Written By: Mike Hogan
On the surface, there wasn't much to it. It was a Week 4 regular season win over an old rival. Nothing more, nothing less, right?
For the Waterloo Warriors, their 34-32 win over the Laurier Golden Hawks last Saturday was validation. It was a sign that the program that was getting close to turning the corner was finally able to emerge with a win over an upper-echelon team.
Warrior football is officially back.
Since Chris Bertoia took over the program in December 2014, there has been a steady climb. In his first two years, there were signs of life from a recruiting perspective. Waterloo was getting athletes who may have made another choice in previous years.
Then Bertoia hit more than just pay dirt last year; he hit the motherlode. He enticed twin brothers Tre and Tyrell Ford to don black and gold. It was a program-changing coup.
Tyrell has become a force on defence and adds a scoring threat to the return game. Tre has become the most exciting player in the country, and along with Calgary quarterback Adam Sinagra, has become the co-favourite to win the Hec Crighton Trophy as the country's Most Outstanding Player.
Never was that more evident than against the previously No. 4 ranked Golden Hawks.
The QB put on a display that will be talked about for years to come, especially whenever the 'Battle of Waterloo' takes place. The Niagara Falls native threw for 472 yards and three TDs, rushing for another 86 yards, and hitting Tyler Ternowski with a perfect pass for an 88-yard game-winning touchdown with just two-and-a-half minutes left.
As the game ended, the quarterback was exhausted; stripping off his helmet, jersey, and shoulder pads, and laying on his back on the track at Knight-Newbrough Field. This moment was perfectly captured in a tweet by Waterloo Pass Game Coordinator Jon Behie.
It was Ford's best game in what has been a year-and-a-half of great moments. Splitting game reps with Lucas McConnell a year ago, he was given the keys to the car on a full-time basis this year and has excelled.
"It's been a year of maturity overall," Bertoia said of his QB. "It was a year of maturity in his body as well. He put on 15 pounds this year. Last year he couldn't bench press 225 pounds once; he can do 11 now."
He's been able to maintain his elite speed despite adding size. There are also a couple of other things he's added to his arsenal – improved film study and game reps.
"I loved that he was going through his read progressions," Bertoia told 'In The Huddle', "Attending the (CFL's Montreal) Alouettes camp helped. Breaking down film with professionals was really beneficial. Jon Behie has been a great help too."
It's not just Ford, however – although it's incredibly easy to understand why he's getting most of the attention. Almost getting lost is the year his primary target, Tyler Ternowski, is having.
The Hamilton native opened the season against Windsor with an 11-catch, 289-yard, four-touchdown game. He leads the country in all three major receiving categories with 31 catches, eight TDs and 685 yards, a whopping 222 more than second-place Jarryd Taylor of Concordia. He's snuck up on a lot of people, which puzzles his head coach.
"He was injured last season and missed the first three games," explained Bertoia. "He came back and in his first game against Carleton he had 11 catches for 204 yards. He had 700 yards in five games."
The coach wasn't done pumping his receiver's tires.
"He's great," continued Bertoia. "He puts the work in. He's very strong. He's worked hard on his speed and route running. He's incredibly competitive. He just wants to be the best."
He'll need to be this week, as will everyone wearing black and gold. After defeating the consensus No. 2 Team in the conference, this week the Warriors will host the OUA's alpha dogs, or in this case, alpha Mustangs.
Since their come-from-behind overtime win over Carleton to begin the season, Western has hung a 44-6 loss on McMaster before their 76-3 victory against York last week.
So David, how are you prepping for Goliath?
"We need to stay close until the fourth quarter," explained Bertoia, looking for ammo for his slingshot. "If we can do that, maybe some doubt will creep into their heads."
Each team knows its opponent is capable of a comeback, each learning at the expense of Carleton. The Ravens led Western 20-3 at the half before losing 26-23 in overtime. Two weeks later, Waterloo trailed the black birds 18-3 after three quarters, before coming back to tie things at 18-all. Carleton eventually won the game with a field goal in the dying seconds.
This week's test will be tougher for Waterloo.
"There's no doubt we have a daunting opponent," admitted Bertoia. "They're methodical. They're big and strong. I can't say enough positive things about them."
He should know. Bertoia spent six-and-a-half years at Western before returning to his alma mater to become the head coach. He understands that beating the top ranked team in the country in both the U SPORTS 'Top Ten' and Krown Countdown U 'Power 7' won't be easy, but he does concede one point.
"We have an X-Factor, and we know what that is."
Yes coach, yes we do, and he wears number five.
WATERLOO 34 LAURIER 32
Lots of offence, big plays, a comeback, and ultimately an upset. Other than that, this game didn't offer much. Tre Ford's game was incredible, as was Tyler Ternowski's, but lost in the shuffle was Laurier quarterback Tristan Arndt's day. He threw for 428 yards and three TDs. Along with Ternowski, there were three other receivers who had over 100 yards on the day, Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Brentyn Hall of the Hawks and Gordon Lam of Waterloo. The teams combined for 1,153 yards of offence, 919 through the air. There may have been but one negative about this game; the attendance was only 1,736. That's remarkably low for a game that featured two highly entertaining teams whose campuses are just a couple of kilometres apart. From the outside looking in that's more than just a little confusing.
CARLETON 42 QUEEN'S 39
This was almost a mirror image of the 'Battle of Waterloo', but this one had the added bonus of double overtime. The Gaels trailed 33-14 midway through the third quarter before storming back to force OT. Nate Hobbs threw for 352 yards and a season-high four TDs for Queen's, while Carleton's Michael Arruda also threw for over 300 yards with a pair of TDs. He also rushed for one score. Nathan Carter rushed for 159 yards on 23 carries, but it was a seven-yard run by Mathieu Pickens that won the game in the second round of the shootout. The TD was set up with a 33-yard pass from Arruda to Quinton Soares. As a team, Carleton outrushed Queen's 311-83. Hobbs was the leading rusher for the Tricolour with 62 yards, while Richard Burton led them with 101 receiving yards. The Ravens were penalized 18 times for 125 yards.
GUELPH 26 WINDSOR 20
Theo Landers passed for just 145 yards, but rushed for 164, including a 91-yard run, as Guelph hung on to beat Windsor. Guelph's defence was in the Lancers' backfield all day, with Luke Korol – who had 16.5 tackles on the day – and Carter Wilson leading the way with two sacks and three tackles for a loss each. Alain Cimankinda was right behind them with two sacks and a pair of TFL. The Gryphons recorded eight sacks on the day. Despite the constant pressure, Colby Henkel was able to pass for an even 200 yards and a TD pass to Tristan Carter. Henkel also rushed for a touchdown.
McMASTER 37 TORONTO 3
Mac's passing attack appears to be back after a big win over visiting Toronto. Andreas Dueck threw for 372 yards and three TD, two of which were caught by Tommy Nield. Nield finished with 10 catches for 233 yards. Jordan Lyons led the ground game with 87 yards on 18 carries. The Blues turned the ball over four times. Malcolm Campbell had a nice day on D for Varsity, recording 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and a recovered fumble.
WESTERN 76 CARLETON 3
Not much you can say about this one. Bleska Kambamba, whose interception in OT won the game against Carleton, had a 52-yard pick six against the Lions. But how's this for a stat – York finished with 103 yards passing, but just 86 yards of total offence. York had just two penalties for 10 yards. The Lions also won the time of possession 34:48 – 25:12.