Livin’ on a prayer
GUELPH, Ont. — The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are returning to Kingston.
“We’re anxious to go back,” said football head coach Gary Jeffries after the team’s regular season-ending 15-10 win over the Guelph Gryphons at Guelph’s Alumni Field in front of 720 fans on Saturday.
With their win, the Hawks (4-4) squeak into the Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) playoffs as the sixth and final seed and will take the long bus ride to face No. 8 Queen’s this Saturday at 1 p.m.
The conditions aren’t favourable. Queen’s field is made up of grassy terrain, rather than the turf alternative — a gridiron the Hawks are much more comfortable with.
“It’s not our favourite,” said Jeffries of the muddy terrain in both Guelph and Kingston. “But that’s what we have. We just hope for a good day and reasonable conditions.”
Heck, even the purple and gold’s likelihood of getting prematurely taken out of the game is lower on the turf surface.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries on the grass field, so it’s been kind of tough for us,” said kicker Ronnie Pfeffer who had a memorable outing on Saturday with 34-yard and 43-yard field goals, the latter being his career best.
But the Hawks can’t dwell on the conditions or injury status of their players — something the Gryphons (2-6) didn’t help with in their final game of the season.
“They played a little dirty,” said Pfeffer.
“I won’t mention a number but one of Guelph’s players did ruin one of our player’s ACL on purpose so we weren’t too happy about that,” said rookie running back Tyrrel Wilson, who earned his coach’s appraisal with his team-best 70-yard rushing effort.
“It was pretty greasy and slippery but I thought [he] did an outstanding job when he was out there,” said Jeffries. “He’s not a dancer, he’s a slasher and he handled the conditions extremely well.”
Part of what got the Gryphons and Hawks in a shouting match during the post-game handshakes was the injuries to leading defensive back Mitchell Bosch and fellow linebacker Jesse Collins.
Bosch leads the team in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries at two apiece. Their playing status is unknown for Saturday.
“We lost two kids today who might have serious knee injuries,” said Jeffries.
Now, the focus is Queen’s.
The Gaels upset the Hawks 58-35 on Sept. 17 during regular season action.
“That score in no way reflects the difference of the two football teams,” said the coach. “I’ve said from the start, the six teams that get into the playoffs … once you’re there, anybody can win it.”
Queen’s boasts the country’s leading running back in Ryan Granberg, who collected 1,068 yards on the ground, an average of 153 yards rushed per game.
Granberg was the only running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this season.
They also possess a solid quarterback in Billy McPhee and their dangerous receiver Giovanni Aprile (who scored four touchdowns the last time the two teams met) is always a threat on the passing game.
Laurier is 2-1 all-time versus Queen’s in the playoffs.
The last time the two teams met in the post-season, Laurier handed the team from Kingston a 36-33 win at Richardson Stadium in 2003.