Defence shines as Laurier clinches playoff spot

Jamie Howieson
Laurier Athletics

KINGSTON, Ont. (October 24, 2015) – Thanks to an outstanding effort from their defence, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team is returning to the OUA playoffs following a 49-26 win over the Queen’s Gaels in their season finale on Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium.

Needing a victory in their final game of the year to secure the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference, the Golden Hawks defence stepped up as they scored two touchdowns, forced six turnovers, including three interceptions, and recorded four sacks. The effort helped Laurier (4-4) spoil the Gaels’ Homecoming game, and final regular season game at the current version of Richardson Stadium, as they recorded their first win in Kingston since 2007.

“Well that’s why you never give up,” said head coach Michael Faulds of his team that rebounded from a slow start to the season. “We started the year 1-3, we finished 3-1 so, I’d say it’s kind of the opposite of last year. Last year we started strong and kind of backed our way into the playoffs. This year it’s the opposite. We started very slow and we’re starting to get healthier and gain momentum as the season goes along.”

“We came together like, none of the other teams I’ve been on have done [before],” added fifth year defensive lineman Asante Mizan on Laurier’s bounce back second half of the season. “So definitely kudos to the young guys on the team, the plan was great, we executed and you know we just played hard. We had our destiny in our hands, we know we wanted to make it into the playoffs and we wanted to make a stand and it happened again. Definitely excited.”

Mizan, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and his fellow defensive linemen, set the tone early in this one for the purple and gold. After Laurier fell behind 7-0 on the first drive of the game, and with the offence getting off to a slow start, it was the defence that turned the game around for Laurier.

First, rookie linebacker Matt Williams of Ajax, Ont., forced a fumble by sacking Queen’s quarterback Nate Hobbs of Mississauga, Ont., which was scooped up by defensive lineman Rashari Henry of Ottawa, and returned 38 yards for a touchdown.

Following a pair of field goals from Nathan Mesher of Waterloo, Ont., that stretched Laurier’s lead to 18-7, Mizan joined Henry in finding the endzone. With Hobbs under pressure once again, Mizan picked off an errant pass and rumbled 30 yards to pay dirt, giving Laurier a 25-7 lead and stunning the sold out Homecoming crowd.

Another field goal from Mesher would give the Hawks a 28-7 cushion at the half.

In the second half, Laurier’s offence would come to life after failing to score any points in the opening half. With their lead down to 14 following a Jonah Pataki (Wallaceburg, Ont.) touchdown, the purple and gold found the endzone on back-to-back possessions. First, quarterback Eric Morelli of Burlington, Ont., hit Daniel Bennett of Scarborough, Ont., for an 18-yard touchdown, which was followed up by a two-yard touchdown run by Eric Guiltinan of London, Ont.

With the game out of reach for the host Gaels heading into the fourth quarter, Queen’s finally found their offence, scoring 12 unanswered points, but Guiltinan put the game to rest with his second touchdown run of the afternoon late in the game to seal the victory for the Hawks.

Outside of the touchdowns from Henry and Mizan that highlighted the defensive effort, three Hawks recorded sacks on the afternoon including rookie Williams with the first two of his career. Brandon Calver of London, Ont., and Kwaku Boateng of Milton, Ont., also took down Hobbs in the backfield in the contest.

Austin Reusch of Burlington, Ont., and Scott Hutter of London, Ont., joined Mizan in recording interceptions while Calver was also a tackling force, recording a single-game, career-high of 11.

Offensively, the run game led the way for Laurier against the Gaels highlighted by another great performance from Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont. In his final regular season contest, Campbell rushed the ball 28 times for 139 yards, marking the 19th time in his last 22 games that he’s eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in a game.

The performance also clinched the OUA rushing title for Campbell for the third straight season as he finishes the year with 1,117 yards, making him the first Golden Hawk to ever rush for 1,000 or more yards in multiple seasons.

Joining Campbell in the ground assault for was Guiltinan as the fourth year back, along with his two touchdowns, recorded his first-ever 100-plus yard rushing game with 107 yards on 13 carries.

For the host Gaels (5-3), who despite the loss clinched fourth place in the OUA, receiver Doug Corby of Burlington, Ont., was one of their lone bright spots on the afternoon as he made 11 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown. Pataki also had a strong day on the ground for Queen’s finishing with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

The Hawks now advance to the OUA Quarter-finals next weekend, October 31, where they will face the third-seeded McMaster Marauders, a team they faced just last week. That game went in favour of the nationally-ranked Marauders as they came away with a 30-21 victory.

Stay tuned to laurierathletics.com for complete game details

NOTES: Special teams played a key role in Saturday’s victory as Mesher finished the day 4-for-5 on his field goal attempts…his four field goals gives him 17 on the year, the most in the OUA this season…punt and kicker returner Carson Ouellette of Windsor, Ont., also had a big day for Laurier as he had two punt returns for 50 yards and returned a kickoff 58 yards…the Hawks win snapped a five-game losing streak to Queen’s dating back to the 2010 season and is the eighth time Laurier has won in 20 all-time meetings with the Gaels

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