OTTAWA – On the strength of an impressive debut from quarterback Connor Carusello, the No. 8 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team put an end to their three-game losing skid with a 37-31 victory over the No. 9 Carleton Ravens on Friday afternoon at MNP Park.
Despite trailing on four separate occasions and battling injuries in a wild back-and-forth affair, the Hawks took the lead for good with seven minutes to play on a 78-yard major from Carusello, a native of Caledonia, Ont., to rookie receiver Esson Hamilton of Toronto.
The win improves Laurier to 3-3 as they move into a tie for fifth in the OUA standings while Carleton drops to 4-3.
After a slow start to the contest, in which Laurier led 9-3 early in the second quarter, the two nationally-ranked squads showed their offensive prowess late in the half. Over the final five minutes of the half, the two teams traded touchdowns and a seven-yard strike from Carusello to Brentyn Hall of Toronto, with seven second left in the second quarter gave Laurier a 23-17 lead.
However, the start of the third quarter wasn’t as kind to Laurier. Punting on their opening possession, kicker Nathan Mesher of Waterloo, Ont., bobbled the snap before getting knocked down at the Hawks’ five-yard line. Mesher was forced to leave the game and on the next play, Carleton running back Nathan Carter of Ottawa, punched in the ball to give the Ravens the lead.
Laurier responded quickly as on their next possession, a 36-yard run by Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa, on a fake punt led to an 18-yard touchdown by Ente Eguavoen of Oakville, Ont., and the Hawks took the six-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Early in the final quarter, Carleton restored their one-point lead as quarterback Mike Arruda of Gatineau, Que., threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 45-yard strike to Phil Iloki of Montreal, giving the Ravens momentum.
But on the next play from scrimmage, Carusello, who grew more comfortable as the game progressed, found a wide-open Hamilton down the sidelines and the speedy receiver caught the ball in stride behind the Ravens defence to restore Laurier’s advantage.
From there, Laurier’s defence, which had two sacks and two interceptions on the day, stood tall, not allowing Carleton pass midfield until the final play of the game to get back into the win column.
– Carusello had an afternoon to remember in his debut, completing 21-of-31 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns
– Hall finished the game with six catches for 151 yards and a touchdown to lead the receiving core
– Levondre Gordon of Mississauga, Ont., had 68 yards on the ground and added a blocked field goal in the opening half. – Gittens Jr., who took over punting duties after Mesher left, finished the game with 165 all-purpose yards and averaged 25.3 yards on four punt attempts
– Will Amoah of Kitchener, Ont., recorded his third interception of the season while adding 4.5 tackles and a pass breakup
– Arruda led the Ravens attack finishing the game 21-for-34 for 373 yards but was picked off twice
– Iloki had six catches for 142 yards and two majors
– with a catch in the opening quarter, Gittens Jr. officially passed Laurier great Stefan Ptaszek for first on the Hawks’ all-time receptions list and now has 192 for his career
– before leaving with an injury, Mesher moved into second all-time for career field goals with Laurier and now has 49 for his career
– Mesher’s 11 points on the day also moved him into third on Laurier’s career points list with 260
– a sack by Robbie Smith of Brampton, Ont., in the second quarter moved him into sole possession of second on Laurier’s career list with 18.5
IN THEIR WORDS – Michael Faulds
Thoughts on his team overcoming adversity
“We faced some crazy adversity today. Not only with Carleton responding to our touchdowns but guys stepping up into new roles. Kurleigh having to handle punting duties and Nick Petermann taking over kicking duties, it was definitely a full team effort to sneak away with the win. We’d lost so many close games already this season, it nice to come away on top.”
On the play of Carusello in his first start
“We are really pleased with the way Connor performed in his first start. He was anxious and nervous to begin the game but he settled in as the game progressed. You could really see his arm strength on display throughout the game with great throws on all four touchdowns he threw. I told him before the game, you have so many weapons around you, don’t try to do too much. Just get the ball from point A to point B and he did a phenomenal job at that.”
With two games remaining on their schedule, the Hawks return to Waterloo for their final regular season home game as they host the Windsor Lancers on Friday, October 12 in a School Day Game. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at University Stadium.