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OFSAA Preview - The Jacob Hespeler Hawks

Nov. 24, 2017

OFSAA Preview - The Jacob Hespeler Hawks

Game: OFSAA Championship

Date: Tuesday, November 28th

Location: Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton

Time: 10:00am

Opponent: Jacob Hespeler Hawks (11-0)

Ticket Information: Tickets are $10 at the gate.


What Spartans Fans Need to Know About the Hawks

The Jacob Hespeler Hawks (Cambridge) are members of the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association (WCSSAA), competing in a single-tier, two-division, 12-team football league.  To qualify for OFSAA, the WCSSAA Champion must win the CWOSSA tournament, competing against champions from the BCSSAA, BAA, District 4, District 8, District 10, and the NSSAA.

The Hawks have won five straight WCSSAA Championships, not having lost a WCSSAA game in over five years, and are returning to the OFSAA Central bowl for the second straight year.

How They Got Here

Jacob Hespeler opened the season with a 51-8 drubbing of the Huron Heights Huskies (Kitchener).  The game was essentially over in the first half as the Hawks scored on every offensive possession.  QB Elijah Cruickshank logged three touchdowns on the ground with Seth Robertson adding two more and Ian Kuwabara capping it off with another.  Darrian Morgan's three field goals kept the scoreboard turning.

The Hawks improved to 2-0 with a 56-12 win over the Waterloo-Oxford Crusaders (Baden).  In another game that was over by half, with Jacob Hespeler up 28-1, Robertson rushed for two majors and hauled in another from Cruickshank, who tallied two rushing scores of his own.  Backs Xavier Pineda, Ian Kuwabara, and Ethan Butler each added a touchdown.

A convincing 43-3 victory over the Preston Panthers (Cambridge) moved the Hawks to 3-0, and featured the defense more than the offense for the first time in the young season.  Jacob Hespeler worked with a short field all day long thanks to relentless defensive pressure and multiple turnovers.  The defense was also credited with a safety.  Pineda, Kuwabara, and Robertson each added to their touchdown totals, while Josh Gilpin notched his first two majors of the season.

The Hawks defense continued to shine in a cold and windy 26-0 win over yet more Panthers - of the Glenview Park (Cambridge) variety this time.  The Hawks spent the entire game in Glenview's end, but miscues and trouble passing into the wind left Jacob Hespeler with a slim lead at the half.  Robertson put the team on his shoulders and found the endzone two more times with Gilpin adding a second half touchdown.

The Hawks improved to 5-0 with a 51-10 win over the KCI Raiders (Kitchener). Pineda scored two touchdowns on the ground and brought in another from Cruickshank.  Seth Robertson ran for yet another touchdown and added a receiving major from 20 yards out.  Morgan booted another three field goals in the blowout win.

Jacob Hespeler's sixth win was a 49-9 drubbing of the undefeated Waterloo Vikings (Waterloo), which locked up top spot in the division for the Hawks.  Pineda cashed in three touchdowns, Cruickshank ran in another two, and Kuwabara also rumbled for a score.  Morgan casually booted another three field goals, as he does.

In the WCSSAA Quarter-Finals, the Hawks smashed the Waterloo-Oxford Crusaders (Baden) 38-7, and it wasn't that close.  With the Crusaders stacking eight in the box, Cruickshank went to the air, hitting Robertson with a 55-yard touchdown, and Pineda with a 35-yarder.  The Hawks were up 22-0 seven minutes into the game, and they'd add a safety before the first quarter was through.  Pineda closed it out from there with two touchdown runs as the Hawks cruised to another easy victory.

Jacob Hespler took the WCSSAA Semi-Final 45-9, but the Sir John A. MacDonald Highlanders (Waterloo) gave them a run for their money early on.  Pineda opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game, and Aidan Carter hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass two minutes later to put the Hawks up 14-0, but the Highlanders struck back with a bomb of their own right before the end of the quarter.  That was as close as it would get, however, as Gilpin and Cruickshank each ran in a second quarter touchdown and then Connor Martinez cashed in a pick-six as the half expired. Morgan added a third quarter field goal, and Carter brought in a 40-yarder late in the game.

With the mercury well below zero in the WCSSAA Championship game, the Grand River Renegades (Kitchener) gave Jacob Hespeler's offense another good test. Up 6-0 midway through the second quarter, the Hawks found their game. Devan Flaming scored his first touchdown of the year, and Morgan easily knocked through a 35-yard field goal.  Pineda crashed through on two second half touchdowns and the defense held true as the Hawks claimed their fifth straight WCSSAA title with a 32-1 win.

In the CWOSSA Semi-Finals, the St. Benedict Saints (Cambridge) forced Jacob Hespeler to find another gear once again. The Hawks opened the scoring early with a 29-yard touchdown run from Robertson, but with just over a minute gone in the second quarter, they found themselves holding on to a 9-7 lead, pinned deep in their own end facing a strong wind.  Pineda finished off a 100-yard drive with a 20-yard screen pass from Cruickshank, and then Robertson took a punt back 75 yards to put the Hawks up 23-7 at the half.  Pineda added a short touchdown run in the third, and a highlight-reel-scamper from 81 yards out in the fourth to put the Hawks back into the CWOSSA Final with a 39-13 win.

