Rapanaro leads Hawks over Guelph in OUA quarterfinal

Giancarlo Rapanaro is used to making plays with his hands and his shoulders, but in Saturday’s provincial quarterfinal, the fifth-year linebacker also made things happen with his legs.

Taking over the kicking and punting duties from a struggling Nathan Hawkes, Rapanaro not only chipped in on defence like he normally does — five tackles, two interceptions — but also went 4-4 on field goals and averaged 34.9 yards per punt despite dealing with a heavy wind. The effort not only played a huge part in the Hawks’ 42-10 drubbing of the Guelph Gryphons, it also earned Rapanaro Ontario University Athletics (OUA) special teams player of the week honours.

“I’m Italian so I’ve pretty much always been the back-up kicker by default,” laughed Rapanaro. “I’m going to do what helps the team, if they need me to play receiver I’ll do it.”

Joining Rapanaro among the OUA players of the week was defensive tackle Steve Cormack, who returned the first interception of his career 57 yards for a touchdown.

“I thought I was in a dream,” said Cormack of his touchdown. “I couldn’t even feel my legs by the end of it, it’s just a lifetime memory, it’s unbelievable.”

With Cormack and Rapanaro leading the way, the Hawks’ defence would force a total of five interceptions as the quarterback position seemed to be cursed for the Gryphons on Saturday. Starter Chris Rossetti was knocked out of the game after attempting just one pass, then back-up Luke Nangle had his three-interception day ended by a broken collarbone just before half time. That left the ball in the hands of receiver Jedd Gardner, who would complete just one pass.

“It’s unfortunate, what happened with their quarterbacks, you never like to see guys go down like that,” said Rapanaro. “But as a unit, we played really well, we rallied to the ball, we made big plays.”

Almost lost among the spectacular performances on defence was the third consecutive solid performance from Laurier’s offence, specifically quarterback Shane Kelly.

Kelly completed 23 of his 33 passes for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns, recovering from a shaky start, being intercepted by Guelph’s Sebastien Howard on his first pass of the game. But more importantly, Kelly once again looked more comfortable running the offence.

“I think we’re hitting our stride right at the right time,” said Kelly of the offence. “We had a lot of adversity early in the season but now everything’s really coming together.”

The win means that the Hawks will go back to Ottawa to take on the nation’s top quarterback Brad Sinopoli and the number-four nationally ranked Gee-Gees in the OUA semi-final. The last time the two teams met was on Oct. 9, when the Gee-Gees came away with a 44-21 win.

“We said when we saw them down there [on Oct. 9] that there was a good chance we were going to see them again,” said manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries. “We know we can play with them, we’re anxious to go back.”

The Hawks will look to get back to the Yates Cup final for the first time since 2006 this Saturday at 1:00p.m.

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