WATERLOO, Ont. (October 30, 2014) - After missing the playoffs last season, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team will return to postseason play this Saturday, November 1 when they travel to London to face the No. 7 Western Mustangs in the OUA Quarter-finals.
Plenty of intrigue surrounds Saturday’s game as the Hawks (4-4) and Mustangs (6-2) meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. In that matchup five years ago, an OUA semifinal showdown at University Stadium, current head coach MICHAEL FAULDS guided the Mustangs to an upset victory over the host Golden Hawks, 26-16, in his final year with Western. This time around, it will be Faulds looking to propel his team, from the sidelines, to an upset win over a Mustangs team that is heavily favoured entering the contest.
The reason why most pundits are picking the Mustangs to come out on top lies in the fact that Western posted a 61-20 victory over the purple and gold back in Week 7 of the regular season. In that game, Western rushed for 431 yards, just two yards less than what the Hawks managed in the entire contest.
Although the Hawks admittedly struggled in that game, they have been a different team since that point in time, giving two Top 5 nationally-ranked teams very good games in their final two weeks of the season. The week following the Western match, Laurier held the No. 3 McMaster Marauders to just 27 points in a 27-10 loss and in their final week of the season, the Hawks played a great second half and nearly overcame a 32-point deficit against the No. 4 Guelph Gryphons before just falling short by five points 41-36.
Laurier also enters this week’s quarter-final matchup with the luxury of knowing who Western’s quarterback will be this time around. Going into their regular season game back on the week of Thanksgiving, the Hawks were unaware that Stevenson Bone of Toronto, would make his first career start. However, this time around Laurier has been able to prepare for the Mustangs second-stringer after starting quarterback Will Finch of Burlington, Ont., was reportedly lost for the season last week against Windsor.
One key area that coach Faulds has noted all week if the Hawks are to have success this weekend is the need for his team to play four strong quarters against the third-seeded Mustangs. In particular, the Hawks need to get off to a good start against Western. The first half has been the root of many of Laurier’s problems this season, particularly in the past three weeks. While the purple and gold have outscored their opponents 129 to 125 in the opening two quarters, those numbers pale in comparison to their second half scoring stats in which Laurier has dominated their opponents 148 to 73. If Laurier can get off to a quick start Saturday, it will give the team a chance to pull off the upset.
Fans wishing to attend Saturday’s game can purchase tickets for the Laurier fan bus. For just $10, the bus will take fans to and from TD Stadium in London, departing at 11am from the bus stop on University Ave., next to the Athletic Complex. Tickets for the bus can be purchased online at tickets.laurierathletics.com or at the AC Hawk Desk or U-Desk. Note that tickets for the game must be purchased separately.
HAWKS TO WATCH
- RB Dillon Campbell will have all eyes on him on Saturday, particularly those of the Mustang defenders. While Western limited him to his lowest rushing total of the year in their first meeting, 111 yards, the versatile back finished as the team’s leading receiver to total nearly 200 all-purpose yards in the game. This year's CIS leading rusher will need to be at his very best to help keep Laurier’s offence moving against Western.
- QB James Fracas is one of the few Laurier starters who has playoff experience as he played the majority of the Hawks last playoff game against Queen’s in 2012. In that contest, he threw for 161 yards after coming on when starter Steven Fantham went down with an injury. Fracas will look to call on that experience, as well as the experience gained this season in his first full season as a starter, on Saturday.
- DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo and Laurier’s defensive line will play a key role in Saturday’s game. The fourth year defensive end will need to find a way to get pressure on Bone, who will be making just his second career OUA start and his first in the playoffs. Mrabure-Ajufo is coming off a career-high for single season sacks with 5.5 and will need to be in the Mustangs backfield all afternoon to give the Hawks a chance.