2015 CIS Football Team Preview: Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks

Photo: Bruce Bell
Photo: Bruce Bell

Jamie Howieson
Canadian Interuniversity Sport 

2014 regular season record: 4-4
2014 regular season standings: 6th in OUA
2014 playoff record: 0-1
2014 playoff finish: Lost 25-10 to Western in the conference quarter-finals

After returning to the OUA playoffs in 2014, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks appear poised to make another step forward as they look to make their way back to the top of the OUA.

Led by third year head coach Michael Faulds, the purple and gold made significant strides as a program under Faulds a year ago. Following a 1-7 campaign in his first season at the helm, the Golden Hawks vaulted themselves into the playoffs thanks to a 4-4 record, good enough for sixth in the league. Despite losing to the nationally-ranked Western Mustangs in the quarter-finals, a young Laurier squad gained valuable playoff experience as they went toe-to-toe with a veteran Mustangs squad, holding the lead until late into the third quarter.

This season, the Hawks return 19 of a possible 24 starters and have added one of the top recruiting classes in the country. They also received a big boost late in the summer when last year’s CIS leading rusher Dillon Campbell announced he would be returning for his fifth and final year with the program. His addition means that the fifth ranked offence in the OUA a year ago, now under the direction of new offensive coordinator Mark Surya, will return both its starting quarterback (James Fracas) and starting running back.

Defensively, Laurier suffered two big losses in the form of first round CFL draft picks Chris Ackie (4th overall) and Ese Mrabure-Ajufo (5th overall), but they still possess a lot of talent across the board. Defensive coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke will have at his disposal defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng, who finished second in the conference in sacks a year ago, as well as third year linebacker Brandon Calver, who has 40 or more tackles in each of his first two seasons in the league.

Quote from head coach:

“Heading into year three as a staff has a completely different feel as we have much more continuity throughout our coaches and players. We have continued to gain momentum and last year moved from the bottom tier of the OUA, to the middle tier. It won’t be easy, but this year everyone associated with Laurier Football is determined to get back to the top tier. Not only have our returning players put together a body of work this off-season to be proud of, but we are also welcoming an outstanding recruiting class. We will have great depth and competition at every position this year, which will make us a more complete team.”

Head Coach: Michael Faulds

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2015): 3
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2015): 3
– Career regular season record with team: 5-11
– Career regular season record in CIS: 5-11
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 5-12
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only): 5-12

OFFENCE

Number of returning starters: 9

Key returning players:

RB Dillon Campbell heads into his fifth and final season with the Golden Hawks. The OUA MVP in 2014, Campbell was a Hec Crighton Trophy nominee after leading the nation in rushing yards (1,458) and touchdowns (13) a season ago. The Whitby, Ont., native ran for more than 100 yards in every game last year and ran for more than 200 on three occasions, including a school-record 293 yards against Toronto in Week 1.

QB James Fracas enters his fourth season of eligibility with the purple and gold. The native of Waterloo, Ont., started all eight games for Laurier in 2014, completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,574 yards and 13 touchdowns. He became just the second Golden Hawks quarterback to ever complete at least 62 percent of his passes in consecutive seasons (Rod Philp – 1986, 1987)

REC Greg Nyhof returns for his fourth season at Laurier. A 2015 East West Bowl participant, the Georgetown, Ont., native tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns a year ago with five, despite missing three games due to injury. He finished the year averaging over 17 yards per reception (15 receptions, 265 yards), the third year in a row he’s accomplished the feat.

REC Anthony Pizzuti (Hamilton) also heads into his fourth season with the Golden Hawks. Last year’s favourite target for QB James Fracas, he finished the season with 40 receptions, 359 yards and five touchdowns, all team-highs. His 40 receptions were also good enough to rank him in the Top 10 in Ontario.

REC Marcus Arkarakas enters his third year of eligibility with the purple and gold. Originally from Richmond Hill, Ont., Arkarakas enjoyed a break out year in 2014 as he finished second on the team in receptions with 30, and receiving yards with 350.

Key recruits or transfers:

RB Osayi Iginuan from St. Thomas More CSS (Montreal)

REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr. from Sir Wilfrid Laurier SS (Ottawa)

REC Zeph Fraser from Champlain College (Mississauga, Ont.)

OL Drew Mairleitner from Medway HS (Denfield, Ont.)

OL JD Richardson from Assumption CSS (Burlington, Ont.)

Key losses:

OL Tommy Griffiths

FB Rashad LaTouche

DEFENCE

Number of returning starters: 10

Key returning players:

DL Kwaku Boateng heads into his third season with the purple and gold. A native of Milton, Ont., he finished second in the OUA in sacks in his sophomore year as he notched six over the eight game season. Four of those sacks came in the Week 1 opener versus Toronto to set a new team single-game record, and he added three more in Laurier’s playoff loss to Western.

DB Ben Millar returns for his fourth year at Laurier. An OUA Second Team All-Star in 2014, this native of Campbellville, Ont., finished fifth on the team in total tackles with 28.5 while adding one interception and three pass breakups in seven games played.

LB Anthony Petrucci enters his junior year with the Golden Hawks. Originally from Sarnia, Ont., he participated in the 2015 East West Bowl after enjoying a breakout year with the purple and gold. In eight games in 2014, he recorded 33 tackles, fourth most on the team, and added three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

LB Brandon Calver returns for his third year with the purple and gold. A native of London, Ont., he recorded 40-plus tackles for the second consecutive season in 2014 as he finished second on the Golden Hawks with 41.5. He also added one forced fumble and one fumble recovery to his resume as Laurier’s starting middle linebacker.

LB Nakas Onyeka heads into his third season at Laurier. Another breakout star on defence from 2014, the native of Brampton, Ont., recorded 38.5 tackles in eight games, including an impressive 11 tackle performance against the McMaster Marauders in Week 8. He also added an interception, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup.

Key recruits or transfers:

DL Trevaughan James from Trinity-Pawling School (Whitby, Ont.)

DL Robert Smith from St. Thomas Aquinas SS (Brampton, Ont.)

LB Matt Williams from Salisbury School (Ajax, Ont.)

LB Noah Usherwood from Peddie School (Burnaby, B.C.)

Key losses:

DB Chris Ackie

DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo

SPECIAL TEAMS

Key returning players:

RET Carson Ouellette heads into his second year with the Golden Hawks. A native of Windsor, Ont., he led Laurier in both punt and kick returns in 2014. His 281 kick return yards were the eighth most in a single season in team history and he also added 236 punt return yards.

RET Will Pitt-Doe returns for his third season at Laurier. After setting a new team record for kick return yards in a season with 560 in 2013, the native of Mississauga, Ont., was hampered by injuries in 2014. Fully healthy again, Pitt-Doe returns to form a potent return tandem with Ouellette.

Key losses:

K/P Ronnie Pfeffer

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