Loss plunges Hawks to 0-3

(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)

(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)

It’s hard to look at the positives.

Three weeks into the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football season, there are merely two teams in the 11-team conference that have yet to earn two points. One is the newcomer, the Carleton Ravens. The team, made up of a large portion of freshmen and inexperienced players, sits at 0-2 after losing their home opener to the Waterloo Warriors 47-8.

The other? The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. With a 0-3 record.

Not only did the rain not take a break anytime throughout the four quarters on Saturday afternoon, but sack after sack, turnover after turnover and penalty after penalty pushed the Hawks to give up a 15-2 lead, as Miles Gibbon and the York Lions walked over the visitors en route to a 33-20 win.

An 0-3 start — which the Hawks have not been a victim of since 2002, when they finished the season 1-7 — means another long season for Laurier.

More importantly, with the OUA powerhouses still to come in the Hawks’ schedule, it could mean a season without a berth in the OUA playoffs — the first time since that dreadful 2002 season.

“I think the coaches take the losses harder than the players sometimes, and a lot of our players are 18, 19 years old. Some of the veteran guys take the losses a little harder, much like a coach,” head coach Michael Faulds said Tuesday, before the week’s set of practices in preparation for Saturday’s game. “So, the overall spirit of the team is good. I wouldn’t have said that on Sunday, but as we get further along into the week, the past is the past and everyone’s kind of focused for Waterloo.”

Coming into the 2013 campaign, the men’s football team knew things weren’t going to be easy. After a 3-5 season featuring three games without a point, four games without a touchdown and a 34-0 quarterfinal blowout, Faulds came in to take the program in a new direction.

And while the OUA record doesn’t hold much as valuable evidence, the team does look better on the field in some regards. The no-huddle offence that Faulds implemented has worked well for an offence that didn’t produce a touchdown for 24 straight quarters, as the drought was snapped last Monday against the Toronto Varsity Blues. The Hawks even got on the board against the Lions twice with consecutive touchdowns — from both a reception and a rush.

“We have to build off every loss and take the things that we did well and learn from the things that we didn’t do well,” Faulds said. “So, we look at our last two games in particular, and the UofT game two weeks ago we played well in the second half, and this past week, we played well in the first half. So our goal this week is to play all four quarters and put four quarters together.”

Playing four quarters will be the biggest goal for Laurier, who will have a meeting with crosstown rivals, the Waterloo Warriors, this Saturday.

The game could potentially determine whether the Hawks will go 1-7, or flirt with a winless season for the first time in school history.

“In terms of what [Waterloo does], they’re very well coached on both sides of the ball,” Faulds said. “So [Warrior’s head] coach Paopao  is going to do great things on the offence, and the thing about them is that they’re coming off a win at Carleton.”

Faulds mentioned that his players will need to really cut down on turnovers and penalties, the two things that hurt the Hawks most against the Lions. From there, it’s just a matter of keeping his players’ spirits up.

“In terms of the guys’ spirit, they’re actually hanging in there. They’re doing really well,” he said. “What we’re going to try to do is really add the competitive level in practice and get everyone excited about it and hopefully even more energy at practice. I’m not saying energy at practice has been an issue; it’s just that we need more. We need everyone, coaches, players alike to dig a little deeper.”

Faulds also asserted that despite being three games into the season, he’s not afraid to make changes to the roster and no one’s position is ever safe.

“We’re going to have to see how the week goes in terms of practices so we can see who may rise above other players,” he said. “Hopefully the competitive level at practice kind of falls in line with that.”

And while the record reads winless, Faulds refuses to let the energy and the tempo fade away.

“At the end of the day, [I] am able to look myself in the mirror and say ‘I did all I can do, what more can I possibly do,’ then I’m able to kind of handle being 0-3,” he said.

“But the fact that we’re grinding it out, we’re working extremely hard, we’re hitting the recruiting trails, we’re scripting everything in practice, we’re really well organized, it makes being 0-3 not quite as bad.

“Now, it’d be great to be 3-0 right now, 1-2, all of the above, but we’re not. So we have to deal with it.”

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