Haylor ponders abrupt ending
What you saw isn't what you got
Bye bye O'Brien
Squash twists at Crossover
Haylor ponders abrupt ending
By Joel Brown
Unfortunately for Mustang football head coach Larry Haylor, his silver anniversary season did not have a pot of gold at the end.
After entering the playoffs with high hopes, his team is now struggling to come to grips with the fact that there will be no more practices, bus trips and worst of all Saturday afternoon football.
"None of our senior people have been able to understand the sudden end to our season," Haylor said. "It was not their intention for this to happen. It's been hard for them to grasp the realness of what has happened.
"But they've got to get past the disappointment and look at the huge positives they've achieved," he said.
Still, Haylor said he believes there were some accomplishments the team should be proud of, especially considering their youth.
"I think the group competed well in each and every game and the two regular season games we lost only by a point. The first thing we wanted to be was competitive, and we certainly achieved that."
Haylor pointed to the lack of Ontario University Athletics all-star selections on the squad, as a testament to Western's playing ability as a whole. Only Mike O'Brien was chosen to the first team, as a punter.
"I think the all-star selections were a comment on our group. Sure we had a few people who were great players like O'Brien and [Fabian] Rayne but to compete well all our players really had to compete well."
Next season the team will be without their two offensive catalysts and two of the best Mustangs ever, quarterback O'Brien and fullback Rayne.
"O'Brien leaves a huge performance legacy. He's one of the most gifted all-around performers in the history of Mustang football.
"The part that was best about him is that he never dwelled upon personal achievements, he always accepted what was best for the team.
"Fabian was a great back who played best when in the other teams zone," Haylor said. "This year he had to adopt to the role given to him in the past that was so different than before. He had to do a lot more blocking [and] he accepted that role without a flinch."
However, Haylor believes there are players who had breakthrough seasons this year who will be able to step into a more prominent leadership role next year. "Drew Soleyn became more and more of a threat throughout the season," Haylor said, of the Mustang's runningback.
As well, he said John Hammoud became one of the better lineman in the conference in the last few weeks of the season.
"I felt the offensive line really made great progress," he said. "You know, most times it takes two to four years to develop an offensive lineman while our guys had only one or two years to do it. But they really came on towards the end."
The gut-check moment of the season came after Western travelled to Kingston to face a winless Queen's squad. Despite being expected to win by a landslide, the Golden Gaels pulled out an upset victory that caused many Mustangs players to doubt how talented they are.
"Us not coming back after that Queen's game was definitely a turning point," Haylor said. "We certainly didn't play how we believed we were able to. I was very disappointed in that. After that we may have put up our best game of the year against McMaster."
He said he also believes Western's first two games of the season provided badly needed confidence.
"In the Windsor game we had so many new players on offence. We struggle to keep Mike breathing. Winning that game was a big moment for us. Coming back against Guelph the next week was an exclamation point."
Year-to-year the whispers begin to circulate about whether Haylor still has the desire to continue coaching. Just because the team didn't reach their intended final destination, don't expect Haylor to relinquish his role as the top man in Western football.
Speculation is simply what it is speculation.
"There always is. You can go back to the issues of The Gazette last year and find the same speculation. But it's like a player. It's hard to focus on all the positives when the disappointment has been so recent. It's important that the player doesn't rush and make decisions that are emotional."
"I'm tired, I'm worn out. It is the same thing every year but when it comes time you find what it takes to get up again."