WLU football taking the 2015 season by storm

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

It’s been two years and nine months since head coach Michael Faulds was hired to coach the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s football team. Come 2015, the Hawks transition period is over and they are ready to take the season by storm.

“Year after year we’re getting better chemistry-wise,“ third-year defensive linesman Kwaku Boateng said.

“We’re at the point where everyone has grown up together. Chemistry is so strong. You’re not playing the game for yourself anymore, it’s more so you’re playing the game for the man beside you and the people supporting you.”

And that chemistry seems to be emanating across the gridiron for the Hawks as they took home a week one 38-21 victory over the York Lions on their home turf. Despite Eric Morelli making his first-career start in the absence of starter James Fracas, Laurier still seemed to execute the crucial parts of their system — almost seamlessly.

The 2015 edition of the Hawks brings many questions to the forefront. Laurier’s offence kept a valuable asset in Hec Crighton nominee Dillon Campbell returning for a fifth-year after his brief stint with the Toronto Argonauts, but took a hit to their special teams when kicker/punter Ronnie Pfeffer found a new home with the Argos before heading to the Ottawa Redblacks.

To combat this, the Hawks look to second-year Nathan Mesher to take over both kicking and punting duties. Mesher made his career debut against York, going 1-for-2 on field goals and punting for 347 yards.

The return of Campbell brings another question: whether or not the Hawks will rely too much on their running game and risk becoming a one-trick pony. Campbell rushed for a CIS-high 1458 yards in 2015, rushing for an average of 182.3 yards per game.

But the Hawks laid those questions to rest, with Morelli choosing many different targets in Greg Nyhof, Marcus Arkarakas, and Zeph Fraser, solving the York defence by not allowing them to key in on a single target. Second-year Morelli had no trouble filling in either, combining for 258 passing yards and three touchdowns while showcasing the Hawks’ depth at both the receiver and quarterback position.

“[Morelli] really managed the game well,” Faulds said. “He went about his reads. You could tell in Saskatchewan he was uneasy, he wasn’t going through his progression properly. He went through the progressions absolutely perfect every time.”

Fifth-year wide receiver Nyhof, who recorded his first touchdown of the 2015 season Sunday, is excited for the upcoming season.

“It’s the same brand of football we ran last year. It’s taken the offence a couple seasons to kind of gel and really start to key in on nuances and really see things out,” he said.

“I think having an older group of guys in the offence, especially in receiver and now the quarterback position as well, it definitely helps with that.”

Hawks quarterback Fracas is expecting to retake his position as starter once he is fully healthy, after sustaining an injury in the Hawks’ preseason tilt against the Saskatchewan Huskies.

On the defensive side of the ball, Laurier will be without CFL draftees Chris Ackie and Ese Mrabure-Ajufo.

Despite losing Ackie and Mrabure-Ajufo, defensive back Boateng does not see this as a concern. Boateng said there is a good recruit class coming in and a lot of second-years willing to step up and fill positions.

“At the end of the day you’ve just got to tell yourself that we’re just reloading, we’re not rebuilding, and that’s always a great sign when you are able to just reload and not rebuild,” he said.

Moreover, the Hawks are eager to get started. The first-game jitters are out of the way, and the team is steadily preparing and getting healthy for week two when they travel to Guelph to take on the Gryphons.

Guelph starts the year nationally ranked at No.6 after stomping the Waterloo Warriors 78-7 to open the season.

“[I’m] most excited to have a Yates Cup run and I’m excited to get a ring on my finger and maybe if it leads off and we win the whole thing then we can go to Vanier,” Boateng said.

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