Record-setting night lifts Laurier past Ottawa

ottawa
Photo: Kha Vo

Jamie Howieson
Laurier Athletics

WATERLOO, ON – The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team put together their most complete performance of the season on Friday night as they defeated the Ottawa Gee-Gees 65-30 at University Stadium.

In a battle between two teams fighting for the sixth and final playoff spot, Laurier made a statement as they posted a season-best 41 first-half points, and would finish the night with the most points the team has scored under head coach Michael Faulds. The win improves the Hawks to 3-3, and gives them sole possession of sixth place in the OUA, while the Gee-Gees fall to 2-4.

“I’m so proud of our guys,” said Faulds after the game. “We were really down after the Windsor game a couple weeks ago. Captains, everyone said they were going to dig deeper. We proved that we dug deeper last week against Waterloo, but this week against a team that’s fighting for the playoffs like Ottawa with a quarterback like Wendel, I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”

“It was a great feeling, there’s not too many words to describe it,” added quarterback Eric Morelli on the Hawks offensive explosion. “It doesn’t surprise me too much because I know the players, the receivers and everyone out of the backfield. All of these plays were plays we’ve executed before, but it was nice to put it all together drive after drive and score some points.”

For Morelli, a native of Burlington, Ont., he picked the perfect night to have the best game of his career, and one of the best single-game performances by a Laurier quarterback in school history. In just his third career start, Morelli completed 20-of-24 pass attempts for 298 yards. However, the big number for the Hawks starting pivot was touchdown passes as he finished the game with six to tie the Laurier school record for most touchdown passes in a single game. He equals the mark set twice by former Vanier Cup winning quarterback Bill Kubas who accomplished the feat twice in his career, once in 1992 and again in 1994.

“I think nerves got to him the last couple of weeks, but I have to remind myself that this is only his third career start,” stated Fauls on his starting quarterback. “He’s new to this and if that’s his performance in his third-ever start, he can definitely do bigger and better things.”

Thanks to Morelli’s big night, the receivers had a big night for Laurier, including Anthony Pizzuti of Hamilton. The fourth year slotback finished the night with five catches for 38 yards and three touchdowns, equaling Laurier’s single-game record for most touchdown receptions in a game. He joins Andre Talbot, Joel Wright and Bryon Hickey as the only Laurier players to accomplish the feat.

“It feels great,” said Pizzuti of matching the school mark. “I was working hard all week trying to show what I could do. Eric was putting the ball in the perfect spots, I’m just going to go up there and make the play, but he’s giving me a shot to make the play.”

Not to be outdone by his teammates, Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont., earned himself another school record on Friday night. The fifth year running back carried the ball 37 times for 246 yards and a touchdown, with his 37 carries breaking the previous single-game high of 36 by a Laurier player, a record held by his current coach Ryan Lynch. Lynch set the mark in a game against Waterloo back in 2007.

Campbell’s 246 rushing yards on the night is also the fourth most in school history and he now holds three of the top five single game rushing performances for the Golden Hawks. His second-consecutive 200-plus yard rushing game also puts him just four yards behind Carleton’s Jahvari Bennett for top spot on the CIS rushing leaders list.

Other Golden Hawks that contributed to Laurier’s highest point total since 2011 include rookie receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa, who had seven catches for a career-high 141 yards while also registering his first career touchdown, and Greg Nyhof of Georgetown, Ont., who had three catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

While the offence gets to claim all the accolades on this night, perhaps just as impressive a performance for Laurier was that of their defence. Going up against the top passing quarterback in the conference heading into the game, the Hawks limited Ottawa quarterback Derek Wendel of Belleville, Ont., to just 61 first half passing yards as they built up a 31-point halftime lead. The purple and gold also forced him to throw just his fifth interception of the season while limiting him to just a single touchdown pass.

Wendel, who came into the game averaging over 400 yards passing per game, would wind up finishing the night 25-for-42 for 290 yards.

Leading the defensive effort was Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., who added eight more tackles to his season total and now has 39 this season, a new career-high. Fellow linebacker, rookie Matt Williams of Ajax, Ont., chipped in with seven tackles while Scott Hutter of London, Ont., recorded his first career interception.

With back-to-back wins under their belts, the Golden Hawks will look to make it three-in-a-row next Saturday, October 17, when they host the No. 6 McMaster Marauders in their final home game of the regular season. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at University Stadium.

NOTES: Laurier has now won three consecutive games against the Gee-Gees dating back to the 2011 season…the Hawks and Gee-Gees were meeting for the first time since 2012…fourth year defensive back Tanner Philp of Burlington, Ont., had three pass breakups in the contest and now ranks third overall in the OUA with five…the Hawks posted 637 yards of offence in the game while the Gee-Gees had 461 yards…attendance at University Stadium was 1,004

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