The Wilfrid Laurier men’s football team has been waiting 11 years for this.
Since their last Vanier Cup win in 2005, this season has been the first time since that the Vanier Cup has been not far from reach. Unfortunately for the purple and gold, their near flawless season came to an end this past weekend in Quebec City, as they lost in the Uteck Bowl against Laval.
On a cold day at Telus Stadium at the University of Laval, the Laval Rouge et or and the Laurier Golden Hawks were ready to square off in the national semi-final Uteck Bowl.
The stadium was lively with more than 13,000 fans in attendance, and almost all of them wearing the Laval red and gold.
The introductions were finished, the anthem sung and the players and fans alike were ready for some football.
The Golden Hawks kicked off and the red and gold were able to make it to their own 26-yard line.
The Rouge et Or managed to get one first down, before they were forced to punt it away.
On a poor punt from Laval, the Hawks took over on the 54-yard line. Unable to do anything with their set of downs, the Hawks would give the ball right back to Laval. Laval would continue to march all the way into the end zone and pick up the game’s first score from a nice pass to Felix Faubert-Lussier.
Laurier got the ball back, but was still having trouble getting the offence to click.
On Laval’s next drive, they would continue to march into Laurier’s territory and made it 14-0 on another touchdown, passed from Hugo Richard to Jonathan Breton-Robert for the score.
At the end of the first quarter, the Golden Hawks were trailing behind at 14-0. The Laurier offence was hurting badly, as Laurier quarterback Michael Knevel was only to pick up 9-yards in the first quarter.
To start off the second quarter, Laval was able to convert on a field goal attempt to extend their lead to 17.
Laurier got themselves into more trouble as they had to concede a safety on their next set of downs and give Laval a 19-0 lead. Laurier’s offence, however, improved a little bit throughout the quarter, but not enough to get any points on the board or find any sort of rhythm.
On Laval’s next drive, they would continue to roll as they extended their lead to 26-0 after Laval’s Sebastien Serre was able to take it into the end zone.
This one seemed to be getting away from the Hawks as the Laval fans were already celebrating and singing Sweet Caroline.
Laurier would make it to the 52-yard line and in search of any momentum, they decided to go for a risky third and short. But, this backfired quickly as Knevel was sacked on the play and the Rouge et Or took over on the Laurier 45.
Laval marched down to the 27-yard line and kicked a field goal through the uprights to make it 29-0 at the half. Laurier would need another miracle comeback if they wanted a chance to play for the Vanier Cup.
At the half, the Golden Hawks were only able to pick up 75 total yards, in comparison to the 279 that Laval was able to grab.
The second half began with Laval returning the kick to their own 39-yard line. Laurier was able to force a two and out to get the ball quickly at the start of the second quarter. The teams exchanged punts to begin the half.
The Golden Hawks looked to have finally broken through the defence, as they got the ball all the way down to the Rouge et Or 18-yard line before Osayi Iginuan fumbled it and gave it right back.
Laurier couldn’t convert and punted it right back to the red and gold.
This time, Laval was able to capitalize and extend their lead to 36-0.
That would remain the score at the end of the third quarter.
Laval marched down the field once again and attempted a 40-yard field goal that they missed and was taken out of the end zone by the Hawks. Once again, the Hawks offence was unable to take advantage and punted it back.
Laval fumbled the punt and the Hawks were able to recover it on the Laval 41-yard line looking for their first points of the game.
Unable to do anything with the opportunity, they punted it back and put the ball into Laval’s hands. Late in the fourth quarter, the Golden Hawks were able to get on the board as Knevel found Brentyn Hall.
And just like that, the Laval Rouge et Or were the Uteck Bowl Champions after defeating the Golden Hawks 36-6. They are headed to the Vanier Cup next weekend in Hamilton, to face the Calgary Dinos.
Laurier head coach, Michael Faulds, was expectedly disappointed with the day’s results.
“Yeah, obviously we thought we would have executed better [sic]. Laval played outstanding. Obviously Hugo Richard, his ability to run the ball early in the game was very effective and we just couldn’t get enough first downs to keep their offence off of the field.”
“They’re definitely a really good football team. Hugo played outstanding. The offensive line played outstanding and defensively not too bad … They’re a good football team and next week, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re hoisting another cup,” Faulds said.
Laurier star, Kwaku Boateng, also commented on the loss.
“They executed very, very well … their offence is pretty simple, right inside zone, short passes but they do it so well it’s like clockwork, but that’s no excuse. We like to pride ourselves on being the best defence in the country and today we didn’t come out and show that.”
Nonetheless, the Golden Hawks can add the Yates Cup win to their list of accomplishments and will look to learn from this experience and come back stronger next year.