(Photo: Kyle Rodriguez)
Guelph, ON – The No. 6 ranked Guelph Gryphons improved to 2-0 on the season with a 30-19 victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks (1-1) on Labour Day Monday at Alumni Stadium.
Both teams were forced to deal with some extreme conditions as temperatures at field level were hovering around 40 degrees Celsius throughout the game. Early on, nobody was hotter than the Gryphon defence as they dominated the opening half of play. After Laurier received the opening kickoff, the Gryphons would force a turnover on just the second play from scrimmage as Laurier quarterback James Fracas, who was questionable to start the game because of a knee injury, was picked off by Guelph's OUA All-Star free safety Tristan Doughlin (Toronto, ON). That marked the first of several huge plays that would be made by the Gryphons defence in the game. With Guelph leading 10-3 in the second quarter, the Gryphon offence would come up with their biggest play of the game.
Shortly after quarterback James Roberts (Cambridge, ON) and receiver Jacob Scarfone (London, ON) had connected for a 39-yard completion, those two would hook up once again, this time for a 34-yard touchdown. Scarfone, a third year receiver who was coming off a monster game against Waterloo in Week 1 (8 rec, 201 yds, 2 TD), was the recipient of some great downfield blocking from teammate A'dre Fraser (Halifax, NS) helping the Gryphons lead grow to 17-3. While Scarfone's 34-yard touchdown was impressive, the celebration might have been even more impressive as the 6-1, 200 pound receiver wowed the crowd with a standing backflip. Before the end of the quarter, Gryphons kicker Gabe Ferraro (Mississauga, ON) would connect on his third field goal of the opening half (25, 42, 13) as Guelph took a 20-3 lead into the locker room at half. In the first half, Guelph had 16 first downs compared to just five for Laurier.
While the Golden Hawks were unable to sustain any long drives against a tough Gryphon defence in the opening half, they would be granted the opportunity to work with a short field to start the third quarter. On the Gryphons first offensive play of the third quarter, a botched exchange on a handoff gave Laurier the ball deep in Guelph territory. Two plays later, Fracas and Daniel Bennett would connect for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Golden Hawks some life as the deficit was trimmed to 20-10.
Guelph's All-Canadian return specialist Ryan Nieuwesteeg (Niagara Falls, ON) would provide the Gryphons with a spark later in the third quarter. After scooping up a rolling punt at midfield, Nieuwesteeg would take his return from one side of the field to the other, taking it back 37-yards all the way down to the Laurier 11-yard line. On the next play, second year running back Daniel Palmer-Salmon (Brampton, ON) would bounce to the outside and take it in for the 11-yard touchdown to give the Gryphons a 30-10 lead.
The Golden Hawks would chip into that lead thanks to their All-Canadian running back. Dillon Campbell, who was named the OUA's MVP a season ago, was held to just 79 yards rushing on 17 carries in the game for a modest average of 3.9 yards per carry. While Campbell was not able to get much going on the ground against a tough Guelph front seven, he would make a big play in the receiving game late in the third quarter. The final play of the third quarter was a screen pass to Campbell that was taken 34-yards down to the Guelph two-yard line. After a switch of ends, the Hawks would start the fourth quarter with a Dillon Campbell two-yard touchdown run as the Guelph lead was trimmed to 30-17.
On the ensuing kickoff, Nieuwesteeg would be stripped of the football after a great return to midfield. The ball was touched last by Laurier before going out of bounds giving the Hawks possession and some serious momentum. Laurier would drive the ball down to the Guelph five-yard line and looked poised to make it a one score game. That is when the Gryphon defence came up with arguably the biggest play of the game. On first and goal from the five-yard line, Mack Myers (Guelph, ON) would get into the Laurier backfield with a perfectly timed blitz from the free safety position. His crushing hit on Laurier quarterback James Fracas forced him to get rid of the ball early. Second year standout Nick Parisotto (Guelph, ON) would come down with the interception in the endzone as the momentum suddenly shifted back to the Gryphons.
With the score still 30-17 Guelph and with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, it was déjà vu for the Hawks who once again were on the move and poised to cut into the lead. This time, on a first and 10 from the Guelph 15-yard line, Fracas would have his pass tipped and picked off by Parisotto for a second time. Last season as rookie Parisotto finished tied for second in the conference with four interceptions during the regular season; his two red zone interceptions on Labour Day helped seal the victory for the Gryphons who have now won their last four meetings with Laurier.
On the day, the Gryphons held Laurier to just 69 net rushing yards.
Offensively for the Gryphons, quarterback James Roberts finished the day 22-41, 295 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. Jacob Scarfone was the leading receiver with 8 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. A'dre Fraser made 9 catches for 110 yards. Johnny Augustine, Daniel Palmer-Salmon and Brandon Gordon shared the load in the backfield and combined to rush for 129 yards. Nieuwesteeg finished the day with 6 punt returns for 104 yards.
The No. 6 Gryphons will be in action again on Saturday, September 12 when they travel to York to take on the Lions.
Source: Guelph Gryphons