#7 Laurier hosts Guelph for School Day Game

wlu_guelph
Photo: Kha Vo

Jamie Howieson
Laurier Athletics

Game Date/Time: Friday, October 14 – 11 a.m.
Game Location: University Stadium, Waterloo
TV: Rogers Channel 368 (Tape Delayed start of 2 p.m. on Rogers TV Waterloo Region)
Live Webcast/Stats: OUA.tv
Live Audiocast: RadioLaurier.com
Tickets: tickets.laurierathletics.com

THE SKINNY
After clinching a playoff spot against the Toronto Varsity Blues last week, the No. 7 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (5-1) will be looking to improve their playoff positioning when they host the defending Yates Cup Champions, the Guelph Gryphons (2-4), at their first-ever School Day Game on Friday morning.

FAN INFORMATION
– close to 4000 elementary school children from across the Waterloo Region will be in attendance at Friday’s game
– gates will open for the game beginning at 9:30 a.m.
– Ontario University Athletics (OUA) will be on site promoting their Growing the Gridiron program
– prior to kickoff, the Hawks will recognize their 13 graduating seniors
– Rogers customers can watch the game live on Channel 368 while the game will be shown tape delayed on Rogers TV Waterloo Region beginning at 2 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW
– the Hawks are in the midst of their best season since 2009 after picking up their fifth win of the year last week, a 54-3 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues
– Guelph has struggled after winning the Yates Cup a year ago and have lost three straight games, including a 27-15 defeat at the hands of the McMaster Marauders a week ago
– Laurier continues to lead the OUA in rushing this season with an average of 291.8 yards per game
– Guelph ranks as the fifth best team in the conference in passing this year, having thrown for 1671 yards
– the Hawks defence continues to shine as they lead the OUA in sacks and defensive touchdowns while Guelph ranks seventh in points allowed this year at 32 per game
– a win on Saturday would give Laurier their most in a season since 2009 when they finished the year 6-2

ALL-TIME SERIES
Laurier has struggled against their Highway 7 rivals over the last few seasons, losing four straight games to Guelph, including a 30-19 setback last year. The Hawks last win against the Gryphons came in 2011, a 15-10 victory in Guelph. Their last win on home turf against the Gryphons was in 2010 when they won 42-10 in the OUA Quarter-finals. Overall, Laurier has a 41-17-0 record against the Gryphons.

TEAM BREAKDOWN
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (5-1) – No. 7 in Canada

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks responded to their first taste of adversity last week with a solid performance against the Toronto Varsity Blues, despite missing four regulars due to injury.

The short turnaround from the Western to the Toronto game meant Laurier had four starters out of the lineup, including running back Eric Guiltinan of London, Ont., defensive lineman Rashari Henry of Ottawa, kicker Nathan Mesher of Waterloo, Ont., and long snapper Jon Timmons of Mississauga, Ont., out of their lineup against the Varsity Blues. However, the injuries did not hurt Laurier as they exploded for 43 first-half points to cruise to the win.

With all four players expected back for Friday’s game, the Hawks will be at nearly full strength for the first time since the opening week of the season against Guelph. That could spell trouble for the Gryphons as they can expect to see a steady dose of Laurier’s running backs coming at them, led by Guiltinan, who despite missing last week’s game, still ranks fourth in the conference in rushing yards this season.

Two other Hawks are also in the Top 13 in the OUA as Levondre Gordon of Mississauga, Ont., ranks 11th with 335 yards and Osayi Iginuan of Hamilton is 13th at 254 yards. All three players will undoubtedly feature in Laurier’s offensive schemes against Guelph.

While Laurier continues to be a rush-first offence, the passing game has progressed nicely since Michael Knevel of Brantford, Ont., took over as the starting quarterback. Knevel leads the OUA in touchdown to interception ratio at 9:1 while throwing for 893 yards on just 49 completions. His favourite targets continue to be Brentyn Hall of Toronto, who is 11th in the OUA in receiving yards with 398, and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa, who is fourth in receiving touchdowns with four.

On defence, the Hawks continue to make life very difficult for their opposition and have multiple players ranked inside the Top 5 in the conference in both tackles for a loss and interceptions. Defensive lineman Jalen Price of Hamilton, and linebacker Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., and third and fourth in the OUA in tackles for a loss with 9 and 8.5 each while defensive backs Scott Hutter of London, Ont., and Malcolm Thompson of Windsor, Ont., are tied for third in interceptions with three.

Guelph Gryphons (2-4)

After capturing their first Yates Cup since 1996 a season ago, it has been anything but easy for the Guelph Gryphons in 2016. Guelph finds themselves in a four-way tie for the sixth and final playoff spot in the OUA after three consecutive defeats and are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether if they are unable to turn their year around over their final two games.

The Gryphons have been hit hard by injury and graduation this season and will be a desperate football team as they head into Friday’s game.

Offensively, Guelph relies on the passing efforts of third year quarterback James Roberts of Cambridge, Ont. Having been responsible for all but four passing attempts for the Gryphons this year, Roberts is currently fourth in the conference in passing yards per game at 274.3 but has struggled with his accuracy at times, completing seven touchdown passes to six interceptions.

His favourite target through the air this year has been rookie Colton Jones of Port Colborne, Ont., who leads the team in receptions with 22 and touchdowns with three, and is second on the team in receiving yards with 254.

On the ground, Johnny Augstine of Welland, Ont., has been strong since returning from his injury and leads the team in rushing yards with 363 in four games.

Defensively, Guelph has struggled with the loss of last year’s President’s Trophy award winner John Rush but still feature talented players, including linebacker Lukas Korol of Burlington, Ont., who leads the team in tackles with 46.5, and defensive back Riley Baines of Ottawa, who has a team-best seven tackles for a loss.

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