Waterloo, Ont. (via Waterloo Warriors) – After the Waterloo Warriors edged the Laurier Golden Hawks 34-32 in last season's offensively-explosive, roller-coaster, highlight-reel classic, the football community in the Waterloo region likely thought they'd have to wait years to see another Battle of Waterloo that matched it for drama.
Turns out, they only had to wait 13 months.
Brentyn Hall caught a 3-yard touchdown pass on Laurier's third overtime possession to give the Golden Hawks a 53-50 win over the Warriors in a triple-overtime thriller from Warrior Field on Thursday night.
With the Battle of Waterloo victory, Laurier and Waterloo now sit even in the standings with identical 4-3 records. The Hawks claimed their third victory in a row after starting 1-3, while the Warriors dropped their second straight heartbreaker, on the heels of a 45-42 defeat last weekend against the top-ranked Western Mustangs.
Heading into Thursday night's showdown, there was little to separate two of the highest-scoring teams in the country. All the pre-game chatter anticipated a tightly-contested, high-flying shootout, and it did not disappoint – the game featured 103 total points, 59 first downs, and 1,159 total yards of offense. Reining OUA MVP Tre Ford seemed to become more unstoppable with every Warriors possession, as the third-year pivot went 27-43 for 351 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the air.
But that was just half the story, as Ford's legs constantly kept Waterloo in the game – he rushed 16 times for 135 yards and 3 touchdowns, with two coming in overtime. Tyler Ternowski caught 7 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, while Gordon Lam added 6 catches for 68 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Warriors running back Dion Pellerin was held out of the end zone for just the second time this season, but the OUA's leading rusher coming into week 8 was able to compile 102 yards on 19 attempts.
On the Laurier sideline, the Hawks once again rode their ground game – as a team, Laurier rushed for an astounding 386 yards, led by Levondre Gordon's 159 on 17 carries. When Gordon was forced out of the game with an injury in the second half, Laurier's running back depth allowed the offense to continue rolling: Kevin Wong scampered for 109 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while Kavantye Bailey added 78 yards and two touchdowns.
In the air, Waterloo outgained Laurier 351-208, but Carusello was efficient when he was forced to throw – he completed 14 of 24 balls for 208 yards and three scores. His favourite target was Hall, whose game-winning touchdown was his second major of the night (and second in overtime). Hall finished with 8 catches for 165 yards, to go along with his pair of scores.
While the game lived up to every bit of the hype, it took some time to get rolling – the Hawks used a steady ground game (and an opportunistic interception from Malcolm Thompson) to take a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter, highlighted by a 21-yard touchdown run from Osayi Iginuan. But on the next Waterloo possession, Ford hit Ternowski for an electrifying 52-yard touchdown pass to cut into the Laurier lead.
Still, though, Laurier threatened to render the battle a one-sided affair. After stripping Brandon Metz along the sideline and recovering the loose ball, Carusello hit Ente Eguavoen from 7 yards out to make the score 19-9. A Jonah Zlatinszky 39-yard field goal again chiseled into the Laurier lead, but the Hawks punched right back with a Wong 6-yard run, giving the visitors a 26-12 lead at the half.
But Waterloo's halftime adjustments sparked their club on both sides of the ball. They pitched a shutout in the third quarter, while the offense counted twice – first, on a 5-yard touchdown catch from Ford to Lam, then, on a 29-yard boot from Zlatinszky to finish off a 10-play, 54-yard, clock-eating possession. Suddenly, as the third quarter came to an end, the Laurier lead had been cut all the way down to 26-22.
The Warriors narrowed their deficit to a single point with another Zlatinszky field goal from 31 yards out early in the fourth quarter. But with their advantage nearly gone, the Hawks offense got back on track thanks to their running back depth – immediately after Gordon left the game with an injury, Wong ripped off back-to-back runs of 18 and 29 yards to set the Hawks up in the red zone. Bailey finished it with a 9-yard run to put the Hawks up 33-25 with under 10 minutes to play.
After exchanging punts, the Waterloo offense once again drove in search for the tying major as the clock ticked down inside five minutes. From first and goal on the Waterloo 9-yard line, Ford executed a Houdini-esque ball fake, and ran into the endzone untouched to cut the deficit to two. Then, Ford found Ternowski on a sliding catch at the goal line to convert the two-point attempt, and tie the game at 33-33.
The Warriors threatened to win the game in regulation, after a wild 35-yard hook-and-lateral play from Ford to Lam to Ternowski got the Warriors to the verge of field goal range. But with 1 second on the clock, Zlatinszky's would-be game-winning kick from 41 yards was blocked, sending the game to overtime.
If possible, the intensity seemed to ratchet up to yet another level in overtime. Waterloo took the ball first and scored a major, as Ford leapt up and over a pile of defenders to plunge in from 4 yards out. The Hawks were forced to start at the Waterloo 50 due to an unnecessary roughness penalty, but it didn't deter them in the slightest – they scored on their second play of the possession when Carusello found Hall from 46 yards out to square things at 40-40.
The Golden Hawks scored first in round two of overtime, after a Waterloo flag for pass interference set up a 5-yard touchdown run from Bailey. But Ford and the Warriors answered, as the quarterback beat the defense to the pylon to tie the game at 47-all.
On their third possession of extra time, Laurier held the Warriors to a 35-yard field goal. With a chance to win it, the Hawks made no mistake, as Carusello's play-action froze Waterloo momentarily, allowing Hall to get to the back of the endzone and haul in the game-winner.
With plenty of jockeying still to be done for playoff positioning, the Warriors will head to Hamilton next week to wrap their regular season against McMaster on Saturday, October 19. Kickoff from Ron Joyce Stadium is slated for 1pm.