With just a couple weeks left in the regular season, teams are running out of time to make their case for Yates Cup contention. Whether a team is guaranteed a post-season spot or fighting to have a playoff presence, there is plenty to play for as the season winds down. A prime example will come in this week’s Marquee Matchup, presented by Wilson, featuring the Guelph Gryphons (3-3) and the Laurier Golden Hawks (5-1). And even though these two teams span the aforementioned spectrum heading into the post-season, fans should be in store for a gripping gridiron battle.
The Gryphons enter Week 8 play as one of the many teams vying for those final playoff spots, coming in with a .500 record. After a tough OT loss to 1st place Western in Week 2, the Gryphons have rounded into form, reeling off wins in three of their last four contests. Helping to lead the team’s potent air and ground game are standouts Jacob Scarfone and Johnny Augustine, respectively. Scarfone ranks third in the OUA in receiving yards per game (96.7) and is tied atop the touchdown receptions list (5). Augustine, meanwhile, holds the same title in the run game, tied atop the league with eight rushing TDs. Not to be outdone, the Gryphons’ defence sits in the top half of the OUA in several statistical categories as well, including both passing (237.5) and rushing (146.0) yards allowed. The team has shown just how impressive they can be when all facets of the game are clicking and will be looking to give their playoff hopes a boost against a tough opponent in Laurier.
The reigning Yates Cup champions have been in fine form this season, with the only blemish on their schedule coming against the undefeated Mustangs. Leading the charge once again this year is standout QB Michael Knevel, who sits comfortably as the individual leader for several QB stats. Combine Knevel’s skill with the likes of RB Levondre Gordon (118.3 YPG, 7 TDs) and WR Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (132 YPG, 5 TDs) and the powerhouse Golden Hawks are tough to stop. On the defensive side, the team is equally up to the task, limiting their opponents to just 22.7 PPG this season, but it’s the offence that truly drives the lofty standards that have been established for the program. Their relentless attack has led them to tally over 560 YPG – ranking top three in both passing and rushing – while also being efficient and effective when it matters most, scoring in all but one of their trips to the red zone this year. The ability to move and score the ball with such ease makes them a true threat for any opponent.
This skillset was on full display for the Golden Hawks in their matchup last week with the York Lions. The team got off to a lightning quick start, putting up 14 points before the game was even six minutes old. They translated this early lead into a 22-7 halftime advantage, but the offence only grew stronger from there. After scoring on their first drive of the half (the first of two Laurier TDs in the quarter), the team collected another 17 points in the fourth frame to truly put the offence-heavy game out of reach (53-31).
Knevel connected with both Brentyn Hall and Gittens Jr. for a pair of touchdowns, while Gordon also took a pair to the house. An additional scoring play to Daniel Bennett gave the Laurier QB an eye-catching final stat line of 21-29, 431 yards, and 5 touchdowns. The offence as a whole finished with 627 total yards, and despite allowing a strong offensive showing from the Lions, the Golden Hawks were able to keep the game at arm’s length throughout to secure their fifth win of the OUA season.
The host Gryphons, meanwhile, will be looking to capitalize on their extra time to prepare from last week’s bye to keep their winning ways intact. The last time the Gryphons took the field, the team was locked in an offensive bout for the ages, going toe-to-toe with the second highest scoring team in the OUA (Waterloo). But with an average of 40.2 PPG of their own, Guelph continues to boast one of the province’s elite attacks, and it was on full display against the playoff hopeful Warriors.
Leading the charge for the Gryphons was Week 6 OUA Offensive Player of the Week, Johnny Augustine. Augustine put up over 100 all-purpose yards in the team’s win over Waterloo to go along with three touchdowns. Despite his accolade-earning performance, it wasn’t until his final score with just 0:22 seconds left on the clock that the Gryphons would take the lead for good. These last second heroics capped off a 41-point second half for visiting Guelph squad, as the team settled into a machine-like groove behind backup QB Theo Landers. It took a complete effort for the Gryphons to squeak out this back-and-forth tilt, but that’s exactly what they got, and exactly what they’ll be hoping for this weekend.
The Week 8 Marquee Matchup is set to kick off at 1:00pm on Saturday at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont. For those who aren’t able to cheer from the stands, you can catch the feature game live on OUA.tv for all of the can’t-miss action.