WATERLOO, ON – The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team missed an opportunity to clinch an OUA playoff berth as they lost 30-21 to the No. 6 McMaster Marauders on Saturday afternoon at University Stadium.
Needing a victory to assure themselves of at least the sixth seed in the OUA, the Hawks failed to convert on crucial scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter allowing McMaster to hold on to their lead and improve to 6-1 on the season. As for the Hawks, the loss drops them to 3-4 on the year and leaves them in a tie for the sixth and final playoff spot with the Toronto Varsity Blues.
“That was a great football team we just played and a couple plays here and there and it can go either way,” said head coach Michael Faulds after the game. “I don’t think anyone’s leaving here today thinking we got beat down into the ground. I think our guys are confident we can play with a team like McMaster. We didn’t win today, and credit to them for making the plays. But we need to focus on next opponent on our schedule and it’s a must win.”
“Obviously there are some critical plays we would like to have back, on offence especially and me personally, but at the same time we’ve got to be proud of the way we battled today against one of the best teams in the country,” added quarterback Eric Morelli of Burlington, Ont. “There’s a reason they’re No. 6 in the country, but at the same time we showed that we can compete with anyone today with our performance.”
The Hawks final home game of the season started off as a shootout as the two teams combined to score 42 points in the opening quarter. Laurier roared out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a 37-yard touchdown by rookie Kurleigh Gittens Jr.of Ottawa, and a 65-yard interception return by Ben Millar of Campbellville, Ont.
McMaster was not dismayed by the deficit as quarterback Asher Hastings of Regina, proceeded to complete three touchdown passes on consecutive drives to give his team a 21-14 advantage.
Following the Marauders third touchdown of the quarter, Laurier responded thanks to the young speedster Gittens Jr. On the kickoff, the freshmen burst through the middle of the field and returned the kick 101 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 21. The return matched the second-longest in team history, a mark shared by Shamawd Chambers which he set against the Windsor Lancers back in 2010.
From there, the game turned into a defensive struggle. Laurier stepped up their game against the Marauders offence, holding them off the scoreboard on nine consecutive drives. One of the nine drives ended in Hastings’ second interception of the day as Godfrey Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., picked off the McMaster quarterback. For Hastings, the interception was his second of the afternoon, doubling his season total entering the game.
However, while the Laurier defence stood tall, the Marauders were equally impressive throughout the second and third quarters. Eventually, the play of their defence would result in a conceded safety late in the third quarter that gave them a 23-21 lead heading to the fourth.
The turning point in the game would come early in the fourth. With the Hawks driving and in the McMaster red zone, Morelli fumbled double clutching on a pass attempt and the Maraduers recovered the ball. On the ensuing drive, Hastings completed his fourth touchdown pass of the day to put the game away for McMaster.
Hastings, who finished the day one passing touchdown short of the CIS record of 30 for the year, was 31-for-43 for 365 yards. Dan Petermann of Stoney Creek, Ont., and Danny Vandervoort of Barrie, Ont., were his favourite targets on the afternoon. Petermann had nine catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns while Vandervoort had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
For the Hawks, Gittens Jr. was the story of the game has he had his second-consecutive 100-plus yard receiving game, finishing with eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. He also had 147 yards on four kickoff returns to end the day with 251 all-purpose yards.
Running back Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont., also eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game for the fifth time this season, finishing the day with 116 yards on 20 attempts while Morelli was 17-for-30 for 198 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Laurier was led by rookie Matt Williams of Ajax, Ont., and Kwaku Boateng of Milton, Ont. Williams, a linebacker, finished the afternoon with 12 tackles, tied for the fourth most in a single game by a Golden Hawk, while Boateng had 3.5 tackles and two sacks.
The Hawks will have one final chance to clinch a playoff spot next week when they travel to Kingston for their season finale against the No. 10 Queen’s Gaels. A win by Laurier will send them to the postseason for the second-consecutive year but a loss will end their season.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Richardson Stadium and can be seen live on OUA.tv.
NOTES: The Hawks recognized 16 graduating players prior to their game who may have been playing their last home game at Laurier…after the game, Laurier players gathered on the field to sign autographs for their fans…attendance on Saturday was 916
Hawks miss chance to secure playoffs, lose to McMaster 30-21 [The Cord]
Hawks fall to Marauders, still in OUA football playoff contention [Waterloo Region Record]