Rocky season comes to close

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(Photo by Nick Lachance)

Finally, it has come to an end.

In what has been described as one of the worst football seasons in ten years, dating back to 2002 when the team had a record of 1-7, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks saw their time in the Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) playoffs come to a quick and abrupt finish after being defeated 34-0.

A rouge, three seconds in to Saturday’s quarterfinal match between the third-seeded Queen’s Gaels and the sixth-seeded Hawks was as much offence as the Gaels needed to walk away with a ticket into the semifinals.

And a somber loss sent the Hawks on a long bus ride back home.

“I’m extremely proud of them,” head coach Gary Jeffries said. “They battled and that’s all we can ever ask. They did that all year. This was no exception today.”

The blow-out loss capped off a year that included three scoreless games, 18 straight quarters without a touchdown — dating back to the Homecoming game against the Guelph Gryphons — and 11 straight quarters without a point, going back to the first quarter against the Western Mustangs Oct. 13.

“I hate to use it as an excuse, but youth and inexperience,” said fourth-year full back Isaac Dell of the team’s disappointing season. “Obviously we didn’t want it to end this way and Queen’s on the defensive side of the ball wasn’t necessarily doing anything that we didn’t expect, we just couldn’t get it rolling.”

The Hawks finished the regular season with a 3-5 record. The offence generated the fewest points in the OUA. Their total amount of points generated barely passed over 100.

“I know on the offensive side of the ball I was the only returning starter, so it’s kind of tough to get cohesion with a young group,” Dell said.

With an uncertain future, the Hawks will need to find some way to get rid of the dark cloud that surfaced moments into the season-opening 19-0 loss against the Toronto Varsity Blues.

The most rushing yards generated were by first-year quarterback Travis Eman. Veteran quarterback, Steven Fantham, completed 50 of 95 attempts throughout the year, amounting to only 53 per cent. 46 of the 109 points came from Laurier’s special teams

The team will only lose a small portion of their 2012 roster, with the majority being returning players who were in their first or second year this season.

“Next year it’s definitely going to be high priority, high expectations to do that game after game, play after play,” promised Dell.

At the end of Saturday’s defeat, Jeffries took a moment to acknowledge those veterans he spent the last four or five years coaching.

“To the nine guys that probably strapped it on for the last time, I thanked them,” he said. “I thanked them for everything they’ve given us. They’ve given us a great deal.”

It wasn’t all upsets throughout the year. With a young group, the Hawks saw mild glimpses of sun in certain players such as second-year running back Lance Freeman, who broke out with two touchdowns against the York Lions and second-year kicker Ronnie Pfeffer, who finished fourth among Laurier’s all-time punting records against McMaster and finished fourth among the OUA.

On the defensive side, fifth-year Mitchell Bosch broke the record for Laurier’s all-time leading tackles against York, fourth-year Drew Galpin who cracked the top five all-time tackles against McMaster and finished first among the OUA in tackles.

“That’s the stuff we were striving for and that’s the stuff we know we can do,” Dell said. “We just have to put back-to-back drives together, back-to-back plays together and the glimpses of that show that we can do it.”

The Hawks will have a couple weeks off before they start winter workouts and training. During which time, the OUA will continue to move into playoffs, with the second-seeded Gryphons hosting the Gaels and the No. 1 nationally ranked McMaster Marauders hosting Western on Saturday afternoon. The winners of each game will advance to the 105th Yates Cup.

And before the 2012 version of the Laurier Golden Hawks left Richardson Stadium in Kingston Saturday evening, they left one last message.

“Watch us next year,” Dell said. “We’ll be back.”

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