Laurier redemption at Richardson Stadium
Hawks clinch playoffs in first win at Queen’s since 2007
If the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks were going to make the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, they were going to have to win a date with the Queen’s Gaels.
Why would that be a problem?
It’s not like Laurier hasn’t won against Queen’s since 2010. It’s not like Laurier hasn’t won at Richardson Stadium since 2007.
And it’s definitely not like a loss would send them home without their second postseason berth in three years.
But on the final regular season weekend at the current version of Richardson Stadium, the Hawks played four quarters and dominated in every aspect — offensively, defensively and special teams.
Laurier’s defence fired up and forced six turnovers, including three interceptions and two fumbles that resulted in two touchdowns, and spoiled Queen’s Homecoming weekend with a 49-26 victory.
It was poetic, to say the least.
“Well, that’s why you never give up,” head coach Michael Faulds said. “We started the year 1-3, we finished 3-1, I’d say it’s kind of the opposite of last year.”
“Last year we started strong and kind of backed our way into the playoffs. This year it’s the opposite. We started very slow and we’re starting to get healthier and gain momentum as the season goes along.”
The win put a stamp on a whirlwind of a month that started with the Hawks on the outside looking in after a disappointing 22-18 loss to the Windsor Lancers at their own Homecoming.
According to Faulds, after the loss, the guys took it upon themselves to battle for a playoff spot.
“It looked like it was going to be tough for us to make the playoffs but our guys looked themselves in the mirror and said, ‘We’re going to all do more and dig deeper’ and they did that,” Faulds said.
Defence stepped up even further for Laurier, contributing 28 points before the Hawks put their first offensive touchdown on the board. Second-year quarterback Eric Morelli connected with Daniel Bennett for an 18-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 35 and put the game out of reach for the Gaels.
Out of all the years that fifth-year defensive lineman Asante Mizan has played with Laurier, no team has ever accomplished what the Hawks have been able to do at Richardson Stadium.
“I’ve played on a lot of great teams here in the past five years, defensively seen a lot of talent come in and out, and I mean it’s just been amazing. We came together like none of the other teams I’ve been on have done this here,” Mizan explained.
The Hawks, who finished 4-4, now shift their focus to a quarter-final date with the McMaster Marauders on Saturday at Ron Joyce Stadium. The No. 6 Marauders will prove a challenge for Laurier, but Mizan thinks the Hawks have the capacity to beat the best provided they fix a few issues.
“I don’t think after we watched the film that nobody ever really beat us, we just made a lot of silly mistakes,” he continued. “Once we clean it up we can definitely dominate.”
Despite the struggles at the beginning of the season, Mizan takes note of the capability of the Hawks’ defence when they are firing on all cylinders.
“We have the ability to dominate, we have the talent, so defensively, offensively we are just going to go out there and shut people down.”
“Every team that sees us on their schedule is going to be scared to play us for the next couple years.”
After doubling stellar McMaster quarterback Asher Hastings’ interception total two weeks ago in their regular season, Laurier’s defence will be up to the test to limit one of the strongest offences in the province.
“We can’t let teams score 30 points anymore, that’s sort of the level of standard.”
Game time Saturday is at 1 p.m. A Laurier win would set up a semifinal matchup with the Western Mustangs.