WATERLOO, Ont. (August 30, 2014) - Looking to put a difficult 2013 campaign behind them, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team kicks off their 2014 season on the road Monday evening when they travel to Toronto to face the Varsity Blues.
Laurier enters their second year under head coach MICHAEL FAULDS looking to build off of their positive results against nationally-ranked opponents that ended last season. A full off-season of training and learning the intricacies of both the coaching staff’s offensive and defensive schemes has given the purple and gold every reason to believe that they be a much better team than last season’s 1-7 squad.
After a number of players established themselves a year ago as go-to options for Faulds and his staff, the Hawks come into the season with more stability at key positions then they have in the past two seasons. Highlighting that group are the engines that make the offence churn in quarterback James Fracas of Waterloo, Ont., and running back Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont.
Fracas entered training camp as the undisputed number one option for the purple and gold after taking over as the starter last season and learning with Canadian Football League (CFL) professionals at Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp this summer. As for Campbell, Fracas’ primary partner in the backfield, his success a year ago, in which he was named an OUA Second Team All-Star after leading the league in rushing, means he will once again be relied upon to lead the ground game.
Looking at the rest of the offence, Fracas will have four starters returning at receiver, once again emphasizing the trend of continuity from 2013. Expected starters include last year’s leading receiver Greg Nyhof of Georgetown, Ont., OUA All-Rookie Marcus Arkarakas of Richmond Hill, Ont., Scott Campbell of Cambridge, Ont., and Anthony Pizzuti of Hamilton.
On defence, defensive coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke also has the luxury of welcoming back most of his starters. Two names to keep an eye on include draft-eligible players Chris Ackie of Cambridge, Ont., and Ese Mrabure-Ajufo of Mississauga, Ont. Both have aspirations of playing in the CFL after putting up strong showings at the 2014 East West Bowl so fans can expect big seasons from the two fourth year veterans.
Outside of Ackie and Mrabure-Ajufo, the Hawks possess a wealth of athletic talent that should make life miserable for opposing teams. Among the group are OUA All-Rookie defensive end Kwaku Boateng, last year’s leading tackler, linebacker Brandon Calver of London, Ont., and defensive back Tanner Philp of Burlington, Ont., who returns after missing all of last season due to injury.
Laurier’s first test of the season comes in the form of the Toronto Varsity Blues, a team that has won three consecutive games against the Hawks. The purple and gold will be anxious to put an end to that streak on Monday and avenge last year’s narrow 27-20 loss.
The Hawks will need to contain fourth-year starting quarterback Simon Nassar, who is coming off a season in which he threw for 1,549 yards in just four appearances. Look for Laurier to take away passing options for Nassar and force Toronto to run the ball after the Blues lost last year’s running back Aaron Milton to the CFL.