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Football Gryphs still have shot at playoffs despite loss to Laurier

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

WATERLOO — It seems almost unbelievable, but despite dropping their fourth consecutive game and fifth of the season, the defending Yates Cup champion Guelph Gryphons are still in the race for the final playoff berth in OUA football.

The Laurier Golden Hawks (6-1), Ottawa Gee-Gees (5-1), Western Mustangs (5-1), McMaster Marauders (5-1) and Carleton Ravens (5-2) have secured playoff berths. The other one will go to either the Gryphs (2-5) or one of three teams tied at 2-4 heading into Saturday’s games — York Lions, Queen’s Gaels and Windsor Lancers. Windsor plays at Queen’s Saturday and York hosts McMaster.

Friday, the Gryphs suffered their third loss of the season by four points or less when they were defeated 27-25 by Laurier at Waterloo’s University Stadium.

“It took us a little bit to wake up, but I’m really proud of how we came out in the second half, the adjustments we made, believing in ourselves and sticking to our game plan,” Gryphon interim head coach Kevin MacNeill said.

The Gryphs fell behind 24-6 five minutes into the third quarter, but came back and had a chance to tie it up in the final minute.

“They got us kind of sleeping in the first quarter with two big plays and that obviously hurt, but I’m proud of how the defence responded,” MacNeill said. “They fixed their problems and they did a great job in the second half.”

“We just knew that we had a lot on the line,” fifth-year defensive back Tristan Doughlin said. “It’s near the last game for some of us and we knew we had to ball out for everyone in the locker room. In the first half, we made a few mental mistakes and it ended up costing us.”

“If we would’ve finished in the first, maybe the score would’ve been different,” running back Mack Jones said.

Laurier running back Levondre Gordon scored a touchdown on a 71-yard run five minutes into the game and receiver Brendan McCracken connected with quarterback Michael Knevel on a 94-yard catch-and-run play five and a half minutes into the second quarter.

“Other than those two big plays, honestly, they didn’t do too much, but that’s all they needed,” Doughlin said.

For the Gryphs, Jones scored a touchdown on a 25-yard run, quarterback James Roberts found the endzone on a two-yard run and receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker caught a nine-yard TD pass from Roberts.

Gabe Ferraro kicked field goals of 32 and 29 yards in the first quarter and he converted the third-quarter TD by Jones. The Gryphs tried two-point converts on the other two touchdowns, but both failed.

The Gryphs had 467 yards of total offence, five more than Laurier. But the Gryphs were hurt by penalties (13 for 110 yards while Laurier had 10 for 75 yards), turnovers and sacks. Roberts had three passes intercepted and they were returned a total of 48 yards and he was also sacked four times for a loss of 26 yards. Receiver Jordan Terrio also fumbled the ball away.

Doughlin had Guelph’s only interception of the game and he returned it 27 yards. Knevel wasn’t sacked and Laurier recovered its only fumble.

Roberts completed 23 of 37 pass attempts for 296 yards and Jones led the Gryphon rushing attack with 92 yards gained on 15 carries in his first action since injuring a hamstring in the Labour Day loss to the Lancers at Windsor. A’dre Fraser caught nine passes for 127 yards.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle,” he said. “I was out three or four weeks. After that Toronto game, it was nice to be back on the field and do things for my team and contribute right away.”

Jones had gained 92 yards on 11 carries and scored two touchdowns in the season-opening 41-22 win over the Toronto Varsity Blues at Alumni Stadium Aug. 28.

“Right after you pull your hamstring, which I did, it gets really tight,” Jones said. “It’s a lot of massage therapy, a lot of ultra sounding, a lot of physio. It takes three or four weeks to get it back on track.”

In all, the Gryphs had 197 yards rushing as Johnny Augustine had 67 yards on 14 carries.

“I loved the way we ran the football,” MacNeill said. “That’s one of the best fronts in the country. You don’t get much better than that group and we made them have to make adjustments and move around and get better in order to stop the run for us. That’s something that I’m very, very pleased with and it really kind of sparked our team.”

The Gryphs are to complete their regular season with a game against York at Alumni Stadium Oct. 22. In other games that day involving teams in contention for the final playoff berth, Windsor is to host Laurier and Queen’s is to host Ottawa.