It would have been a little too perfect.
Mustangs kicker Lirim Hajrullahu was trotting onto the field for the second game-winning field goal in the dying seconds of a championship game in as many weeks.
Last week it was a 34-yarder against the Ottawa Gee Gees in the Yates Cup with picturesque conditions. He hit that one with ease and the Mustangs darted off with a 26-25 victory.
This week it was a 46-yarder against the Laval Rouge et Or in the Uteck Bowl with a 50 km/h wind in his face. He missed it narrowly and Laval hung on for an 13-11 victory and a berth in the Vanier Cup.
Last time it was easy. This time the odds were just stacked too high.
“It was a long shot but you can never doubt yourself. I thought I definitely had a chance,” Hajrullahu said. “The hold was perfect as usual — same as the snap. I hit it to the best of my ability.”
The kick fell short and with it so too did the Mustangs hopes of making it to the Vanier Cup. Laval will enjoy that honour, taking on the Calgary Dinos for the national championship next week in Quebec City.
It was a frustrating game for the Mustangs offensive unit, which had trouble finding holes in Laval’s stingy defence. Quarterback Donnie Marshall completed just nine passes for 61 yards and a whopping four interceptions.
After the loss, he shouldered much of the blame for the Mustangs’ inability to beat the Rouge et Or who haven’t lost at home in 43 straight games.
“You have to be mentally and physically perfect. There were too many mistakes on my part that cost us that game,” Marshall said. “I threw too many interceptions to give our team a shot.”
The ground game worked well for the Mustangs — as it did all season — with Marshall picking up 78 yards on 12 carries and running back Jerimy Hipperson collecting 85 yards on 18 carries of his own. Nathan Riva — the incumbent running back coming into the season — had just three carries, picking up 17 yards.
Western’s only touchdown on the day came late in the second quarter after punter Darryl Wheeler chased his own punt halfway down the field and recovered it. That set up a 34-yard scoring drive, culminating with backup quarterback Ian Noble diving over a pile on the goal line for a one-yard touchdown.
Hajrullahu added the rest of the Mustangs points with a rouge on the game’s opening kickoff and a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter.
“We knew we’d have a hard time scoring points on [Laval.] We didn’t make any big plays. That was the bottom line,” Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall said. “It’s a hard one because there are a lot of plays and opportunities that we could’ve done a better job on.”
The Rouge et Or, meanwhile, received all of their points from the right foot of kicker Christopher Milo who hit four field goals — from 11, 25, 29 and 34 yards — and a rouge.
His consistent boot combined with a stout Laval defence was all the Rouge et Or would need on the afternoon.
“Our defence played awesome. They showed a lot of character and everything went well for them today,” Milo said.
Western loses just a handful of players to graduation after this year’s national semifinal disappointment.
Quarterback Ian Noble, slotback Mike Hegarty and linebacker Adrian Kaiser won’t be back next season. The rest of the team files this tough loss in the memory banks and tries to build on it for another run at the Vanier Cup in 2011.
“This was definitely a learning experience for me especially and certainly for the other guys on the team,” the third-year quarterback Marshall said. “Hopefully we can be here again next year and get a chance to get back at these guys.”