2014 CIS Football Team Preview: Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks

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Source: Jamie Howieson, Laurier Sports Info /Photo credit Thomas Kolodziej

2013 regular season record: 1-7
2013 regular season standings: 9th in OUA
2013 playoff record: N/A
2013 playoff finish: N/A

The Golden Hawks enter 2014 coming off a year that was alearning experience for what was a very young squad. Taking thefield for the first time under the tutelage of rookie head coachMichael Faulds, Laurier struggled out of the gate as they tried toemploy their new up tempo, pro-style offence.

Entering Week 4against Waterloo, Faulds made a change at quarterback, handing thereins over to James Fracas. The move sparked the team to theirfirst win of the year heading into their toughest stretch of theseason.

Facing four playoff-bound teams in their final four games, theHawks proved to the OUA they were a team on the rise. They limitedthe eventual Yates Cup Champion Western Mustangs to their fewestpoints of the regular season, before losing narrow decisions inovertime to both Windsor and Queen’s, earning them themoniker of “the best 1-6 football team”. A loss toMcMaster closed out the season as Laurier was on the outsidelooking in on the OUA playoff picture for the first time since2002.

This season, the Hawks will look to use the momentum theygenerated at the end of 2013 to come out of the gates flying. With22 of a possible 24 starters returning from the dress roster thatclosed out last year, Laurier promises to be a young and exciting,but more experience, squad.

On offence, Fracas and Dillon Campbell, last year’sconference leading rusher, will be the anchors for Faulds’up-tempo offence. Other names to keep an eye on include veteranreceivers Greg Nyhof, Marcus Arkarakas and Kelvin Muamba.Defensively, draft-eligible players Chris Ackie and EseMrabure-Ajufo headline a talented core that also includes lastyear’s leading tackler Brandon Calver, along with rookiesensation Kwaku Boateng. One other name to watch is returnerWilliam Pitt-Doe, who established a new Laurier single seasonrecord for kick return yards as a true freshman last season.

Quote from head coach:

“We are a completely different team heading into the 2014season. The players have now had a full offseason under our staffand there is great momentum and energy around our football program.We have demanded a lot from our players throughout the off-seasonand for some it was too much, but the players that will enter ourcamp are prepared and ready for what’s ahead of them. Theyare all a year older physically and mentally and can’t waitto run out of the tunnel for that first game. Having only graduatedtwo fifth year seniors from last year’s team, we have somevery high internal expectations. We have the work ethic, heart andmotivational drive of a team that just finished 1-7, but also theswagger and self-confidence of an 8-0 team. It is a very uniquedynamic.”

Head Coach: Michael Faulds

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2014):2
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2014): 2
– Career regular season record with team: 1-7
– Career regular season record in CIS: 1-7
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffsonly): 1-7
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only):1-7

OFFENCE

Number of returning starters: 11

Key returning players:

RB Dillon Campbell enters his fourth season with the GoldenHawks. A native of Whitby, Ont., he had a breakout season in 2013,finishing as the leading rusher in the OUA with 867 yards and fivetouchdowns on 146 attempts. The 2014 East West Bowl participant wasalso a threat out of the backfield making 17 catches for 160 yardsand a touchdown.

QB James Fracas heads into his third year of eligibility withLaurier in 2014. The Waterloo, Ont., native finished last year asLaurier’s starter after taking over for teammate Julien Johnin Week 4. In five games, he completed almost 63 percent of hispasses for 1,312 yards and six touchdowns.

REC Greg Nyhof returns for his third year with the purple andgold. Hailing from Georgetown, Ont., the 6-4 receiver was the Hawksbig play threat a year ago as he averaged over 20 yards per catch.In total, he made 22 receptions for a team-high 447 yards and fourtouchdowns.

REC Kelvin Muamba enters his fourth year with Laurier in 2014. Anative of Mississauga, Ont., he led the Golden Hawks in receptionslast year with 36. His 418 receiving yards were also second higheston the team.

Key recruits or transfers:

QB Chase Malcolm from St. Thomas More Collegiate (Vancouver)

REC Brendan McCracken from Huron Heights SS (Kitchener,Ont.)

RB Eli Fera from Catholic Central HS (Windsor, Ont.)

OL Jamie Lalonde from Guelph Gryphons (Hamilton, Ont.)

Key losses:

REC Isaac Dell

DEFENCE

Number of returning starters: 11

Key returning players:

DB Chris Ackie heads into his fourth season with the purple andgold. Originally from Cambridge, Ont., this versatile defender hasbeen named one of 10 Canadian prospects to watch for the 2015 CFLDraft. Last season, playing both defensive back and linebacker, hefinished second on the team in tackles with 40.5 while recordingtwo sacks and three pass breakups.

DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo also heads into his fourth year at Laurier.Hailing from Mississauga, Ont., this 2014 East West Bowlparticipant anchored Laurier’s defensive line last season,finishing with 26.5 tackles and one sack.

DL Kwaku Boateng enters his sophomore season with the GoldenHawks. A native of Milton, Ont., he was named an OUA All-Rookie inhis first year after recording 20 tackles and finishing second onthe team in sacks with four.

LB Brandon Calver will also be coming into his second year withthe Hawks. The London, Ont., native was Laurier’s leader intheir linebacking core in 2014 as he led the team in tackles with42. He also recorded 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, aninterception and a pass breakup.

Key recruits or transfers:

DL Rashari Henry from Orleans Bengals (Orleans, Ont.)

DB Isaiah Guzylak from Sir Allan MacNab SS (Hamilton)

DB Malcolm Thompson from Holy Names CHS (Windsor, Ont.)

DB Jaedon Christey from Resurrection CSS (Kitchener, Ont.)

Key losses:

DB Felix Odum

SPECIALTEAMS

Key returning players:

K/P Ronnie Pfeffer heads into his fourth season with the GoldenHawks. A native of Kitchener, Ont., the former league all-starenters 2014 ranked ninth in career scoring at Laurier with 163points. Last season, he was good on 14 of 23 field goal attemptswhile averaging 36.5 yards per punt.

RET William Pitt-Doe is entering his second year with the purpleand gold. The native of Mississauga, Ont., is coming off anoutstanding debut campaign in which he set a new Laurier record forkick return yards in a season with 560. That mark broke theprevious record of 493 yards set by Laurier great Dillon Heap backin 2009.

Key recruits or transfers:

LS Jonathan Timmons from St. Marcellinus SS (Mississauga,Ont.)

K/P Nathan Mesher from Sir John A. MacDonald SS (Waterloo,Ont.)

Key losses:

COV Thomas Majka

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