Guelph, On – The Quest for the 110th Yates Cup begins this Saturday as the Guelph Gryphons host the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
The two sides played in a thrilling contest in the nation's capital last October, with the Gee-Gees squeezing out a 31-28 double overtime victory. It was a battle of the backs in Ottawa, with Gee-Gees running back Bryce Viera rushing for 114 yards on 16 carries, while counterpart Johnny Augustin, who was returning from injury, put together a 153-yard performance on the ground.
This year for Guelph, the core group of offensive weapons are back. Starting quarterback James Roberts is back after finishing in the top-10 in the country in passing yards last season, while the team will use a four-man rotation of backs that is as deep as any in the country.
The aforementioned Augustine, who attended Eksimos training camping this year, had 563 yards rushing on 108 carries last year, but will primarily play the H-back position this season. Sophmore Patrick Pierre, along with Brandon Gordon and Jamal Hooker will all look get touches. Jacob Scarfone, who was fourth in the country in receiving yards in 2015, comes back from a knee injury to give the Gryphons another big-play threat.
Guelph's defence, which a major reason for their championship run in 2015, will look to make a statement early on. Luke Korol, who was third in the country with 64 tackles, will look to teammates Riley Baines and Royce Metchie to make new Gee-Gees starter Victor Twynstra uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, Ottawa will have to replace the two big guns of their offence from last year that finished second in the league in overall yards. The dynamic duo of Derek Wendel and Mitchell Baines are gone. Wendel, who was the regular season MVP, led the league in almost every passing category, including completions (232), yards (2936), and touchdowns (22).
Baines, was the primary beneficiary of Wendel's throws, hauling in 65 catches for 984 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 15.1 yards per catch.
On the defensive side, the Gee-Gees bring back playmakers all over the field. Ty Cranston, who let the team with 54 tackles, headlines the secondary along with brother Cody Cranston, who led the team with three interceptions. Linebacker Jackson Bennett and the rest of the front seven will look to wreck havoc on Roberts and co.
Both sides began their 2016 seasons with high hopes, but were left with a sour taste in their mouths with early playoff exits. The Gryphons, who had won the 2015 Yates Cup, were shocked by Windsor in the opening game of the season. The Gryphons would play out the rest of the regular season to a 3-5 record before falling to rival McMaster in the quarterfinals at Ron Joyce Stadium.
On the other hand, Ottawa was undefeated to start last season before being handed two significant losses by their crosstown rivals, the first being their third straight Panda Bowl defeat, and the other in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite being the first game for each side, getting that first win will be imperative, as both have a tough opponents ahead. After hosting the Gee-Gees, the Gryphons will head on the road to TD Stadium for a 2015 Yates Cup rematch with the Western Mustangs. For Ottawa, they play an upbeat Queen's team on the Labor Day long weekend, before heading on the road for two straight games.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, so be sure to tune in to OUA.tv for this Marquee Matchup and all the other action from around the league.