front came in the third quarter when Ihekwoaba, a key leader on defence, left the game with a shoulder injury.

Little is known about the injury to the veteran defensive end, but according to Jeffries, he will be out for several weeks.

Almost lost among all the injury concerns was an incredible performance from Hawks’ running back Mike Montoya as well as a breakout game from rookie receiver Alex Anthony.

Montoya rushed for a career high 204 yards on 28 carries, adding a touchdown and 13 receiving yards.

However, despite his incredible performance, Montoya’s thoughts were focused on his injured teammate.

“It didn’t feel as good it could have because my best friend Luke [Thompson] got hurt,” said Montoya of his dominant effort.

“But we did have a lot of success on the ground and that’s because our offensive line is the best offensive line in the country and I’ll say that week after week. They really make it easy for a running back to get lots of yards.”

Anthony, who was making his first career start for an injured Josh Bishop, was the Hawks’ leading receiver, making a pair of catches for 81 yards and his first touchdown in the purple and gold.

“I honestly don’t really remember the play, I was just so excited,” said Anthony of his touchdown grab.

“But Luke found me and made a really good throw, and it really just feels good to get the first one out of the way.”

The impressive rookie, who drew a considerable amount of hype before the season, got high praise from coach Jeffries following his first start.

“Hes a great player, that’s only going to get better every week,” said Jeffries. “We’re absolutely thrilled with him, he’s the real deal.”

The banged up Hawks now have a tall order on their hands this Saturday when they travel to Hamilton where Pawliuk will make his debut as a starter against the McMaster Marauders, a team that is vastly improved from a year ago.

“They’re a good football team, and they’ll be a load to handle, but we’re just as confident as we always are,” said Jeffries.

“All we can do is prepare hard and go out and compete, and that’s what we intend to do.”