One last step in postseason pursuit
Laurier battles Queen’s with a win or go home scenario
Michael Faulds is treating the Wilfrid Laurier men’s football voyage to Kingston like a business trip.
The Hawks will take on the Queen’s Gaels on oct. 24 in the Ontario University Athletics season finale. A win sends the Hawks to the playoffs. A loss? Home with an early offseason.
Laurier is coming off a 30-21 loss against the McMaster Marauders, which held them back from clinching a playoff spot for the second straight season. After getting their passing game up and running, the Hawks offence has found some diversity, switching between moving the ball in the air and on the ground to generate points in the endzone.
The potent offence buried the Ottawa GeeGees 30-65 on Oct. 9, but falling against McMaster means the squad still has work to do if they hope to make it to the playoffs.
“The situation and the reality is that we need to win to get into the playoffs, so if that doesn’t make you focus then I don’t know what will,” Faulds said. “Queen’s is a good football team. They beat Guelph last week and they are peaking at the right time, so we need to come away with a victory, and that’s going to take a business-like attitude to do so.”
“It was a different attitude after [the game against Windsor], we really got to business, and started working harder, started being more disciplined in practice,” first-year Matt Williams said.
The Hawks threw a wrench into Ottawa’s postseason dreams by playing what was considered a “playoff game,” knowing full well the season was on the line.
Second-year pivot Eric Morelli has stepped up in the starting role, using a multitude of receiving targets like rookie Kurleigh Gittens Jr., fifth-year Greg Nyhof, fourth-year Anthony Pizzuti and third-year Marcus Arkarakas to drive the Laurier offence.
On the ground, fifth-year running back Dillon Campbell continued as the main carrier for the Hawks, totalling 362 rushing yards, shattering records along the way in tying for most carries in a single game and putting up another over-240 yard game.
The Laurier defence held strong, limiting two of the OUA’s strongest quarterbacks in Ottawa’s Derek Wendel and Asher Hastings of the Marauders.
Even special teams seemed to be clicking, as they contributed a 101-yard touchdown courtesy of Gittens Jr. during the McMaster tilt, igniting his breakout. Gittens scored two of his three touchdowns against the Marauders and showcased his explosive speed when he caught the ball. Laurier gave Hastings and the Marauders a scare, picking Hastings off twice and matching his total interceptions for the season in a single game.
The Hawks came close to defeating the defending Yates Cup champions, but missed various opportunities on offence.
After a run-and-gun first quarter where each team put up 21 points, McMaster got the better of the Hawks by forcing a safety and finding the endzone one more time in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t without trying. The Hawks marched down the field on the strong effort of Campbell, but Morelli fumbled in the red zone and McMaster recovered. The Hawks also missed a field goal that could have helped cut into the Marauder lead.
“Definitely the one on the top of my list on plays I would like to have back,” Morelli said. “It was just a weird sort of play, I pulled [the ball] back quickly and it sort of slipped out. That’s solely on me on that one.”
The only obstacle that stands in the way of the Hawks going to the postseason is the Gaels. The Gaels sit comfortably in fifth place and will provide a challenge after upsetting the No. 7 Guelph Gryphons two weeks ago, but struggled against the bottom-dwellers, the York Lions last week.
Faulds is looking to make the necessary adjustments to the Hawks in order to succeed and make the postseason a reality.
“My message to the guys was we got to do better inside the red zone. In the second half [against McMaster] we had some really good drives and we just didn’t capitalize, so we had the one really big fumble and then a third down conversion in the end that we didn’t convert,” he explained.
“These are plays we need to make and we’ll need to make them next week in Kingston.”
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Richardson Stadium.