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(Photo Credit: Kha Vo)
(Photo Credit: Kha Vo)
MFOOT to play pre-season game vs Concordia
MONTREAL, Que (August 17, 2017)- The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team is hitting the road for a pre-season tune up against the Concordia Stingers on Friday afternoon. 

On Friday afternoon the defending Yates Cup champion Hawks will take on the Concordia Stingers at Concordia Stadium in Montreal in an exhibition tilt. 

In 2016 the Golden Hawks finished the regular season 7-1 — the team’s best record since 2007 — before beating McMaster and Western on their way to the eighth Yates Cup title in team history. The purple and gold would have their season ended in the Uteck Bowl by the eventual Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge et Or.

The Stingers, meanwhile, are coming off a 2016 season that saw them finish tied for third in the RSEQ standings with a 4-4 record. Like the Hawks, the Stingers also had their campaign ended at the hands of the Rouge et Or, falling in the provincial semifinal. 

“We’re excited our team is once again playing an out of conference game against a quality opponent like Concordia,” said Laurier head coach Michael Faulds, last year’s OUA and U SPORTS coach of the year. “Coach Mickey Donovan has done a great job with that team and they will be a very tough challenge for us.”

The Golden Hawks lost a number of key contributors from last year’s provincial championship squad to graduation and the CFL, however Faulds and the Laurier coaching staff are excited by a core of players who return with another year of experience under their belts. 

On offence for the Hawks, quarterback Michael Knevel (Brantford, Ont.) enters his first full season as starter after emerging as the No. 1 pivot in Week 3 last year. Knevel will have no shortage of options in the passing game as the Hawks return an explosive receiving corps led by Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (Ottawa, Ont.), Brentyn Hall (Toronto, Ont.) and Carson Ouellette (Windsor, Ont.).

On the ground, the Hawks are coming off a season that saw them lead the country in rushing yards, averaging 281.4 per game, while scoring 21 rushing touchdowns, good for second in the country. This season a deep, talented stable of running backs will be led a thunder-and-lightning backfield of third years Levondre Gordon (Mississauga, Ont.) and Osayi Iginuan (Hamilton, Ont.). In the trenches, the Golden Hawks return three starters — Edward Cadougan (Scarborough, Ont.), Chris Reddy (Kitchener, Ont.) and Drew Mairleitner (London, Ont.) — on an offensive line that not only opened up holes for the nation’s top running game but also allowed just eight sacks all season.  

On defence, the Golden Hawks saw Nakas Onyeka (Brampton, Ont.), last year’s President’s Award winner as the OUA’s top stand-up defensive player, and Kwaku Boateng (Milton, Ont.), the 2015 J.P Metras Award winner as the OUA’s top lineman, move on to the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos, respectively. 

But with a number of key contributors returning, the Hawks, led by defensive coordinator and associate head coach Ron VanMoerkerke, look primed to once again be one of the top defensive units in U SPORTS. 

Jalen Price (Hamilton, Ont.), a 2015 first-team OUA all-star, returns on the defensive line, along with fourth year Rashari Henry (Ottawa, Ont.) and third years Robbie Smith (Brampton, Ont.) and Trevaughan James (Whitby, Ont.), while fifth year Brandon Calver (London, Ont.) anchors a deep group at linebacker. 

Last season, Laurier’s 16 interceptions tied them for second most in the country and the defensive backfield should once again be a strength. Godfrey Onyeka, a first-team All-Canadian in 2015 and 2016 returns at cornerback, while the talented, veteran unit is rounded out by the likes of Scott Hutter (London, Ont.), Ron Kinga (Guelph, Ont.), Isaiah Guzylak-Messam (Hamilton, Ont.) and Taylor Calverly (Pottageville, Ont.). 

Nathan Mesher (Waterloo, Ont.), who calmly went 5/5 on field goals in last year’s Yates Cup including the game winner, returns in the kicking game. 

The Stingers, meanwhile, had the top passing offence in the Quebec conference last year, averaging over 300 yards per game. 

Leading the way in that high-octane air attack was quarterback Trenton Miller, the 2015 RSEQ MVP, who finished second in the nation in touchdown passes last year. Miller was able to spread the ball around to a talented receiving corps led by Vincent Alessandrini (2016 RSEQ offensive rookie of the year), Justin Julien and Yanic Lessard. 

This is the third-straight year the Golden Hawks have left the province for a pre-season game. In 2015, the team travelled to Saskatoon where they fell 33-10 to the Saskatchewan Huskies while last season they visited the Montreal Carabins, losing a tight 37-33 game. 

“Preseason games really help to break-up training camp,” said Faulds. “We are constantly competing Laurier vs. Laurier and any time you can go against a different colour jersey the competitive juices really start to flow.”

Laurier and Concordia have played seven previous games, with Laurier winning all but one. The last meeting between the two came in 1974, a 21-10 Golden Hawks win.

Game time at Concordia is 2 p.m.

The Golden Hawks will open their regular season Sunday, Aug. 27 at home against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Kickoff for the 2017 home opener is 1 p.m. at University Stadium.

- Written by Dan Polischuk
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