Golden Hawks aim for summit of football mountain

PeterLee_WRRecord 2018
Photo: Peter Lee, Waterloo Region Record

Mark Bryson
Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — Faces change, opponents change, but the goal remains the same.

The Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks are once again a team with championship aspirations as they prepare for their Ontario University Athletics season-opener against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The teams, which have played each other just once since Golden Hawks head coach Michael Faulds took over the program prior to the 2013 season, will meet Sunday afternoon (1 p.m.) at University Stadium.

“The last two years, we’ve been in the Yates Cup, so the goal again is to first win the Yates Cup and the next goal is to win the Vanier Cup. Those expectations don’t change at all, that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Faulds.

In May, Gordon was one of five Hawks to participate in the East-West Bowl, along with Gittens Jr., offensive lineman Drew Mairleitner of Denfield, Ont., defensive lineman Trevaughan James of Whitby and defensive end Robbie Smith of Brampton.

Training camp opened Aug. 9 and Faulds has been impressed with what he’s seen, especially from the 30 or so recruits who are trying to stand out. In addition to the aforementioned Esson, defensive lineman Tyler Eckert, from Burnaby, B.C., has likely done enough to earn playing time, said Faulds.

“I would say this nucleus of 17- and 18-year-olds has even surpassed what our coaches thought they had, so it’s a really talented group we added to the veterans we have in place,” said Faulds.

Smith recorded a team-high 10½ sacks last year and leads a Laurier defence that figures to be strong despite losing defensive backs Godfrey Onyeka and Isaiah Messam, as well as defensive lineman Rashari Henry, to graduation.

Fourth-year safety Scott Hutter, from London, will also play a key defensive role.

The Hawks’ road to the playoffs is a challenging one, starting Sunday with Ottawa, a team that reached the playoffs last season. Laurier’s difficult schedule includes games, in order, against Queen’s, Waterloo, McMaster, Guelph, Carleton, Windsor and Western, but doesn’t feature perennial doormats York and Toronto.

The Mustangs go into the season as the team to beat, conceded Faulds, but the Hawks are looking to knock them off their throne.

“They’re the ones with the Yates Cup and Vanier Cup in their possession, so they’re the team and benchmark that everyone is looking to right now,” he said.

“It’s a team we respect greatly but it’s not a team we’re scared of or threatened by.”

Faulds said he’s shied away from buzzwords at his sixth training camp with Laurier, preferring to use the analogy of the team climbing a mountain throughout the season with hopes of reaching the top in November. They were in the valley two weeks ago, reached the base of the mountain in their pre-season game and Sunday will begin their climb in earnest.

“All U Sports teams are trying to climb the mountain and only one team is going to put their flag at the top of that thing,” said Faulds.

The Hawks are idle the third weekend of the regular season and return to action Sept. 15 against the visiting Waterloo Warriors.

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