TORONTO (August 30, 2015) – On the strength of a very strong debut from quarterback Eric Morelli, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team defeated the York Lions 38-21 in their regular season opener on Sunday.
Making his first career start in place of the injured James Fracas, Morelli, a native of Burlington, Ont., threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns as Laurier started the year with a victory for the second straight year.
“The mindset coming in was just not to try and do too much,” said Morelli after the win. “I’m extremely lucky to have the kind of play makers that I do around me at receiver and running back. And our offensive line is very experienced, they’ve been together for a few years now, so you can’t ask for better than that as a quarterback.”
“He really managed the game well,” stated head coach Michael Faulds on his starter. “He went about his reads. You could tell in Saskatchewan he was uneasy, he wasn’t going through his progression properly. He went through the progressions absolutely perfect every time [today]. He really spread the ball around too so they couldn’t key on one guy.”
Hawks running back Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont., also played a critical role in the victory as he eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the 10th straight game, finishing the contest with 116 yards on 20 carries. It also marked the 15th time in the last 16 games that he has reached the century mark on the ground.
Through the air, defensive back-turned-receiver Carson Ouellette of Windsor, Ont., had a strong afternoon finishing with 70 yards on three receptions. He also added 90 yards on 11 punt returns to accumulate 160 all-purpose yards on the day.
Fellow receivers Greg Nyhof of Georgetown, Ont., Zeph Fraser of Mississauga, Ont., and Marcus Arkarakas of Richmond Hill, Ont., were all recipients of touchdown passes from Morelli. For Fraser, his 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter came on his first career CIS catch.
Defensively, rookie Malcolm Thompson of Windsor, Ont., had a big afternoon as he made three total tackles and returned his first career interception 60-yards for a touchdown. Fellow defensive back Will Pitt-Doe of Mississauga, Ont., also had an interception while Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., and Ronald Kinga of Guelph, Ont., led the tackle parade with 5.5 each.
The difference in Sunday’s game was the second quarter for the purple and gold. After Fraser’s touchdown gave Laurier a 14-0 lead, the Lions responded with a touchdown of their own to cut the advantage in half. However, on York’s next possession, Thompson ripped the ball out of the hands of the Lions receiver before going the distance to re-establish the 14-point cushion. A late field goal from Nathan Mesher of Waterloo, Ont., the first of his career, gave the Hawks a comfortable 17-point cushion after 30 minutes. That would be the differential when the final whistle blew as earned their second straight victory over the Lions.
With Week 1 under their belt, the Hawks will now prepare for their second consecutive road game to start the season against last season’s Yates Cup finalists, the Guelph Gryphons. Laurier and Guelph will tangle at Alumni Stadium on Monday, September 7 at 1 p.m.
NOTES: Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke coached in his 155th career game on Saturday…in total, Morelli completed passes to eight different receivers on the afternoon…seven Hawks were making their first career start, including true freshmen Fraser, Scott Hutter of London, Ont., Trevaughn James of Whitby, Ont., and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa