GUELPH, ON – The defending Yates Cup champions are playoff-bound. In cold and windy conditions on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium, the Gryphons (3-5) won 52-8 over the visiting York Lions (2-6).
With that victory, combined with losses by both Queen's and Windsor, the Gryphons locked up the sixth and final spot in the OUA playoffs. The Gryphons will now head to Hamilton next Saturday (Oct. 29) to face the No. 3-seeded McMaster Marauders (6-2) in an OUA Quarterfinal matchup. Both Guelph and Queen's finished the regular season with identical 3-5 records, but it was the Gryphons advancing on the tiebreak after having won their head-to-head meeting with the Gaels back in Week 3.
By halftime on Saturday, the Gryphons held a 27-0 lead over York. After three quarters of play, they led 37-8. Although the end result between Guelph and York was never really in doubt, the Gryphons playoff hopes certainly were. In order for the Gryphons to advance to the postseason, they needed some help on the out-of-town scoreboard as either a Queen's or Windsor win would have put an end to the Gryphons 2016 season. Windsor was thumped 38-9 by Laurier. The problem was with the Queen's result. The Gaels played at home against the No. 9-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees in a thrilling, high-scoring affair that needed overtime with both teams tied at 34-34 after four quarters. After Queen's opened overtime with a touchdown and extra point, the Gee-Gees answered with a TD of their own. However, instead of kicking an extra point and heading to a second overtime, Ottawa elected to go for a two-point conversion to end the game right then and there. Gee-Gees receiver Mitchell Baines, the brother of Gryphons linebacker Riley Baines, made a circus catch which not only sealed the win for the Gee-Gees, but also allowed the Gryphons to grab the sixth and final playoff spot.
After the game, Riley received a text from his brother with a message that was meant to be relayed to the rest of the Gryphons team. The text consisted of only two words:
While the Gryphons were certainly appreciative of the Gee-Gees overtime heroics, Guelph had to make sure to do their job on Saturday and take care of business against the York Lions. The Gryphons did just that.
For a fourth straight week, the Gryphons were forced to play without the services of All-Canadian returner Ryan Nieuwesteeg who was once again not in the lineup due to a foot injury. With Nieuwesteeg out, the Gryphons called upon rookie receiver Jordan Terrio to help handle punt return duties. Terrio, who attended the same high school as Nieuwesteeg, St. Paul Catholic in Niagara Falls, would do his best Nieuwesteeg impersonation in the opening quarter by ripping off an electric 46-yard punt return all the way down to the York 21-yard line. The Gryphons would take advantage of the short field as Johnny Augustine would power his way into the endzone from 9-yards out to give Guelph an early 10-0 lead. Augustine nearly eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the first half alone, rushing for 98 yards on 15 carries while finding the endzone twice. Augustine finished the day with 22 carries for 133 yards.
Defensively, the Gryphons received several standout performances, including a big game from fifth year free safety Tristan Doughlin. The former First Team OUA All-Star would pick off York quarterback Brett Hunchak on two different occassions. In the opening half of play, the Gryphon defence recorded two interceptions, two sacks and had limited Lions QB Brett Hunchak to just 138 yards through the air on 20 pass attempts.
With both the Gryphon defence and special teams coming up with some big plays early on, the Gryphon offence would follow suit with one of their own midway through the second quarter. Second year receiver Kade Belyk (Regina, SK) would haul in a short pass from James Roberts before getting a block and turning up field for a 73-yard touchdown. It was the first TD of Belyk's career and extended the Gryphons lead to 24-0.
After the York Lions opened scoring in the second half, the Gryphons would answer right back with a 13-yard touchdown pass from James Roberts to senior tight end Geoff Bezruchko to give the Gryphs a 34-8 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining in the final quarter and with the Gryphons leading 39-8, both teams would be forced to sit through a lengthy delay after York defensive end Rossini Sandjong-Djabome suffered a scary injury that saw him lay motionless on the field for an extended period of time before eventually being stretchered off the field after an apparent neck injury.
When play resumed, the Gryphons would tack on a late touchdown on a nice TD run by Jamal Hooker who spun out of a tackle before rumbling 34-yards to the endzone.
The York Lions entered Saturday's game ranked dead last in the country in stopping the run and the Gryphons took note, racking up a season-high 422 yards on the ground. Second year running back Mack Jones led the way with 16 carries for 141 yards, Johnny Augustine finished with 133, while Jamal Hooker racked up 83 rushing yards on just four carries. Gryphons third year quarterback James Roberts threw the ball just 16 times, finishing the day 10-of-16, 177 yards, 2 TD & 1 INT. Kade Belyk was Guelph's leading receiver with five catches for 115 yards and 1 TD. Kicker Gabe Ferraro was 4 of 6 on field goals while linebacker Luke Korol finished with a team-high 8.5 tackles. The Gryphons players and coaches wore pink accents as part of their annual "Think Pink" game in support of breast cancer awareness.
The Gryphons will now prepare to defend their Yates Cup title as they head to Ron Joyce Stadium next Saturday to face the No. 5-ranked McMaster Marauders (6-2). The Gryphons lost 27-15 earlier this season during a trip to Hamilton for McMaster's homecoming.
Source: Guelph Gryphons