Hawks win in Homecoming blow-out
In front of a rain-soaked Homecoming crowd of over 7000, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team downed the Guelph Gryphons 36-2, improving their record (for the time being) to 3-2.
In addition to the normal distractions that come along with Homecoming, the Hawks received another potential disruption when the eligibility of defensive end Dave Montoya was reviewed by a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) committee earlier this week. The committee was originally supposed to make a ruling on Friday, but failed to do so, meaning the Hawks had to play with the looming decision hanging over their heads. Should Montoya be declared ineligible, Laurier will have to forfeit their week three win over University of Toronto.
However, those distractions didn’t hamper the Hawks on Saturday as they put up 36 points on a Gryphons defence that ranks second in Canada and held Guelph running back Nick Fitzgibbon -Ontario’s leading rusher- to just 53 yards.
“This was a test against a very good football team,” said Laurier manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “We came out firing on all cylinders… that was definitely our best effort of the season, I’m really proud of [the team].”
As Jeffries mentioned, the Hawks came out flying. After the Laurier defence forced a quick Guelph two-and-out on the game’s opening drive, Hawks’ quarterback Evan Pawliuk -who retained the starter’s role despite Shane Kelly returning from injury- hit Dillon Heap from five yards out to give Laurier an early 7-0 lead.
Heap would go on to have a huge game, racking up nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
“[Offensive co-ordinator] Ryan [Pyear] prepared us really well,” said Pawliuk who finished 13-17 for 153 yards, throwing two touchdowns and running for another. “We put in the work all week and when it came to the game situation we knew what was coming.”
Running back Anton Bennett would cap off a first half dominated by the Golden Hawks with an 18-yard touchdown run, giving the team a 34-0 lead heading into the break.
In the second half, the Hawks simply ran out the clock, while continuing to stifle Fitzgibbon and the rest of the Gryphons attack.
In containing Fitzgibbon, the Hawks essentially contained the Gryphons’ offence. Quarterback Luke Nangle -who was making his first start of the season- only completed 11 of his 29 passes, and didn’t seem able to engineer any sustained drives.
“We knew that if we stopped [Fitzgibbon] we’d win the game,” said defensive tackle Steve Cormack. “You can’t have a prolific rusher like him and not respect his talent, so we knew that stopping him was going to be a priority.”
The Hawks now have three wins on the season, however that number could be reduced to two by Monday, when the CIS is expected to make their ruling regarding the potential forfeiting of the Toronto game.
Should the Hawks have to forfeit, Toronto would actually leap frog Laurier in the standings, moving to 3-2. Toronto earned their second win of the season on Saturday in a shocking upset over the number-two nationally ranked Ottawa Gee Gees.