Faulds earns Stangs' reins

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

The hamlet of Eden Mills just outside Guelph is known more for a September writers festival than it is for producing big-name athletes.

Maybe that will change now that native son Michael Faulds has taken over as starting quarterback of the Western football team.

After much deliberation and introspection, the Mustangs tabbed the 21-year-old University of Toledo transfer student as their main man under centre. He begins the job of replacing record-setting passer Chris Hessel when the team kicks off its 2005 campaign against the Varsity Blues this afternoon at Toronto's Varsity Stadium.

Faulds got the call on the final day of training camp yesterday. Second-year Mustang Mark Howard, a Londoner and Catholic Central grad, will assume the main backup role.

Western will only dress two quarterbacks for today's season opener, although big Lucas Garby and rookie Hayden Marks could see some roster time this season.

"I'm definitely excited. It's a nice feeling," said Faulds, a six-foot-two 207-pounder. "There was a lot of interest in who the starter would be during camp and I understand that.

"Quarterback is one of the most important positions in football. It was a great competition and as the game got closer, the team needed someone to step up. I just worked as hard as I could."

Most Ontario university observers will be watching closely to see if there's instant chemistry between Faulds and star Andy Fantuz, who is already Canadian university football's career receiving leader.

"There's not a better target to throw to in Canada," Faulds said. "He's the kind of guy who doesn't give the defensive back a chance to catch the ball. You throw it up there and he just seems to go get it. You don't have to be perfect when you throw to him."

That's good news for Faulds, who hasn't played a high-level football game in a couple of years while in a backup role with the Mid-American Conference champion Toledo Rockets of NCAA Division I.

"He obviously had good coaching at Toledo. Everybody liked him (in high school)," Western head coach Larry Haylor said. "He went to a great prep school. That team (2001 Metro Bowl champion St. Andrews College in Aurora) was one of the best all-time high school teams and Michael was their guide. They had a lot of kids go on to U.S. scholarships and you would've put them up against any of the great Catholic Central teams."

Haylor said both Faulds and Howard tossed the ball well in camp and the starting decision wasn't easy. He said Faulds had been hitting the "strike zones" with his passes a little better recently, giving receivers a chance to gain more yardage after they catch the ball.

"We look at the whole package, physical and mental aspects, especially how people react to what's going on," Haylor said. "Mike has qualities that work well on the football field. He could've come in here from a Division I school and had an edge but it was the exact opposite. He has come in and fit like the proverbial expensive Italian glove."

Haylor did allow that while Faulds would start, people shouldn't be too surprised if the five-foot-11, 175-pound Howard comes into some games in key situations.

"They're two different types of quarterbacks. Mike's more of a step-back-and-throw passer and Mark likes to move around to create things," he said. "Depending on how defences play us, we may want to give us another look."

GAME GUIDE

Mustangs vs. Blues

When: Today, 2 p.m. at Toronto's Varsity Stadium

The matchup: Western is 64-54-8 all-time against U of T and has won the past nine meetings.


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