Unpredictable season for football Hawks ends at home
If you asked anyone to describe the 2013 season of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team in one word, they wouldn’t be able to.
Yes, they lost seven of their eight games this season, with their only win coming against the Waterloo Warriors, who are currently swimming at the bottom of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings with Laurier and Carleton.
Yes, the Hawks didn’t qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and only the second time in 24 years.
Yes, almost 85 per cent of their roster is first or second-year eligibility.
And yes, they gave the No. 1 Western Mustangs everything they could handle and sent the No. 10 Windsor Lancers and the No. 5 Queen’s Gaels to emotional overtimes.
So, how do you describe it?
“At the end of every season, coaches will always say, ‘oh there’s so much potential, so much potential,’” fifth-year Isaac Dell said at the end of his final game in a Hawk uniform. “But on this team, this year, there actually is an extremely large amount of potential.”
On the final day of the 2013 campaign, Laurier failed to put up a challenge to the defending Yates Cup champions, the McMaster Marauders, dropping a 28-5 decision at home.
After so many consistently close contests against bigger opponents, the ending comes as a disappointment to the young Hawk squad.
“It obviously wasn’t the ending that we wanted, but you can see the difference from the first half and the second half,” fifth-year Felix Odum said.
“And that’s really what this team is about. There’s no substitute for experience, and I feel like today was just another example of getting that experience that will be crucial in this team’s success.”
Laurier’s record reads a disappointing season — the Hawks aren’t in the playoffs. However, the road for Laurier is anything but easy to describe. Laurier started with three consecutive losses, first a 21-7 loss to the Guelph Gryphons followed by a 27-20 loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues and a brutal defeat at the hands of the York Lions, 33-20.
After a shakeup on offence and a switch in quarterbacks, where head coach Michael Faulds opted to put James Fracas in the pocket and sideline Julien John, things seemed to get rolling. Laurier played four quarters to their dominant win against Waterloo before leading at half against the Mustangs.
Two overtimes in a row against the Lancers and Gaels saw heartbreaking finishes, both coming from blocked field goals and irregular plays. And finally, a subpar performance against the Marauders finished off the eight-game campaign.
“Two overtime losses, competing with Western, I mean, I thought we were going to come out and be a bit more competitive today, that’s a little bit of a disappointment, but the potential is extremely huge,” Dell said.
With the end of the season, it also caps off Faulds’ first year as bench boss for the Hawks.
Faulds, who is the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) all-time passing leader, was hired in January after Gary Jeffries stepped down from his duties. Since then, the coach worked on implementing a new offensive strategy, new plays and making his players accountable.
“I’ll have to digest for a little bit,” laughed Faulds.
“I think there are a lot of positives. The one thing was we did improve every week and we did work hard every day.”
With an astonishing amount of first and second-year players on the roster, the Hawks only graduate four players, two of which have the ability to come back. However, Dell and Odum say goodbye to five years with the Golden Hawk program.
“It’s hard to describe it,” Dell said. “It hasn’t really sunk in that it’s over yet. I enjoyed the five years. I wouldn’t have kept coming back each year if I didn’t enjoy it. I’m kind of speechless, really … It’s definitely been a crazy ride and I have no regrets with it.”
With Laurier landing the final week bye, the rest of the OUA will finish up the regular season this weekend before heading into the playoffs next weekend. With the addition of the Carleton Ravens, the possibility of two undefeated teams is plausible, as Western and Guelph sit with identical 7-0 records and do not play each other.