Laurier looks to defeat Western in season-opener

In their season opener on Sept. 1, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football team will look to do something they haven’t done since 2006 – beat the Western Mustangs.

Since their 20-15 win in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semi-finals back in November of 2006, the Hawks have lost four straight games to their rivals from London, twice in the regular season and twice during the playoffs.

“I don’t think that we’d rather play anybody else [to start the season],” said Laurier quarterback Luke Thompson, who hails from London. “Matching us up against a good team right away really gives us the chance to show where we’re at early in the season. We’re just really excited about it.”

In his three career games against the Mustangs, Thompson has found little success, throwing for a total of eight interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. However, in the Hawks’ most recent loss to the Mustangs, Evan Pawliuk replaced Thompson –who had torn his ACL earlier in the season- and didn’t fare much better, completing well below 50 per cent of his passes and throwing for just 156 yards, culminating in a 26-16 loss, eliminating the purple and gold from last year’s OUA playoffs.

“We’ve always struggled against Western,” said linebacker Giancarlo Rapanaro. “But we can’t worry about everyone else, as long as we do what we do best I’m sure everyone will be happy with our success.”

Despite their recent struggles against the Mustangs, the Hawks always get excited about the match-up with their bitter rivals and according to manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries, this year is no different.

“That’s never going to change, it’s extremely exciting,” he said. “We can’t wait to get down there and get after them.”

When the original OUA schedule was released the Hawks weren’t going to get a chance at retribution against the Mustangs this season. Due to the fact that the OUA has 10 teams in the conference and an eight game schedule, each team skips one of their potential opponents every year.

During 2010, the Hawks were originally supposed to skip the Mustangs. However, when the University of Waterloo suspended it’s football program for the season as a result of nine of their players testing positive for steroid-use, the schedule was revised, and the purple and gold got their shot at the Mustangs.

“I wouldn’t want to start with any other team,” said wide receiver Dillon Heap, echoing his quarterback’s sentiments.

“Originally we started with Mac and then the new schedule came out and we had Western and it changed my mentality, I was definitely more excited. You talk to any of the competitors on this team and we all can’t wait for that game. We’re not afraid of them.”

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