Hurricanes showing a new look after slow start

The Hamilton Hurricanes got their junior Ontario Football Conference season off to a heartbreaking start, going 0-4 over the first half of the schedule. They lost to St. Leonard (Montreal), and Windsor by a converted touchdown in each game and also lost a game to Burlington by a field goal. The ‘Canes played well enough to have won any of those games.

What proved to be the team’s downfall were the turnovers in those first four outings. Hamilton also found itself with an unfriendly schedule, playing the first three games on the road. Although the game against Burlington was played at the Hurricanes’ Ivor Wynne Stadium, it was considered a home game for the Braves because their stadium field was deemed unplayable.

But Hamilton seems to have corrected its shortcomings. Since their bye week, the Hurricanes have won back-to-back games.

Last week, the eight-time defending champs from Montreal came to Hamilton and the Hurricanes came out winners 23-16. Had it not been for the downpour of rain that afternoon, which handcuffed Hamilton’s passing attack, the score would have been much less flatering to the visiting Cougars. Even with the rain, all three Hurricanes touchdowns came via the pass.

This past weekend, the ‘Canes went on their last regular season road trip to London to play the Beefeaters. A late fourth quarter, 90-yard touchdown by the Beefeaters ruined what would have been the team’s firsrt shutout. But the Canes still brought home a win, 36 – 6. The game was dominated by the Hurricanes, led by the conference’s best passing attack. Hamilton scored three times with passes and twice by rushing.

Individually, the Canes have a number of players contending for Conference and perhaps national all star titles. On defence, linebacker Aram Eisho was the Conference’s top defensive player three times in the first five games. And in the past two Hurricanes contests, the 18-year-old has been the country’s top defender.

On Offence, quarterback Brian Echlin, who was the backup in weeks 1 and 2, has stepped into the Hurricanes starting role. Since then he has thrown formore than 1100 yards and 12 touchdowns. Echlin was Ontario and Canadian offensive player of the week in the loss in Windsor. Brian should be a strong candidate for the awards again this week after a great performance Saturday (Sept. 20) in London. In just three quarters of work, Brian was 18 / 27 passing for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

Most of Echlin’s passes this season have gone to wide receiver Steven Hughes, who was the Week 4 offensive player of the week. Through 6 games this season, Hughes is on pace to shatter the old Hurricanes record of 47 receptions. Steve, or “sticky” as his teammates call him, already has 38 receptions with two games remaining. Hughes also starts at defensive Back and has two interceptions and numerous tackles. With Hughes literally triple covered most of the game other placed had the opportunity to strut their talents.

Travis Steeves, who was second in the conference with 22 catches going into Saturday’s game, caught four more including an incredible acrobatic catch for a touchdown on the last play of the first half. Newcomer Mike DiCroce, a late addition from St. Mary’s University, had five catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. Malcolm Paul caught three balls and displayed some amazing running after the catches.

The Hurricanes not only take pride in their present players, but in the coaching staff. Head Coach Jason Hayes, Defensive Co-ordinator Scott Campbell, Defensive Line Coach Roger Dunbrack, and Defensive Backs Coach Harold Harris are all past ‘Canes players.

Hamilton is at home against Windsor AKO Fratmen on Sept. 27 and the London Beefeaters visit on Oct. Both games are at Ivor Wynne Stadium and start at 4 p.m.