Golden Hawks begin their Yates Cup defence

Wk1pic
Photo: Kha Vo

By: Dan Polischuk

WATERLOO, ON – The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team will play the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Sunday afternoon at University Stadium, in what will be the Hawks’ first game of the 2017 regular season.

Game Date/Time: Sunday August 27th, 1:00pm.
Game Location: University Stadium, Waterloo
TV/RADIO: Rogers TV – Waterloo Region (cable 20)/AM 570 NEWS
Live Webcast/Stats: OUA.tv
Live Audiocast: RadioLaurier.com, 570news.com (delayed after Blue Jays game)
Tickets: laurier.universitytickets.com

THE SKINNY
A veteran-laden and deep Golden Hawks squad officially begin their Yates Cup defence after winning an eighth title in team history a season ago. Projected as one of the two best teams in the OUA in pre-season coach and fan polls alike, Laurier is looking to secure a victory against Toronto before a Week 2 bye.


NEED TO KNOW
-Laurier heads into the game having lost an exhibition match-up in Montreal against the Concordia Stingers 23-16 on August 18th. With the Golden Hawks starters making way for the remaining dress roster after halftime, the game-winning touchdown came with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
-Toronto is coming off an exhibition loss of their own in Montreal as well – but to the Carabins 63-3.
-The Golden Hawks went a perfect 5-0 at home last season (including playoffs) after posting a 1-3 record at University Stadium in 2015.

ALL-TIME SERIES
The Golden Hawks are looking for back-to-back wins against the Varsity Blues after defeating them 54-3 in Toronto last year. That victory was the 30th in team history against the Varsity Blues and moved their all-time record to 30-15-0.

TEAM BREAKDOWN
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks

The Golden Hawks enter the first week of the regular season energized to put their high octane offensive game into action, led by quarterback and Yates Cup MVP Michael Knevel of Brantford.

Having been tapped as the starter in Week 3 in 2016, Knevel will look to put up some big numbers using a plethora of options at receiver – including the likes of returnees Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa (who was an OUA all-star), Brentyn Hall of Toronto and Carson Ouellette of Windsor.

The air attack will be balanced with running backs Levondre Gordon of Mississauga and Osayi Iginuan of Hamilton. After finishing second and third on the team in rushing yards a year ago and the graduation of Eric Guiltinan, the pair will take over the bulk of the carries.

Up front, despite Brett Golding sticking with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after getting drafted, they still have a unit of five athletic offensive linemen blocking and opening running lanes –like fifth-year veteran Edward Cadougan of Scarborough and fourth-year Chris Reddy of Kitchener.

While the defensive secondary looks to be exceptional, led by two-time All-Canadian Godfrey Onyeka and 2017 East-West Bowl participant Isaiah Guzylak-Messam, the team will miss leading tackler and the OUA’s top stand-up defensive player from 2016, Nakas Onyeka – who was drafted by Toronto. There’s plenty of depth at linebacker and on the defensive line though – which also saw the departure of all-time sack leader Kwaku Boateng to the Edmonton Eskimos – so the team is optimistic that its defence can be just as stingy as last year’s top-ranked unit.

Toronto Varsity Blues

After going 2-6 and out of the playoff conversation again, Toronto is looking to turn the page with a new quarterback under centre after the graduation of Marcus Hobbs. There are a pair of options to choose from though in second-year Clay Sequira and Connor Ennis, who arrived from Washington State of the NCAA.

Head Coach Greg Gary will also welcome the return of running back Divante Smith to his youthful squad after he missed all of last year due to injury.

A bright spot for the squad is returning all-star punter TJ Morton – who was second in USports with an average of 42.3 yards per kick in 2016.

EXTRA POINTS
-Sunday is a Community Appreciation game with local Emergency Services being recognized.
-The Cambridge Lions will scrimmage at halftime.
-Players will be signing autographs following the game.

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