Waterloo, Ont. – The sport world loves a good rivalry; especially one that sees top talent go toe-to-toe. And when these rivalries involve teams that are mere minutes apart, the allure only grows stronger, which is why fans are clamoring for the latest edition of the Battle of Waterloo; this week’s OUA Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters.
The Waterloo Warriors (2-1) and Laurier Golden Hawks (2-0) have already proven to be two of the most dynamic squads in OUA football, especially on the offensive side. Both teams boast the talented playmakers to rival any gridiron group across the country, which should make for must-see TV in their Week 4 matchup.
Despite being bested in their Week 3 meeting with the Carleton Ravens, narrowly missing out on their third win of the season thanks to a last-second field goal from Michael Domagala, the Warriors have gotten off to a hot start. Behind the record-setting pace of quarterback Tre Ford (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and career-best start to the year for Tyler Ternowski (Hamilton, Ont.), the Warriors were able to secure convincing wins over Windsor and Toronto to start the season.
In addition to Ford’s passing prowess – which includes an 80% completion rate, over 1,000 yards passing and 12 touchdowns – the second-year signal caller is also leading the way with his legs, topping the team with 230 yards on the ground. Dion Pellerin (Abbotsford, B.C.) isn’t far behind with his 180 yards and 5.1 YPC average, and combined, both players help to anchor a run game that ranks third in the OUA in yards per game, while also balancing out the conference-leading passing game (364.3 YPG).
Not to be outdone, the Golden Hawks, who have played the role of both victor and vanquished in the last two Yates Cup championships, have shown that they’ve got their eyes on that championship prize once again with another balanced attack. The Golden Hawks are among just two teams left in the conference that haven’t found the loss column, and after coming off their Week 3 bye, will certainly be gunning for a third straight win to kick off their 2018 campaign.
Certainly, the defence will need to be as strong as ever against their high-octane foes, but the success of the offence will surely come into play once again. Unsurprisingly, one of the key reasons the Hawks are flying high is the play of reigning MVP Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (Ottawa, Ont.), who has made his way to the top of the receivers list in yards per game (153.5). With the All-Canadian receiver once again reeling in passes on an MVP-pace, Laurier’s offence has truly shone.
But alongside their dynamic passing game, which also includes 264 yards per game in the air from QB Tristan Arndt (London, Ont.), the Golden Hawks also feature the conference’s leading rusher, Levondre Gordon (Mississauga, Ont.). Through three weeks, Gordon is averaging 114.5 yards per game, while finding the endzone twice, making it tough for teams to zone in on either the rushing or aerial attack.
With such a dynamic lineup, it will be a true test for the black and gold on defence. The Warriors put forth their most impressive defensive performance against Carleton, despite the loss, and have shown positive strides each week thus far, but will be going up against their stiffest test to date on Saturday. Overall, the team will need to rely on their stout rushing defence, which ranks second with just 81.0 YPG surrendered, while finding ways to improve upon their lofty 372.3 YPG surrendered in the air.
The Hawks’ offence has managed to get the best of this Warriors defence over the last few meetings, with their most recent matchup resulting in a 71-24 win for the 2016 Yates Cup champs. While the Warriors were effective in shutting down Gittens Jr., fellow pass-catcher Brentyn Hall (Toronto, Ont.) took the reins with an impressive 144-yard, 2-touchdown day. Combined with the four combined rushing touchdowns from Gordon and Osayi Iginuan (Hamilton, Ont.), the Golden Hawks truly flexed their offensive muscle. In limited action under centre, meanwhile, Ford had 44 yards passing along with 86 yards rushing on 10 carries, but will certainly be a much more prominent factor in the 2018 rematch.
Last year’s game ended the Warriors sizzling start to the season, which saw them earn four straight wins, but this year’s team comes in with more experience, more confidence, and more talent that should give them a chance to end their losing streak against their K-W neighbours. Laurier, however, has played their way to a no. 4 national ranking through three weeks of the year and is looking primed for another lengthy postseason run, which they hope includes another victory over Waterloo along the way.
The battle can be seen live at Laurier’s University Stadium on Saturday, September 15 at 1:00pm, while also airing live on OUA.tv. Fans can also watch the game on the OUA.tv app via Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, or Roku.