Playoff hopes fading
With just 14 seconds left on the Knight-Newbrough Field scoreboard, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks saw their hard-fought game — and potentially their season — fade away into the horizon.
Guelph kicker Daniel Ferraro made a nine-yard field goal to push the visiting team ahead 22-19 Saturday afternoon in front of a Homecoming crowd of 9,231.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” head coach Gary Jeffries said. “Our kids played their hearts out and that’s all we ever ask of them. And they certainly did that.”
“Like coach Jeff said in the breakdown, ‘we didn’t lose that game, we just ran out of time’,” quarterback Steven Fantham added. “Nothing else you can do about it.”
Guelph’s win Saturday was their first regular season victory against Laurier since 2002, when they barely scathed the Hawks, winning 15-14.
For a day that Jeffries likens to Christmas, the present was anything but pleasant.
“It’s always exciting when Homecoming comes around,” Fantham said. “So it’s always fun to play in front of that many people, but [we] would have liked to get the win.”
Fantham completed 18 passes in 25 attempts for 320 yards and one touchdown. He also had three interceptions.
Regardless, Jeffries expressed his happiness with the fourth-year quarterback that started his first game last weekend against Ottawa after Travis Eman was added to the injury list.
“He’s doing all we ask of him. I’m pleased with him.”
Fantham wasn’t responsible for all the Hawks’ turnovers as receiver Greg Nyhof also had a costly fumble deep in Gryphons’ territory following a long completion.
The Hawks’ defence continued to excel for the fifth week in a row, holding the Gryphons scoreless for the second half until the final field goal.
“That’s a good group over there,” Jeffries said. “They compete like heck.”
Fantham agreed, saying that the defence had great field position and got the ball constantly for the offence.
But despite their best efforts, they failed to stop the tangible offence from the Gryphons, which included Robert Farquharson recording 178 yards during the game.
Meanwhile, quarterback Jazz Lindsey continued his solid sophomore season, completing 20 of his 32 passes for 247 yards, finding eight receivers, two of which recorded touchdowns.
Guelph now improves to 4-1 on the season, good enough for second in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) league. Tuesday morning, Guelph also ranked within the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) top 10 rankings at No. 9.
Laurier drops to 2-3, which ties them for the sixth and final spot in the OUA with the Toronto Varsity Blues- the team that defeated them in the season opener.
The loss also makes playoffs harder for the Hawks to achieve, with the No. 1 McMaster Marauders and the No. 7 Western Mustangs being the final two games of the season.
Laurier hopes to find a win Thursday night when they host the cross-town rivals, the Waterloo Warriors, in their final home game of the season.
If the Hawks don’t make the post-season, it’ll be the first time since 2002 that they will not contend in the playoffs. It would also be the first time they’d miss the playoffs during Jeffries’ tenure as head coach.
Will morale be an issue after the devastating Homecoming loss?
“That’s not an issue. That’s not an issue,” Jeffries said. “These kids are resilient as heck. We’ll just bounce right back for that Laurier loop in the morning and away we go again.”
“We just forget it, and get ready for Thursday. That’s all we can do.”