Starting quarterback Connor Carusello is optimistic about the upcoming season
Nearly 23 months and over 700 days since the last time the Golden Hawks football team saw the field, veteran quarterback, Connor Carusello is “pumped” for the regular season to begin.
“I’m pumped, man. It’s actually crazy the [number] of emotions I’ve been through,” Carusello said.
I’m pumped, man. It’s actually crazy the [number] of emotions I’ve been through.Connor carusello
With training camp starting this past week and the opener against the York Lions only two weeks away, Carusello shares the excitement of his entire team as they prepare for a return to the gridiron after a lost season.
“I think everyone in the locker room has the same feeling of getting started,” Carusello said.
“After a year without football, we are extremely excited to get back,” head coach Michael Faulds echoed.
Following the cancellation of the 2020 Ontario University Athletics football season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, each team in the OUA will have to adjust for a challenging yet unique upcoming season.
The OUA and its 12 member coaches met regularly throughout the pandemic and were able to agree on a reduced schedule prioritizing regional travel.
After leading a top-three offense in 2019, quarterback, Connor Carusello will return for the Golden Hawks this year, playing in his senior season and slated as the team’s starting quarterback.
With several changes on the coaching staff, offensive and defensive stars selected in the CFL Draft and losses to eligibility due to the cancellation last season, the Golden Hawks will enter the upcoming year with many fresh faces in the football locker room.
2019 leading rusher, Levondre Gordon and leading receiver, Brentyn Hall are no longer with the team, while core players in Bryce Bell, Brad Cowan and Sam Acheampong have moved onto a professional career in the CFL.
Fourth-year quarterback, Carusello is not worried about the youth in the locker room and is optimistic the team will minimize the growing pains. Carusello points to a strong balance in the roster make-up and an advantageous familiarity with new offensive coordinator Todd Galloway.
“We have some key guys on defence coming back and Ente [Eguavoen] coming back. I feel that the veteran guys will help lead the way for the young guys to own their role,” Carusello said.
Coach Faulds hired Laurier alumni, Todd Galloway as their new offensive coordinator a couple of months before the pandemic started. Bringing nearly two decades of USPORTS coaching experience, Galloway led successful offences with the Guelph Gryphons and McMaster Marauders before returning to the purple and gold.
“I didn’t know Coach Galloway too much before he joined us… it took about ten minutes through my first meeting to gain a crazy amount of respect for that guy,” Carusello said.
“The stuff he does behind the scenes to develop his offence is crazy,” he continued.
While acknowledging a year without football, both Coach Faulds and Carusello believe that the pandemic was a blessing in disguise as the team was able to learn and implement the new playbook that Galloway was looking to install.
With a reduced schedule this year featuring only six games compared to the usual slate of eight games, the Golden Hawks know that they will need to start the season strong.
“We’ve been fortunate this year. [Galloway] came in early and we got to practice our plays and learn the playbook super early. We got everyone familiarized with the playbook,” Carusello said.
“The timing of the pandemic wasn’t bad. We would have been rushed to implement the new system and playbook. Having an extra year has certainly been beneficial with bringing in Todd Galloway,” Faulds said.
After their second consecutive Yates Cup appearance in 2017, the Golden Hawks had back-to-back 4-4 seasons in 2018 and 2019, missing the playoffs both seasons. Laurier will rely on Carusello and some key defensive returns as they set their sights towards a return to the post-season this upcoming year.
With a tough schedule and several new pieces to the coaching staff and roster, Carusello will take on an increased leadership role this upcoming season. He was one of six Laurier Golden Hawk players to be selected to the East-West bowl showcase this past spring. A game intended for USPORTS athletes to display their talent for the CFL, however, was cancelled this past year due to the pandemic.
Carusello appreciated the recognition of being named to the roster but was disappointed that the game could not take place. “It sucks because I would have liked to showcase some of my talent in the game itself,” Carusello said.
Due to his performance in 2018 and specifically in 2019, leading a dynamic Golden Hawk offense, Carusello has been nominated for the OUA cover vote. The conference voting competition started earlier this week and will continue into next week, with Carusello currently in the second-round semi-finals at the time this is written.
“I got a bunch of support from back home which was great to see,” Carusello said. “I appreciate all of the votes and support.”
Laurier fans can vote on the OUA social media page and will surely see the post promoted by all of Laurier football’s socials throughout this upcoming week.
With OUA sports finally returning and the home opener against York quickly approaching, Carusello enters the season with complete optimism.
“Everyone in the locker room is working towards a winning mindset,” he said.
Asked what would deem this football year a success, Carusello said, “We are going in with a mindset that we want to put up points and that we want to win every football game we play in.”
Training camp for Coach Faulds and the men’s football team has already begun, with the home opener against the York Lions kicking off Sept. 18 at 1:00 P.M.