Golden Hawks test drive its roster against the Warriors
After three days of intense two-a-day practices, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks were happy to not know the faces across from them on the field.
Sunday featured a controlled scrimmage between the Hawks and cross-town rivals, the Waterloo Warriors, in preparation for the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) season openers on Aug. 25.
Starting off with drills, the scrimmage then moved to a full-field controlled environment, where both Waterloo and Laurier had a chance to feature their upcoming rosters.
And with both head coaches sporting raspy voices and tired eyes, the scrimmage went ahead in the summer sun, focusing on the game, while in the back of everyone’s mind, Sunday’s season openers were looming.
“It’s been accelerated because of our short time schedule, but I’m pleased,” Waterloo head coach Joe Paopao said. “We’re still young and about 65 per cent of our players are still young kids and have to learn to play at this level. But I love their attitude, I love their energy, I love their focus, trying to grow and learn as young men. So we look forward to it.”
Once the full-field scrimmage got underway, both teams began to play around with their first-string lines to see what would work.
Mistakes came on both ends throughout the day. Laurier’s offence still looked weak from the year before, including a play when third-year quarterback James Fracas threw a clear pick in the endzone. However, when Waterloo was pushing forward their offence, the Hawks’ defence stood tall, forcing Warrior third-year punter Jake Fiorucci to send the ball away.
Laurier’s special teams also seemed to remain strong despite the loss of Mitchell Bosch and Alex Anthony, as third-year kicker Ronnie Pfeffer sent a field goal right between the uprights from 40 yards away with authority.
“Obviously today, we had some great plays, we had some awful plays, so the key is to watch the film … and really learn from it,” Laurier head coach Michael Faulds said.
Despite the event being controlled, tempers flared in every area. On multiple occasions throughout the drills and scrimmage, coaches from both teams had to separate players.
“It was getting chippy,” Faulds said. “A couple times coaches had to step in and break things up, but that’s good because obviously in our own training camp, we’re not going to do that. We’re not going to hurt our own teammates, but definitely the competitive juices were flowing.”
“It’s nice to not know the person across from you and maybe go a little harder than usual,” fifth-year fullback Isaac Dell echoed after practice Sunday.
In terms of Laurier’s quarterback situation, which became more complicated with the recent news of Travis Eman returning to the United States, Faulds said that it’s still “up in the air.”
“It’s competitive,” he said. “[Sunday] both James [Fracas] and Julien [John] made some great plays, but also really bad plays. So, I’m going to have to review the film, sit down and really evaluate it and see where we go from here.
“And both our young guys, Eric Morelli and Mike Knevel had some glimpses there where they played really well.”
For Faulds and his coaching staff, a few players have stood out so far in a competitive field where everyone is fighting for a roster position.
Third-year Ese Mrabure-Ajufo and third-year Greg Nyhof were among Faulds’ list, whom have both been impressive. Faulds said that Mrabure-Ajufo’s been a vocal leader on the defensive side of the ball, while Nyhof has taken on a greater leadership role on the offensive side.
Faulds also mentioned third-year Kelvin Muamba, whom has been a “great receiver for Laurier,” and fifth-year Felix Odum. Faulds said Odum “doesn’t say a lot, but he’s had a great training camp.”
Training camp continues for the players for the rest of the week, with both Faulds and Paopao hoping to transition into preparation for their regular season games by mid-week.
“Offensively and defensively, the systems are in,” Faulds explained. “So we’re not adding anything, it’s just wrapping it up and getting the mental mistakes out of there.”
“We’ve got people who care about what they want to do with football,” Paopao said. “And we want to keep it simple. And we can always get better in all areas, but we’ve got to make sure it starts inside out and it starts individually before collectively as a team we get rolling.”
Training camp will continue for both Laurier and Waterloo for the remainder of this week. Laurier travels to Guelph Sunday, while Waterloo heads down to Windsor to play the Lancers. Both games have kick off set at 1 p.m.