Laurier football coaches win OUA awards

Last week the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football conference announced its major award winners and Laurier’s manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries and defensive co-ordinator and linebackers’ coach Ron Van Moerkerke were both recognized.

Jeffries took home the Dave “Tuffy” Knight award as the OUA coach of the year – named after the Laurier coaching legend – while Van Moerkerke was named the province’s volunteer coach of the year.

“It came as a huge surprise,” said Jeffries. “It’s not something I’ve ever thought of at all, and I’m really just thrilled about how it reflects on the team.”

This award marks fourth time Jeffries has been named OUA coach of the year since becoming the Hawks’ head coach just six years ago, with the others coming in 2003, 2004 and 2005. He also came away with the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) coach of the year award in 2003, his first season as Laurier’s head coach.

Despite his accolades, Jeffries remains modest, recognizing the many individuals who contribute to the team’s success.

“[The award] is really representative of the work of about 130 people,” he said. “Everyone involved with our team does an incredible job and I’m really just accepting the award on their behalf. It’s really the ultimate team award.”

This season, Jeffries guided the Hawks to a 6-2 record, finishing second in the OUA despite a turbulent season that saw numerous injuries on both sides of the ball, including losing starting quarterback Luke Thompson for the season in week three.

“This season definitely had some times when we could’ve gotten down on ourselves, but we always rebounded,” said Jeffries. “The main thing was to stay positive and continue to believe in ourselves and what we do.”

Van Moerkerke, meanwhile, was recognized for his work running the Hawks’ outstanding defence, which ranked near the top of the OUA in every defensive statistical category and boasted seven of the team’s 10 provincial all-stars.

“It’s tremendous to see because he’s done such a wonderful job here for a long period of time,” said Jeffries of Van Moerkerke. “To finally see him recognized for it is extremely special.”

Van Moerkerke, who is in his 11th season coaching with the Hawks – sixth as defensive co-ordinator– works full-time as a teacher at Kitchener’s Eastwood Collegiate high school and volunteers his time to work with Laurier’s football team.