Golden Hawks face Saskatchewan in pre-season tilt

Jamie Howieson
Laurier Athletics

Laurier and Saskatchewan battle for the first time since the 2005 Vanier Cup on Friday (Photo Credit: Freestyle Photography)
Laurier and Saskatchewan battle for the first time since the 2005 Vanier Cup on Friday (Photo Credit: Freestyle Photography)

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team is heading out West this week as they will face the Saskatchewan Huskies in a non-conference game on Friday night.

Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. Eastern and the game can be seen live on CanadaWest.tv.

The matchup against Saskatchewan will mark the 10-year anniversary of Laurier’s thrilling 2005 Vanier Cup victory over the Huskies. That game saw the underdog Golden Hawks rally late against Saskatchewan as Brian Devlin connected on a 32-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to give the purple and gold a 24-23 win for their second-ever Vanier Cup Championship.

This edition of the Golden Hawks heads out to Western Canada carrying a mostly veteran roster that will be looking for a positive start to their season as they look to build on what was a bounce-back year for the program in 2014. After missing the playoffs in 2013, Laurier posted a 4-4 record a year ago and qualified for the postseason. They would eventually lose out to the nationally-ranked Western Mustangs in the OUA quarter-finals but that experience should prove invaluable for a team that returns 19 of their 24 starters from that contest.

Headlining the group on offence are the likes of running back Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont., last year’s OUA MVP, quarterback James Fracas of Waterloo, Ont., receivers Greg Nyhof of Georgetown, Ont., and Anthony Pizzuti of Hamilton, as well as four of the five starting members on the offensive line. Every member of this group will make the trip out to Saskatchewan as new offensive coordinator Mark Surya looks to get his players ready for the upcoming season.

On defence, the Hawks lost two key members to the CFL in defensive back Chris Ackie of Cambridge, Ont., and defensive lineman Ese Mrabure-Ajufo of Mississauga, Ont. However, they have a number of veterans returning as well, including defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng of Milton, Ont., who was second in the OUA in sacks a year ago, as well as Tanner Philp of Burlington, Ont., linebackers Anthony Petrucci of Sarnia, Ont., and Brandon Calver of London, Ont., and Godfrey Onyeka of Brampton, Ont. This entire group will travel out West as defensive coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke aims to fine tune his lineup prior to Week 1 against York.

Meanwhile, the Huskies, who were Canada West semifinalist in 2014, also return a veteran team that will be looking to take another step in 2015. Saskatchewan is led by pivot Drew Burko of Saskatoon, Sask., who was fifth in the country in passing yards a year ago with 2,256. He also threw 21 touchdown passes, second most in Canada behind only Laval’s Hugo Richard.

Defensively, fifth year linebacker Geoff Hughes of Regina, Sask., will be a player to watch for the Huskies as he finished second on the team in tackles with 38 last season.

In total, Laurier will travel with 51 players for the game against Saskatchewan as they look to narrow down potential starters for their opening game against the Lions. New faces for fans of the purple and gold to keep an eye on include receivers Zeph Fraser of Mississauga, Ont., and Kurleigh Gittens Jr., of Ottawa, on offence, along with defensive lineman Trevaughn James of Whitby, Ont., and linebacker Noah Usherwood of Vancouver, on defence.

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