Road win evens record for Laurier
BECKWITH TOWNSHIP, Ont. — A smile came across Gary Jeffries’ face as his Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football team took a knee for their post-game huddle.
Before starting his speech, he looked up at the clock.
35-27 in favour of the visitors.
In another come-from-behind victory, the Hawks overcame a deadly wind and multiple errors in play to defeat the hosting Ottawa Gee-Gees in their temporary home in Carleton Place, about 40 minutes outside the nation’s capital.
But despite those errors and a detrimental wind, the Hawks managed to climb out of their 0-2 season-starting hole and improve to 2-2.
“We’re thrilled,” Jeffries said. “We’re not thrilled with how we played, we made a lot of errors again, but it’s all correctable stuff.”
In what was anything but a predictable game, the Hawks prevailed and sustained a late-game lead after falling behind twice throughout the match.
After an Ottawa touchdown on their first offensive play from scrimmage and an eight-point lead midway through the third, the Hawks crawled back twice to hang on for their second win of the season, and second win in a row.
“To get in here and get that win was huge. Particularly how we did it,” Jeffries said. “The wind was a huge factor and we had enough guts to play into the wind and put points up and that was the key to the deal today.”
Laurier quarterback Steven Fantham made his first career start in a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) match and threw for four touchdowns, completing 15 of 26 passes. However, his performance was far from flawless, turning the ball over three times, throwing one interception and adding two fumbles.
“I felt a little nervous coming into it, but after the second and third quarter I got a little bit more comfortable,” Fantham said after the game. “It was nice to get a win. Especially when the offence started putting points up and we didn’t have to rely as much on the defence.”
Fantham was starting in place of rookie Travis Eman, who didn’t dress due to a hamstring injury. However, shaky play through the Hawks’ first two games led to Eman being benched for the fourth quarter of Laurier’s win over York last week.
Fullback Josh Pirie had his best performance of his CIS career, catching two touchdowns.
“I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it happened twice,” he said. “It comes down to our offence coordinator’s play calling. He knows where to attack defences and he gets us out of the backfield and into routes where he knows defenders may not account for us”
Jeffries also praised fourth-year fullback Isaac Dell, who more than once made incredible plays to push the Laurier offence up the field.
“He made a catch on the top of the guy’s helmet just as good as you’ll ever see. He made another play here going into the wind where he had to battle to get the first down, and he did it with one shoulder,” he said.
The offence in Saturday’s game almost matched the season total for points. With a shaky start to the offence earlier this year, the Hawks may have found the key to their post-season search.
To match, the defence continued to be stellar, holding the Ottawa offence Saturday from extending their lead, including three consecutive blocks on their one-yard line.
“They make plays. That’s all they do. They’re amazing. Our defence is lights out,” Pirie said.
Ottawa’s loss dropped them to 0-4, their worst start since 1984.
Fighting against a very strong wind into the west, the Hawks persevered and found offence in the fourth quarter. Jeffries expressed his happiness with the passion shown from his squad.
“To play the fourth quarter into the wind was big,” he said. “And we told the kids at halftime whatever team had enough guts to play into that fifteen minutes worth of wind would get the win and we did. We did.”
And now it’s just looking forward.
The Hawks now have the momentum going into the second half of their season, and will go into their Homecoming game with two wins behind them.
Saturday afternoon they will meet the 3-1 Guelph Gryphons in what Jeffries considers another playoff game for his squad.