Guelph, Ont. – Matching records, matching goals. With just one head-to-head matchup standing between Saturday’s two combatants and the Yates Cup playoffs, it is sure to be a gritty battle on the gridiron to see which side sets themselves up for playoff success. And with so much on the line, Saturday’s finale between the Waterloo Warriors and Guelph Gryphons has marquee matchup, powered by Planters, written all over it.
Both squads may be 4-3 on the year, but they have taken different paths to find their success. It was a strong start to the season for Waterloo – like they had a year ago – who kicked off their campaign with a 3-1 mark. Highlighting their hot start was a historic victory in the Battle of Waterloo, which many thought would be a big boost to the team’s success this season. Since then, however, the black and gold have lost two of three. A convincing win against McMaster in Week 8 sparked by a huge fourth quarter comeback suggests the Warriors have turned the page on their mini two-game losing streak, but Guelph offers yet another tough test to close out the regular season.
While Waterloo thrived early on, the Gryphons stumbled a bit out of the gates, losing two of their first three contests. Despite the losses – which came by a combined three points – the Gryphons defence was shining bright, and despite losing to Queen’s a few weeks back, the offence has found another gear to get both sides of the ball clicking and helping Guelph win three of the previous four games, with the latest coming via a 46-8 win over Toronto.
Guelph’s defence may be their calling card, but they’ll be in for one of their toughest tests of the year with Waterloo coming to town. At the centre of the team’s offensive prowess is the seemingly unstoppable pair of Tre Ford (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and Tyler Ternowski (Hamilton, Ont.). The duo has taken the conference by storm this season, setting new school-high marks along the way, and will look to but the final brush strokes on their masterpiece-like season to push their squad into the postseason for the first time since 2003. Ford enters with 22 passing TDs to just two interceptions, tallying over 2,400 yards passing and 568 yards rushing in the process, while the nation’s top receiver boasts 1,052 yards and 12 touchdowns of his own.
Balancing out the Waterloo attack, however, are the additional threats of Gordon Lam (Kitchener, Ont.) – ranked third in the OUA in receiving – and Mitch Kernick (Elmira, Ont.) in the passing game, along with Dion Pellerin (Abbotsford, Ont.) on the ground. Combined, these potent point-producers have sparked an average of over 31 PPG, but with Guelph surrendering less than 19 per contest, it will be no easy task to replicate these numbers on Saturday.
Leading the charge for the electrifying Gryphons defence is the nation’s leading tackler, Luke Korol (Dundas, Ont.). As has been the case throughout his career, the fifth-year linebacker has been all over the field this season, much to the chagrin of the opposition. Joining in on the defensive fun for the Gryphs’ is Job Reinhart (Guelph, Ont.) and Dotun Aketepe (Barrie, Ont.), who have combined for five interceptions on the year, along with Tavius Robinson (Guelph, Ont.), who paces the club with four sacks.
On the offensive side, it has been a season of progression for Guelph, most noticeably with Theo Landers (Maple Ridge, B.C.) under centre. The senior QB may not be lighting it up with his arm, but his dual-threat capabilities – sitting just shy of 500 rushing yards – make him one of the most dynamic at the position in the OUA. It helps that he is surrounded by weapons such as Kade Belyk (Regina, Sask.), Zeph Fraser (Mississauga, Ont.), and Kian Schaffer-Baker (Mississauga, Ont.), who have accounted for all eight of the team’s receiving touchdowns this season, but all of these individuals will need to bring their A-game in this pivotal regular season finale.
While the playoff scenarios are largely up in the air for seven OUA squads, the stakes in this one can be made quite clear. Whichever team claims victory between the Gryphons and Warriors on Saturday will clinch their spot in the 2018 postseason. And while a loss doesn’t eliminate the other squad, it does mean they will need to rely on some of the other participants this week to secure their berth, as seen in the playoff scenarios heading into Week 9.
For fans who want to see whether the Guelph Gryphons can continue their resilient run to cap off their campaign with a win or if the Waterloo Warriors can seal the deal to end their lengthy playoff drought, tune in to oua.tv at 1:00pm on Saturday, October 20. Fans can also download the oua.tv app via Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku to catch all the action live.