Headed back to London for playoffs

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

After taking a one-year break from the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team is returning with the Yates Cup in mind.

But the Hawks will have to go through the defending champions, the Western Mustangs, in the OUA quarterfinal on Nov. 1.

The last time these two teams met was a mere three weeks ago, when the Mustangs demolished the Hawks 61-20.

“We’ve got to do some soul searching,” said head coach Michael Faulds after Laurier dropped their final game of the regular season 41-36 to the Guelph Gryphons.

“We need to find out — is it jitters, is it what we’re eating in the pregame meal, what is it that can make Laurier come out of the gates and play strong?”

After missing out on the festivities for the first time since 2002 last year and posting a 1-7 record, Laurier heads back into the playoffs carrying the momentum of a second-half surge against the Gryphons.

Despite being down 36-4 at halftime on Saturday, Laurier stormed back with 32 points in the final two quarters to come within three of the second-place Gryphons, but came up just short of completing the comeback.

But the effort in the second half will be what carries Laurier if they have any chance to defeat the Mustangs in the quarterfinal.

“You start to gain momentum; the guys really start to believe,” Faulds said.

“I’ve been with teams that were 8-0 and 4-4 and both teams won the Yates Cup. You’ve just got to get in [the playoffs] and you have a chance.”

On the plus side, Laurier won’t have to go through Western’s poster boy quarterback Will Finch, who suffered his second concussion of the season when he took a knee to the back of the head Saturday against the Windsor Lancers.

However, the last time the Hawks tangled with the Mustangs, Finch wasn’t their issue. Backup quarterback Stevenson Bone got his first-career start against Laurier, going 19-for-25 for 285 yards and three touchdowns.

He also led an offence that scored the most points against Laurier in modern-day history.

And he’ll be back at the helm on Saturday.

“We know what  to expect, we know how they play and they know how we play. We’re going to go down there, look at the film, do our job and hopefully get the job done,” said fourth-year running back Dillon Campbell, who finished his record-breaking regular season with 1,458 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and an astounding 182.2 yards per game.

He even accounted for 46 per cent of all offence Laurier had this season.

Campbell posted his second game in which he rushed for more than 200 yards, finishing at 203 and scoring two touchdowns. Faulds was shocked to hear his star player ran that many yards, declaring it the quietest 200 yards he’s seen. Guelph used their big defensive line to shut him down, but somehow on 35 carries Campbell found his way past the 200-yard milestone.

Even third-year receiver Anthony Pizzuti was able to find the end zone, posting 96 yards and two touchdowns.

While the offensive cylinders seem to be working, the Hawks still couldn’t muster four full quarters of football — an issue that hurt them last season and the tail end of this season.

“We’ve just got to play four quarters, that’s all it comes down to,” Campbell said.

“We had a great second half, just the first half we came out short. [This week], we’ve got playoffs, so we’ll go four quarters.”

Faulds echoed Campbell, saying that a four full quarters from the offence, defence and special teams will be the primary solution to having a chance against the Mustangs.

“We know we played a really good fourth quarter [against Western], and we played a really good second half today, we just need to find a way to play a full four quarters together,” he said.

The Hawks will take the field on Nov. 1 in London, Ontario as they make their return to the postseason this year.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m at TD Waterhouse stadium.

 

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Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

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