OUA Marquee Matchup: Week Two - Guelph Gryphons @ Western Mustangs

Photo: Michael P. Hall
Photo: Michael P. Hall

London,On -The Guelph Gryphons make their second consecutive appearance in the OUA Marquee Matchup of the Week, heading south to TD Stadium take on the Western Mustangs.

These two teams are well-versed with one another to say the least. The Gryphons knocked out Western out in the semifinals in 2014, and then went to into Western's backyard and won the 108th Yates Cup in 2015.

Last season, Western visited Alumni Stadium for Guelph's homecoming, quickly erasing any memories of the past with a convincing 50-16 victory.

Guelph is coming off a thrilling double-overtime home opener against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, a game in which they fell just short.

This matchup features perhaps the two of the three deepest backfields in the OUA, outside of that of the Laurier Golden Hawks. 

Patrick Pierre ran the rock 26 times for 100 yards last week against Ottawa.  The Gryphons also boast veteran running back Johnny Augustine, who is over 2,000 yards for his OUA career on the ground. Jamal Hooker and quarterback James Roberts will also run the ball.

The Mustangs ran out of the stable and down the throats of the Lions Sunday afternoon, with 258 yards on the ground alone.  Western's combination of an elite offensive line and a standout back in Alex Taylor continues to be lethal, with Taylor finishing with 125 yards rushing on 15 carries. Two of the other backs, Trey Humes, and Cedric Joseph, combined for 105 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. 

The Mustangs, who always seem poised to break scoring and yardage records, showed Sunday why they are amongst the most balanced teams in the league. 

Christ Merchant threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns, while backup Stevenson bone completed all four of his passes for 151, including a 75-yard touchdown strike. 

The disappearance of veterans George Johnson and Jamal Kett left a hole as to who would be the big play-making receivers of the Mustangs. That question has been answered immediately. Western had a pair of 100+ yard receivers against York.  Malik Besseghieur led all receivers with 179 yards on six receptions and a touchdown, while teammate Brett Ellerman had four catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Western's defence completely shut down a York offence that was hoping to be even more explosive than last season. The Lions only had 223 yards on 53 offensive plays, averaging 4.2 yards per play, compared to 8.5 for the Mustangs. Greg Marshall's team also held York to only three points the entire game, and even that field goal was partially tipped to the point that the Lions were lucky not to have a blank on the scoreboard.

Jean Gabriel Poulin and Austin Fordham-Miller led the Mustangs with 4.5 tackles apiece.  Three other Western players recorded defensive fumble returns.

For the Gryphons, Jacob Scarfone, who made his return from a knee injury, picked up where he left off in 2015, when he led the nation in yards.  Scarfone had three catches for 123 yards and a touchdown, including a 74-yard reception that shows why he continues to be a big-play threat any time he touches the ball.

Western's offensive line, which is one of the best in the league, will have to hope Chris Merchant  continues to get the ball of his hand quickly, because Guelph's defence will be attacking from the start.

The Gryphons made life miserable for Gee-Gees quarterbacks Alex Lavric and Victor Twynstra, producing eight sacks on the day. OUA Defensive Player of the Week Alain Cimankinda led the way with 3.5 sacks, while Job Reinhart chipped in with 2.5 and defensive linemen Charlie Taggart had a pair as well.

Standout linebacker Luke Korol had 14 tackles and Royce Metchie had 8.5 tackles for a defence that limited the Gee-Gees ground game to 88 yards on the afternoon.

Veteran kicker Gabriel Ferraro will dual it out with second year Mustangs kicker Marc Legghio. The former was busy in his season opener, connecting on four field goals, including one from 49 yards, while the latter only had two field goals, but averaged just over 43 yard a punt on his five punts for the day.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m Monday. at TD Stadium in London, so be sure to tune in to OUA.tv for this Marquee Matchup and all the other action from around the league.

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