Hawks yield Yates Cup rematch to the Mustangs

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

On Nov. 12, 2016 the Laurier Golden Hawks won a thriller in the OUA championship, beating the Western Mustangs on their home turf to take home the Yates cup.

With last year’s Yates Cup loss in mind, Western came to Laurier with a desire to exorcise their playoff demons.

The first two quarters of the matchup were ruled by defense, both Laurier and Western’s units refusing to yield a single yard without a fight.

Both teams’ kicking units were active as well, with Western’s Marc Liegghio drilling three field goals, Nathan Mesher of Laurier hitting two, and the two teams combining for a total of 9 punts.

But, halfway through the second quarter, Western’s ground game came alive in a methodical drive, punctuated with Cedric Joseph plunging into the end zone on a five-yard run. Western carried a 16-6 lead into halftime.

After half, the game returned to its former defensive struggle, with neither team managing a point until Western’s Cedric Joseph ripped off a 34-yard touchdown run to cap an 80-yard drive, increasing Western’s lead 23-6.

Early in the fourth, Western managed another field goal, putting them up 26-6, before Laurier received the ball and – with the help of a pair of 15-yard Western penalties – marched down to the Western six. From there, Michael Knevel hit Daniel Bennett on a beautiful 6-yard slant route to score Laurier’s lone touchdown of the afternoon, and close the gap to 26-13.

With a little over eight minutes left in the game, Western’s offense returned to their ground game, grinding out 72 yards in six plays – and taking three minutes and sixteen seconds off the clock – before Marc Liegghio added his fifth field goal of the day, increasing Western’s lead to 29-13.

In their final two drives Laurier moved the ball, but both drives were cut short by turnovers, as Laurier’s offense pressed for the big play.

Hopefully, if Laurier sees Western again the results will be more reminiscent of last year’s Yates cup victory; there is no doubt that the Golden Hawk’s roster has the talent to repeat last year’s performance.

On a sunny afternoon with 7,166 fans in attendance, the game ended in a 29-13 Western victory.

After the game Laurier`s Head Coach Michael Faulds commented on his defense`s performance stating, “defensively we had some good stops, in particular early in the 3rd quarter we had some great stops, if we were able to get some offensive drives that resulted in points then, it maybe could have been a different game.”

There were also a number of offensive players who, despite the lack of scoring, demonstrated their prowess against the vaunted Western defense.

“[Kurleigh] Gittens Jr. made a lot of catches, there were times Michael Knevel threw the ball well, and there were a couple times Levondre Gordon got free on a couple of runs,” head coach, Michael Faulds said.

The trio posted impressive offensive statistics, with Michael Knevel completing 33 of 45 passes for 317 yards, one touchdown and a single interception, Levondre Gordon rushing 18 times for 107 yards and the sure-handed Kurleigh Gittens Jr. hauling in 18 catches for 174 yards.

Furthermore, Laurier’s offensive line went toe-to-toe with Western’s defense, refusing to give up a single sack of their quarterback, while Levondre Gordon slalomed his way through the holes they created for him.

Unfortunately, the tale of the day was not Laurier’s ability to create yards, but their inability to cross the goal line.

“Offensively we would get a first down, maybe get two first downs and then the drive would stall,” Faulds said.

“You need to go first down after first down, and end a drive with points, so any time a drive ends with a punt, that’s not good against a  high-powered team like Western.”

Although there are some tough games ahead on the schedule, at 4-1 Laurier looks like a playoff team that could make a run deep into the postseason.

Hopefully, if Laurier sees Western again the results will be more reminiscent of last year’s Yates cup victory; there is no doubt that the Golden Hawk’s roster has the talent to repeat last year’s performance.

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