(Photo: Michael P. Hall)
The Guelph Gryphons are heading to the Yates Cup for the second time in three years after defeating the Western Mustangs 51-26 at a cold and rainy Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Gryphons will now travel to Hamilton to face the McMaster Marauders next weekend (Saturday, Nov. 15) in the 107th Yates Cup.
Coming into the game all eyes were on Western's backup quarterback Stevenson Bone, who was filling in for injured starter Will Finch. By the end of the game, it was Guelph's backup quarterback who stole the spotlight. In the first quarter, Jazz Lindsey was shaken up and was forced to leave the game after landing hard at the end of a first down run. In his place stepped rookie James Roberts. And he did not look like a rookie out there.
The native of Cambridge, Ontario was able to get some experience under his belt in the final game of the regular season when he was given the start at Laurier. That week, the Gryphons had already locked up second place in the OUA standings. This week, the first year pivot had the ball in his hands with the season on the line and he made the most of the opportunity. With the Gryphons trailing 9-6 in the 2nd quarter, Roberts would officially announce his entrance into the game by airing it out for Lucas Spagnuolo (Grimsby, Ont.) for a beautiful 62-yard pass-and-catch for a touchdown to give Guelph a 13-9 lead. Later in the quarter, the Gryphon offensive line would open up a huge hole for running back Rob Farquharson (Niagara Falls, Ont.) who would go 29-yards down inside the Western 5-yard line. Two plays later, Roberts would pick up his second touchdown pass of the game, finding a wide open Alex Charette (St. Catherine's, Ont.) to put the Gryphons up 20-9.
After Western responded with a touchdown from Justin Sanvido (Vancouver, BC) to make it a 20-16 game, it was once again time for the Gryphons' rookie quarterback to make a big play. Once again, Roberts and Spagnuolo would hook up, this time it was a 39-yard strike to push Guelph's lead back to 11. In the first half alone, Spagnuolo had 118 yards receiving and two touchdowns on just three catches. But the biggest problem for the Western defence on the day was not Spagnuolo or even Roberts for that matter; it was Farquharson. The fifth year running back carried the ball 15 times in the opening half for 148 yards. With under a minute to go in the 2nd quarter, he would add a 1-yard touchdown run to give Guelph a 34-16 lead at the break.
With points coming fast and furious in the first half, the two defences would tighten things up in the 3rd quarter, with the only points of the quarter coming on an Adam Sinclair touchdown for Western. Standout defensive end Cam Walker (London, Ont.) provided the biggest highlight of the 3rd quarter with a huge hit on Western quarterback Stevenson Bone. Walker was able to beat his man and record both a sack and a forced fumble as he blind-sided Bone in the pocket. The Gryphons led 34-23 heading to the final quarter.
For as good as rookie quarterback James Roberts was, he was not perfect. In the 4th, Roberts would throw into coverage and be picked off by Preston Huggins who would return it into Gryphon territory. The Mustangs were unable to translate that turnover into any kind of serious momentum however, going 2-and-out and missing the subsequent field goal attempt. But perhaps even more impressive than the touchdown passes that Roberts threw earlier, was the way in which he responded to his mistake. Roberts would go right back to testing the Western secondary, this time with a perfectly placed ball to Alex Charette. Despite some tight coverage, Charette was able to haul in the 33-yard pass before being marked down just shy of the endzone at the 1-yard line. Farquharson would punch it in from there to put the Gryphons up 42-24.
With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Farquharson would seal the victory for the Gryphons by ripping off a 50-yard touchdown run for his third score of the game. That capped a monstrous day on the ground for Farquharson who finished with 232 yards on 25 carries, good for an average of 9.3 yards per carry. He took home player of the game honours. Also deserving of a mention were the Gryphon return men. Ryan Nieuwesteeg (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and Lucas Spagnuolo both had stellar performances fielding punts, kickoffs and missed field goals, giving the Gryphons great field position to work with throughout the game. Roberts finished the game with 238 yards and three touchdown passes to lead a balanced offensive attack for the Gryphons (300 yards passing, 274 yards rushing).
In a re-match of the 2012 Yates Cup, the Gryphons will now travel to Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton to face McMaster. The University of Guelph will be selling tickets beginning at 10am on Monday through until 3pm on Tuesday. Tickets can be purchased at the Client Services desk at the W.F. Mitchell Athletic Centre.
Source: Guelph Gryphons