Playoffs still likely despite 56-3 blowout
How do you play one of the worst games in team history, yet still not only be in playoff contention but see those playoff chances improve?
You become the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.
Despite an embarrassing 56-3 loss Saturday afternoon to the Western Mustangs, which included 56 unanswered points, six total completions from three different quarterbacks and a total of 194 rushing yards allowed, the Hawks are still the frontrunners for the sixth and final Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoff spot.
With the seventh-place York Lions defeating the Toronto Varsity Blues Saturday 36-24, the Hawks still hold a one-game lead over the Blues.
And if the Varsity Blues lose next Saturday — a likely scenario considering they’re playing the 5-2 Queen’s Gaels —, regardless of Laurier’s outcome, they have a punched ticket for Kingston to play the third-place Gaels.
“Right now… I guess that’s okay,” a subdued head coach Gary Jeffries said. “I don’t have much to say.”
The Hawks saw their hopes for an above .500 season disappear with the sun Saturday as they were handed their fourth loss of the season.
“Obviously things didn’t go as planned, clearly,” said veteran linebacker Drew Galpin. “They’re a very full-coached team and they were well prepared for us.”
Jeffries agreed, saying that full credit should go to the Mustangs, who notched their fourth win of the season.
“You saw it,” Jeffries said. “We got beat in all phases. That’s pretty discouraging because we thought we were getting better.”
The ‘improvement’ came after of the devastating season-opening loss to the Varsity Blues, where the Hawks failed to find the scoreboard, which was followed by a blowout at the hands of Queen’s. The Hawks then won three of their next four games before their fate Saturday.
That fate being a one-sided affair that included only three points coming from the foot of Laurier’s second-year kicker Ronnie Pfeffer, and being held to less than half of Western’s first downs.
“And that knocked us back on our ass today,” Jeffries said Saturday.
With only one game left before the postseason, Laurier must face off against the No. 1 nationally ranked and defending Vanier Cup champions, the McMaster Marauders. The Marauders have allowed the fewest points against among all OUA teams and will be coming off a 39-18 win over the Windsor Lancers at their Homecoming.
“In reality, we’re still in the playoff race,” Galpin said. “You can get into the playoffs 1-7 and once you’re in, you’re in.”
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Jeffries said. “A lot of work to do.”
And indeed they do. With McMaster stretching the gap between themselves and the second-place Guelph Gryphons and the rest of the league, the Hawks will look to adjust their playing style in the upcoming week.
“Only one thing we can do,” Jeffries said. “We’re all going to get up in the morning. Sun’s going to come up and we’re going to get up and get at it again. There’s no other option.”
Galpin looks forward, as the playoffs are a whole new ballgame.
“Once you’re in it, it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s 0-0 again and we’ll go from there.”
The four top seeds in the OUA have been finalized after Saturday’s play, with Mac, Guelph, Queen’s and Western finishing as they are respectively. The bottom two spots can change with the results of the final week. However, based on the match ups, the most likely scenario will see Windsor finish fifth, and Laurer grab the final playoff spot, coming in sixth.
As the sun surely does need to shine on the diminishing hopes of the Golden Hawks, they have one more week to fix the mistakes that became prominent on the field Saturday. And the positivism is still there.
“But that hurt,” Jeffries said of Saturday’s loss. “That hurt a lot.”