Gryphons rally to sneak by Waterloo

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

WATERLOO – The Guelph Gryphons took a big step toward securing an OUA football playoff berth Saturday when they rallied for a 53-49 victory over the Waterloo Warriors at Warrior Field.

The Gryphs trailed by 13 points at the start of the fourth quarter in a game of turnovers and big passing plays, but went ahead on Johnny Augustine’s touchdown on a 22-yard run with 23 seconds to go.

“We wanted to be aggressive and make some plays when we needed to and the kids really rallied,” Gryphon coach Kevin MacNeill said.

The win squares the Gryphons’ record at 3-3 and leaves them in sixth place with two games to go. Top six qualify for the playoffs.

The Western Mustangs lead and they’ve clinched a playoff berth at 6-0. The defending champion Laurier Golden Hawks and McMaster Marauders are tied at 4-1 while the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Waterloo are tied at 4-2. The Carleton Raves are at 2-3 while the York Lions, Toronto Varsity Blues and Queen’s Gaels are tied at 1-4 and Windsor Lancers are at 0-6.

“We don’t look at it,” MacNeill said of the playoff race. “It’s one game at a time. Every game is a playoff game for us and we prepare every week like that.”

Waterloo led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter, 29-12 at halftime and 39-26 after the third quarter as the Warriors looked for their first win over the Gryphs since 2005.

Augustine’s touchdown was his third of the game as he also scored on one- and three-yard runs 36 seconds apart midway through the third quarter. The Gryphs regained the ball on an inside kick following Augustine’s first TD to set up the second. Augustine leads the league with eight rushing TDs.

Jason Richards scored Guelph’s first TD of the game on a 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter that gave Guelph a 12-7 lead. However, the Warriors responded to that with 25 consecutive points – two TDs, two converts, three field goals and a safety.

Jacob Scarfone caught a five-yard TD pass from QB Theo Landers on the first play of the fourth quarter and Landers ran one in from five yards out four minutes later.

Apart from a safety two minutes into the game, all of Guelph’s other points came from kicker Gabe Ferraro who had six converts and field goals of 32, 51 and 41 yards. He’s made 21 field goals and 21 converts this season for 84 points. He’s five field goals away from tying his brother Daniel’s mark of 26 in a season set in 2014.

Gabe Ferraro’s 57 field goals ties the team career record set by Rob Maver from 2006 to ’09. Ferraro also has 255 points in his four seasons with the Gryphs, 35 shy of Maver’s team record.

The Gryphs fumbled three times and lost all three while the Warriors fumbled twice and recovered both of them. Royce Metchie had an interception for the Gryphs while Waterloo hauled down a pair of Landers passes. Waterloo also had five sacks while the Gryphs had four.

Landers struggled a little in the first half before finding his way in the second half. He completed 16 of 26 pass attempts for 205 yards. He also led all rushers with 106 yards on 13 carries.

“Being Theo’s first start, it took some time to kind of calm the nerves,” MacNeill said. “Once we started just taking what they were giving, some areas opened up for us.”

Landers replaced James Roberts who was injured in the Homecoming loss to McMaster a week earlier.

“It feels good – really good,” Landers said of his first win in the league. “It was a little bit of a rough start but I’m happy. The guys got together and we finished strong at the end. This is exactly what we needed.

“The first half was a little rough, but the second half I kind of settled in and got a rhythm going.”

The two teams combined for 950 yards of total offence, 552 by Waterloo. The Warriors took the majority of the penalties as they were assessed 127 yards on 17 calls while the Gryphs were issued 55 yards on nine calls.

Big plays were the way of the game. Waterloo had eight plays go for 20 or more yards – seven passes and one kick return. The Gryphs had 11 – six kick returns, three rushes and two passes.

Metchie had a big game on defence with 10 solo tackles, two assisted tackle, a sack and an interception. Luke Korol, A.J. Allen and Charlie Taggart also had sacks while Korol made eight solo and two assisted tackles.

The Gryphs get a bye on the Thanksgiving weekend and host Laurier Oct. 14 at 1 p.m.