Waterloo Region Record
Four Laurier Golden Hawks made the trip to Hamilton to collect their all-Canadian awards on Thursday, trying to remember that one bad game can’t possibly define their season or their future on the gridiron.
“We’ll do our best to enjoy the moment,” said Laurier’s sensational linebacker, Nakas Onyeka, voted a first-team all-Canadian along with his cousin Godfrey Onyeka and fellow defensive back Malcolm Thompson.
Laurier’s rush end Kwaku Boateng, Canadian university football’s top-ranked CFL prospect, was named a second-team all-Canadian.
“We are all still kind of upset about Saturday,” said Nakas Onyeka, of Brampton.
Saturday. Oy vey.
The Hawks’ magnificent season burst into flames in Quebec City when pyromaniacs, the Laval Rouge et Or, struck a match and torched Laurier’s dreams with a 36-6 bonfire in the Uteck Bowl.
But that national semifinal’s outcome can’t erase the campaign the Hawks — winners of their first Yates Cup, the Ontario conference title, in 11 seasons — assembled.
“When you think about the phenomenal stats the team put together this season — whether it was first in the country in sacks (36) or first in the country in defensive touchdowns (six) — our all-Canadians were a big part of it,” said Hawks head coach Michael Faulds.
Saturday’s national semifinal result did highlight how far the Hawks have come since their 1-7 campaign in 2013, and yet the upstarts still have plenty of work to do.
And Laurier has a solid foundation on which to build.
In fact, all but one of the team’s 24 Uteck Bowl starters (graduating offensive guard Marcus Nese) is eligible to return to the Hawks next season.
So Nakas Onyeka, winner of the Ontario conference standup defensive player of the year award this season, and his teammates will file that away.
“It’s a small victory,” Onyeka said of the all-Canadian selections. “It’s a compensatory thing that you can look back and reflect on and say there was a little bit of success in the season.”
Onyeka, a six-foot, 210-pound wrecking ball, said he hopes Thompson’s all-Canadian nod will take some of the sting out of Thompson’s late-season knee injury that saw the Windsor, Ont., native miss the Hawks’ playoff run.
“It’s a tough thing to talk about,” said Onyeka. “Malcolm was having such a great year. We owe him the world.
“I hope he feels the all-Canadian (award) will be something that pushes him to get back.”
Onyeka and his fellow all-Canadians were to be presented with a plaque and sized for their accompanying rings on Thursday night during the awards banquet at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Rated No. 16 on the CFL’s 20-player top prospect list released in September, Onyeka said he would happily return to the Hawks for a fifth and final season next year if he doesn’t stick immediately with a pro team.
“If I can find enjoyment and happiness wherever I am, then whichever happens, will feel like a success to me,” he said.