Photo by Thomas Kolodziej
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men's football team scored 32 second half points but it wasn't enough to overcome the No. 4 Guelph Gryphons as they fell 41-36 at University Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Despite the loss, the Golden Hawks (4-4) qualified for the OUA playoffs thanks to the Queen's Gaels 37-15 win over the Carleton Ravens (4-4). Both Carleton and Laurier tied for the sixth and final playoff spot but the Hawks reached the postseason with a 53-3 win on Homecoming over the Ravens.
"It really was a tale of two halves," said head coach Michael Faulds after the game. "Offence, defensively and special teams we got out played severely in the first half, but I'm proud of how our guys rallied. We only went into the locker room at half for about three minutes and I told them we have to get out there be ready to play in the second half."
The first half of the game belonged to the Gryphons (7-1) as they came storming out of the gate. In the opening quarter, with a stiff breeze at their back, Guelph put 19 points up on the board, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown by James Ingram of Guelph, Ont., on a pass from James Roberts of Burlington, Ont., and an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown by Ryan Nieuwesteeg of Niagara Falls, Ont.
After an inspired halftime speech from head coach Michael Faulds, the Hawks returned to the field a different team for the second half. Taking the wind to start the third, Laurier proceeded to post 22 points in the quarter, including touchdowns from Anthony Pizzuti of Hamilton, and Dillon Campbell of Whitby, Ont.
The Gryphons put an end to Laurier's unanswered scoring run with a 42-yard field goal from Daniel Ferraro of Mississauga, Ont., early in the fourth quarter but the Hawks kept coming. First, Campbell busted outside for a 17-yard touchdown followed by another 17-yard touchdown, this one from Pizzuti.
However, the Hawks could not put together a drive late to win the game as they fell just short of pulling off the upset victory.
"It just shows that we can play the way we can play," said Campbell of his team's second half performance. "The last few weeks we haven't been really giving it our all, but the second half was great job on our part - offence, defence and special teams."
Campbell was the story of the game for the purple and gold as the fourth year running back recorded his third 200-plus yard rushing game of the season, racking up 203 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to push him into sixth all-time in the CIS for single season rushing yards with 1,458. His 13 touchdowns are also the third most in school history behind only Jim Reid (16) and Stefan Ptaszek (14).
Pizzuti also enjoyed another solid game for the purple and gold, finishing with eight catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. His eight catches give him 40 on the season which ties him with Dillon Heap for sixth most in a single season in school history.
As for the Gryphons, Farquharson was a difference maker on the day, rushing for 158 yards and a touchdown while Ingram made four catches for 103 yards and a major.
Laurier will now prepare for their return to the OUA postseason after a one-year absence as they travel to London to face the third-seeded and sixth ranked Western Mustangs (6-2). The Hawks suffered a 61-20 loss at the hands of the Mustangs back in Week 7 at TD Stadium.
"We've got to do some soul searching," said Faulds when asked how his team will need to put together a faster start against the Mustangs. "We need to find out, is it jitters, is it what we're eating in the pregame meal, what is it that can make Laurier come out of the gates and play strong. We've done really well in the second halves this year, but we need to work on the first and second quarters."
NOTES: Ferraro's 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter set the new CIS single season record with 26…Laurier kicker Ronnie Pfeffer of Kitchener, Ont., also stands alone as Laurier's single season field goal record holder as he connected on his 18th in the second quarter…defensive back Chris Ackie of Cambridge, Ont., also broke into the Hawks record books with a seven tackle performance, giving him 48.5 on the year, seventh most in school history…three of the last four games between the Hawks and Gryphons have been decided by five points or less…Faulds, the youngest head coach in the CIS, qualified for the playoffs in just his second year as Laurier's bench boss…attendance at Saturday's game was 2,045