LONDON, Ont. (November 1, 2014) - The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team had their season come to an end on Saturday as they lost 25-10 to the No. 7 Western Mustangs in the OUA Quarter-finals at TD Stadium.
For three quarters, the purple and gold went toe-to-toe with the third-seeded Mustangs. However, a 15-point fourth quarter outburst from Western, which included their lone touchdown of the game late in the contest, helped the hometown team avoid the upset and eliminated Laurier.
“Obviously I’m upset that we lost but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort we had,” said head coach MICHAEL FAULDS following his first playoff game as a head coach. “Defensively, it was an unbelievable effort. Holding Western’s offence to just one touchdown was phenomenal. Our guys battled all day. You could see it right until the fourth, they kept coming right at Western and I’m pleased with our effort.”
After allowing 61 points, the most in school history, against the Mustangs back in Week 7, it was a very different Laurier team that hit the field on Saturday. The Hawks jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and on the strength of their defence, held on to that margin until the fourth quarter when the Mustangs finally pulled away.
Defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng of Mississauga, Ont., was one of the key players for Laurier on the defensive side in the ball in helping to hold Western to 25 points, nearly 27 points below their season average. The second year defensive end recorded three sacks and 7.5 tackles. The three sacks equaled Laurier’s single game playoff record, set by Steve Cormack back in the 2008 playoffs, also against the Mustangs.
Linebacker Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., also continued his 2014 coming-out party with a game-high 9.5 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
“We came out swinging first,” said Boateng of the Hawks’ defensive effort. “Three weeks ago we were very conservative and this time we just came out swinging. We knew it was going to go 12 rounds and I believe our defence played well. It just goes to show that our defence can be one of the best in the country.”
However, the Hawks could not keep the Mustangs down for the entire contest. Western kicker Zack Medeiros of St. Thomas, Ont., was a difference maker in the game for the Mustangs as he was successful on four of five field goal attempts. Western’s other 13 points came off of three conceded safeties and a touchdown from Yannick Harou of Gatineau, Que., with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
With Western needing someone to step up in the absence of starting quarterback Will Finch of Burlington, Ont., it was Harou who took his team on his back, racking up 162 yards on 22 carries.
Finch’s replacement, Stevenson Bone of Damien, CT, finished the game 9-for-22 for 142 yards but was sacked five times and intercepted twice.
One of those interceptions set up Laurier’s opening score of the game when Ben Millar of Campbellville, Ont., picked Bone off on his first pass attempt of the game. The excellent field position led to a seven-yard touchdown run by Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont.
Campbell, the leading rusher in the CIS, was once again Laurier’s offensive catalyst in the game as he had 134 yards on 25 carries, the eighth time this season he’s rushed for more than 100 yards.
The downside for the Hawks was Campbell was the only player who was able to get anything going on offence. Quarterback James Fracas of Waterloo, Ont., struggled on the day, completing just 7-of-20 passes for 36 yards while being intercepted twice.
Kicker Ronnie Pfeffer of Kitchener, Ont., accounted for Laurier’s only other points on the day, connecting on a 35-yard field goal in the opening quarter.
Despite the loss, it’s been a remarkable turnaround for the purple and gold, one year removed from a 1-7 season a year ago. However, Faulds believes this is only the start for a team he views as being on the up swing in the OUA.
“Obviously finishing last year 1-7 and this year making our way into the playoffs, you can see the progression and the steps that we’ve taken,” stated the Hawks bench boss. “Obviously you’re never satisfied unless you’re the team holding up that Vanier Cup at the end. I’m proud of how our guys have battled and gone from the bottom of the pack to more of the middle of the pack. But we need a huge step up to become an elite team in this conference and we know we have to do that next year.”