Laurier rallies to top visiting Windsor
Laurier stays in OUA playoff chase but regular-season finale is against undefeated Western
WATERLOO — Kurleigh Gittens Jr. has made much better catches than the one that moved his name into the Ontario University Athletics record books.
Still, a record-setting catch is a record-setting catch, even for someone who only learned of his milestone-in-the-making on Friday morning, less than an hour before his Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks would face the Windsor Lancers at University Stadium.
“The Windsor coach (Joe D’Amore) told me in warmups, but I had no idea,” said Gittens, an affable fourth-year player from Ottawa. “It feels nice, you could say that, but life goes on.”
Gittens, the conference’s reigning MVP, hauled in his OUA record-setting 193rd career reception with a two-yard effort in the first quarter of his team’s 39-24 come-from-behind victory. The reception, on a pass from Laurier quarterback Connor Carusello, came on a second-and-five play from the Laurier 38-yard line and led to ... wait for it ... a Max Sherwood punt.
A bit of a letdown, one might say, especially when Gittens followed up his first reception with an impressive 10-yard catch that led to a Laurier field goal. The 13th-ranked prospect for next year’s Canadian Football League draft finished with eight catches for 101 yards and now has 200 career receptions, making him the fifth player in U Sports history with 200 or more catches.
Laurier head coach Michael Faulds chuckled when it was suggested a more exciting play could have been called on the record-breaking catch. He then shared part of his pre-game speech that touched on Gittens and what he’s meant to the program.
“We have so many great seniors but this (then) 17-year-old who came to us from Ottawa, no one really knew that we were going to be playing with, and coaching, one of the greatest Golden Hawks ever,” said Faulds.
“We’re all privileged to be around Kurleigh each and every day.”
Golden Hawks kicker Nathan Mesher also made history, becoming Laurier’s all-time leading scorer with 275 points. The fourth-year player, from Waterloo’s Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, kicked four field goals and three extra points for a 15-point performance. Mesher now shares the all-time field goal record of 53 with Ronnie Pfeffer, a Cameron Heights alumnus who is currently with the Toronto Argonauts.
As for the nuts and bolts of Friday’s game, the Hawks (4-3) kept their post-season hopes alive in front of a school-day crowd of 4,498, with their final regular-season game set for next Saturday in London against the Western Mustangs (6-0). The Hawks trailed 19-15 at halftime but rebounded with a 21-point third quarter against the Lancers (1-6).
The focus now, said Faulds, is preparing for Western, not tracking out-of-town scores that could play a role in the Hawks’ playoff hopes.
“Our sole focus is getting to 5-3. Obviously, Western is the best team in the conference and they proved it last year but for us to get where we want to be, we’ve got to beat a team like Western,” said Faulds.
“Whether it’s in the middle of November in the Yates Cup or whether it’s Oct. 20, if we want to be Ontario champions, we have to beat a team like that.”
Levondre Gordon carried the ball 19 times for 173 yards and a first-quarter touchdown and Carusello, making his second career start, connected on 12 of 22 passes, and was picked off once.
Lancers quarterback Sam Girard was good on 25 of 40 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Tristan Carter was his favourite target, making nine receptions for 75 yards. Alex Bournais and Cody Knights had receving touchdowns for Windsor, both of them coming in the second quarter after Laurier had jumped out to a 13-0 lead on two Mesher field goals and a 36-yard rushing TD by Gordon.
Laurier regained the lead in the third quarter on a 19-yard rushing score by Kevin Wong. On the ensusing kickoff, Windsor’s David Adeniran was hit by Laurier’s Christopher Haggart in the end zone, fumbled the ball, and Esson Hamilton recovered for a touchdown that gave Laurier a 31-19 lead.
Laurier finished with 396 yards of total offence, compared to 262 for Windsor.
Waterloo native Dan Stirling, formerly of St. David, had a teamhigh eight tackles for Windsor.
Laurier’s Will Amoah, who attended Kitchener St. Mary’s, paced his team with seven tackles and added his fourth interception of the season.
The Waterloo Warriors (3-3) return to action Saturday (1 p.m., Warrior Field) against the McMaster Marauders (4-2).
Laurier's Levondre Gordon scampers for some of his season-high 173 rushing yards, while Windsor Lancers defensive back Matt Gayer loses his helmet at University Stadium on Friday.
Cole Verlinde of the Windsor Lancers knocks down a pass intended for Laurier's Kurleigh Gittens Jr. during their game at University Staduim, Friday.