Gryphs nipped in OT in rain-delayed match

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

LONDON – Overtime was again not kind to the Guelph Gryphons as they were edged 41-34 by the third-ranked Western Mustangs in an OUA football shootout that ended Tuesday morning at Western’s TD Stadium.

“We were very confident about this game,” Gryphon linebacker and defensive captain Luke Korol said. “I still know that we will beat this team again. We will face this team again and we will win. I’m confident in that.”

The loss was the second consecutive setback in overtime for the Gryphs. They had dropped their season opener 24-21 to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in double overtime at home eight days earlier.

“We’ve taken two hard weeks here, but you learn from it,” Korol said. “We showed a lot of good things so we’re going to build on that. I know no one is down from this so we’ll be all right.”

The fans who showed the fortitude to wait out a three-hour rain delay were treated to an exciting see-saw match that saw both teams take turns in the lead. The Gryphs were up 16-3 in the second quarter, but Western rallied to take a 24-16 lead by the end of the third quarter. Guelph didn’t die, though, as the Gryphs hit for two consecutive TDs to lead 31-24 with 10:46 to go in regulation time.

The teams traded field goals, Gabe Ferraro’s 42-yarder – his fourth FG of the game and third of over 40 yards – put the Gryphs up by seven with 6:51 to go. However, the Mustangs were quick to reply as a touchdown by Malik Besseghier on a four-yard toss from Chris Merchant tied the score a minute and a half later.

Western had the ball first in the OT and quickly moved it to Guelph’s one-yard line on a reception by Cole Majoros for 14 yards and pass interference and unnecessary roughness penalties on the same play against the Gryphs. Backup quarterback Stevenson Bone scored the TD on a keeper play and Marc Liegghio added the convert.

Guelph got the ball on Western’s 35-yard line for their chance to tie the game and keep it going, but quarterback James Roberts was sacked for a loss of two yards by Jimmy Hawley. Roberts injured his right leg on the play and had to be helped off the field.

Backup QB Theo Landers came in, but didn’t get a chance to do much as he was hurried and sacked twice to bring the game to an end.

While the result was the same, this one had a different feel to it than the loss to Ottawa.

“We saw a lot of good things in this game and we’ll bring it into next week,” Korol said. “I know we’re excited for all the games that are to come. We showed a lot of good stuff. It’s not all bad from this. The game could’ve gone either way.

“We showed a lot of good stuff. It was just tiny mistakes, little errors that lead to big plays. We’ve got to eliminate those to be a championship team.”

Roberts was steady, completing 20 of 28 pass attempts for 286 yards and two touchdowns and he wasn’t intercepted.

Jamal Hooker had 15 carries for 46 yards and Brandon Gordon had eight carries for 41 yards before going down with a shoulder injury.

Receiver Zeph Fraser caught eight passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns and Jacob Scarfone caught six passes for 99 yards.

Scarfone also applied a big block inside the Western 20 that gave slotback Johnny Augustine a clear path to the end zone on an 81-yard TD romp early in the third quarter.

Kian Schaffer-Baker caught a clutch two-point convert pass.

Ferraro added the other points as he was perfect on the night, hitting all four field goals and both converts he attempted. His field goals were from 42 (twice), 46 and 21 yards.

For Western, quarterback Chris Merchant scored TDs and six- and 14-yard runs and gained a game-high 92 yards rushing on 12 carries. He completed 27 of 41 pass attempts for 47 yards and a touchdown and he was intercepted by Riley Baines.

Derek Drouillard and Alain Cimankinda recovered fumbles by Merchant while Royce Metchie led all defenders with four solo and 10 assisted tackles.

Marc Liegghio kicked field goals of 25, nine and 36 yards and he also booted four converts and had a field-goal attempt of 25 yards hit the left upright and stay out.

And the Gryphs conceded two safeties.

The Gryphs won the battle of possession as they had the ball for 44 minutes and 53 seconds, almost 15 minutes more than Western.

While there were plenty of positives for both teams, both also leave the game knowing they have to cut down on their penalties as flags were thrown on more than 10 per cent of the plays. The Gryphs and Mustangs combined for 30 penalty calls and 299 yards in penalties – 16 calls and 147 yards against Guelph.

The calls against the Gryphons were five for holding, four for offside, three for unnecessary roughness, two for no yards on kicks, one for tripping and one for pass interference.

The game was delayed when a thunderstorm approached at 6:15 p.m. while both teams were warming up. They didn’t take the field again until after 9 p.m. to complete their warm-ups. The opening kickoff went at about 9:20 p.m. and the final whistle sounded approximately three hours later.

The result leaves the Gryphs at 0-2-0 and Western at 2-0-0.

In other games Monday, the Waterloo Warriors clobbered the York Lions 52-8, Ottawa edged the Queen’s Gaels 14-13 and the Toronto Varsity Blues defeated the Windsor Lancers 19-12. The McMaster Marauders dropped the Carleton Ravens 23-9 Sunday.

Next game for the Gryphs is Saturday when they’re to host Windsor (0-2-0) at Alumni Stadium. Game time is 1 p.m.