The CWOSSA Championship game was the toughest test of the season for the Hawks as the Brantford C.I. Mustangs (Brantford) and Mother Nature gave them everything they could handle for three quarters.  The Hawks scored on their first possession as Seth Robertson capped a 52-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown.  The Mustangs tied it up early in the second, and the teams exchanged field goals to even the score 10-10 going into the break.  Morgan would add a field goal in the third and two more in the fourth as the Hawks defense stood tall.  Pineda's hard-running resulted in a fourth quarter touchdown, and the Hawks booked another trip to Tim Hortons Field with a 26-10 victory.

Hawks Players to Watch

QB #1 Elijah Cruickshank - A converted possession-receiver, Cruickshank, who backed up QB Jackson White (McMaster) last season while also starting out wide, has had an incredible season under center. Displaying great touch on crossing routes, an accurate deep arm, convincing play-action, and an outstanding ability to read defenses, this dual-threat QB is the glue that holds the Hawks offense together.

RB/CB #3/#18 Xavier Pineda - Pineda's #3 jersey ripped across the back against St. Benedict, and then basically fell off against BCI, forcing him to switch to #18. Appropriately, with 18 touchdowns, Pineda was the Hawks offense at times this season.  This shifty back features outstanding change of direction and explosion, and is one of Cruickshank's favourite targets, not only on screen and flat-routes, but deep downfield as well.  Pineda is one of only a few Hawks who play ironman football, doubling as the field corner on defense.

WR/FS #4 Seth Robertson - Jacob Hespeler opponents spent more time scheming for Robertson than any other Hawk.  Often shadowed, and sometimes double-covered, this Grade 11 standout keeps defenses on their toes, lining up out wide, in the slot, in the backfield, and occasionally at quarterback.  Robertson has great hands and speed, runs routes with precision, and is as difficult to tackle in the open field as Pineda. On defense, Robertson is a ball-hawking free safety with quick recognition and closing speed.

WR #7 Aidan Carter - Carter didn't find the endzone until the WCSSAA Semi-Finals, but this experienced sure-handed receiver is a downfield threat.  Carter fights off press-coverage well, uses his body to box out defenders, and does a great job of finding open space when Cruickshank is forced to scramble.  Generally lined up opposite Robertson, Carter forces opposing free safeties to play honestly or pay the price.

LB #15 Connor Martinez - Martinez changes direction with ease and does a great job anticipating routes, picking up receivers in space, and reading the quarterback's eyes.  Martinez sniffs out screens and draws well and has terrific hands.

K #41 Darrian Morgan - This fifth year kicker was the hero of last season, booting a 41-yarder to send the Hawks to the 2016 CWOSSA Championship.  It's unlikely anyone has kicked more field goals in Ontario this season than Morgan's 22.  Morgan's range is close to 50 yards, and he's near-automatic from inside 40.

LB #54 Cam Coughlin - A middle linebacker with great instincts, Coughlin has a knack for timing blitzes and disrupting the backfield.  Coughlin uses his height and reach well when dropping back into coverage.  He is a sure-tackler with good closing speed who always takes a good pursuit angle.

DT #72 Tom Bloomfield - Bloomfield is a run-stopping force in the interior.  He's quick off the ball, has a powerful push, and keeps his legs driving to the whistle.  Bloomfield loves contact and spends most games fighting through double-teams.

RT #85 Jacob Bradley - Easily the tallest Hawks player, Bradley is also one of the most powerful.  Anchoring the Jacob Hespeler offensive line, Bradley is an unstoppable run-blocker, but fast enough to pull on a counter-trey.  When pass-blocking, Bradley is difficult to bull-rush due to his size and strength, and has a quick kick slide, making him difficult to beat around the edge.  Bradley also sees situational spot-duty on the defensive line.

Coach Price's Comments on Jacob Hespeler

"This is a highly-skilled, well-coached team.  You don't get to 11-0 without being special, and they certainly are that.  They're the class of WCSSAA right now having won five straight championships, and with some of the usual suspects in that region rebuilding, they were the logical choice to come out of CWOSSA.  We felt good about our chances in Peel this year, so as soon as we found out that ROPSSAA was matching up against the CWOSSA champs at OFSAA, we thought it would be a good idea to keep an eye on them.  They're tough to scheme for defensively because they give you a bit of everything.  They change their game plan week-to-week and attack you where they feel you're most vulnerable.  Defensively, they're disciplined, a bend-but-don't-break unit.  Teams had trouble stringing positive plays together against them, and field goals just aren't going to cut it. We know we're going to have to be at our best on Tuesday or we'll be watching them celebrate when it's all over."