Out with a whimper
KINGSTON, Ont. — It looked like the stars were lining up just the right way for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football team.
The squad’s astronomical hopes for their first Yates Cup since 2005 got a significant boost when the game-day line-ups were distributed to the media and teams this past Saturday.
Their quarter-final dance partners, the Queen’s Gaels, had not listed their starting quarterback in the stats tables — Billy McPhee, who threw for 1,660 yards in the regular season, good for sixth in the OUA’s QB hierarchy, was out.
Instead, the Gaels inserted back-up pivot Ryan Mitchell. Mitchell was making his first OUA start in a quarterfinal playoff game.
Mitchell completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards, and the nation’s leading running back in rushing yards, Ryan Granberg, provided the game’s lone touchdown in a 14-10 Hawks loss in front of 2,594 at Richardson Stadium.
It was the first time Laurier failed to reach the OUA semi-finals since 2002.
“I’m extremely proud,” said Laurier coach Gary Jeffries on Saturday. “They played their hearts out today.”
The nation’s no. 2 ranked Canadian Football League 2012 draft prospect, Shamawd Chambers, scored two touchdowns, both taken away by penalties. The first was an offside offence, the second, a holding call.
“When it comes down to it, I think those calls are questionable,” said Chambers. “You always get tough calls when you’re away on someone else’s field but that’s no excuse. We still have to score.”
“We left so many points out there, it’s a crime,” said Jeffries.
Both teams clawed for every foot gained in one of the best defensive showings of the year for either team, a nicer change of pace for both coaches, who may have thrown the game tapes out from their last meeting, a 58-35 victory for Queen’s.
Shane Herbert, Sam Aird and Carlos Naranjo were given the task to shut down Granberg in their defensive leader, Mitchell Bosch’s absence. Bosch was injured in the prior game against Guelph.
And the trio, along with their fellow linebackers and cornerbacks did an extremely thorough job of silencing Granberg. His lone TD came on a one-yard punch-in 39 seconds into the final quarter.
Queen’s punter Dan Village kicked two field goals and his Laurier counterpart, Ronnie Pfeffer kicked three and both picked up one rouge.
“The season’s over,” said an inconsolable Aird.
After the year began with immense expectations, the Hawks found themselves experiencing extreme highs and equally devastating lows as their 4-4 record matched the previous season’s.
With the loss, Laurier will graduate Aird, Herbert, Mark Surya, Luke Thompson, Dillon Heap, George Kourtesiotis and likely Chambers.
Naranjo, Bosch, Dan Bishop, Anton Bennett and Scott McCahill may also possibly depart next year.
“It’s never an ending,” said Jeffries. “Only a step to what’s next.”