Guelph Junior Gryphons claim OFL championships

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

CAMBRIDGE — What a difference a year makes.

The Guelph Junior Gryphons celebrated an Ontario Football League atom championship on a Jacob Hespeler football field Saturday one year after enduring a winless season.

“They were excellent,” a choked-up coach Sean Faulknor said after the Jr. Gryphs used two big plays in an 18-6 victory over the Toronto Jets in the OFL’s atom MD tier 1 final. “It was awesome. Start to finish, they executed and they did what we asked. Just an awesome game.”

Running a sweep right, the favourite play by both teams in the final, Jevon Faulkner outran everybody more than 60 yards into the endzone on the first play from scrimmage to put the Jr. Gryphs up early.

“That’s kind of what we hoped for,” coach Faulknor said. “We go for the home run. Like those Jays, we go to use our big bat right away., try to hit that home run and impose our will. We wanted the ball right off the bat so we knew what we were doing.”

That stood as the game’s only score until the Jets tied it in the third quarter.

The tie didn’t last long, though, as Faulknor returned the ensuing kickoff to the Toronto endzone.

Tyler Reilly added the final touchdown late in the game as he scored on a quarterback keeper after a Jets’ unnecessary roughness penalty left the ball on their own one-yard line.

The win lifted Guelph’s record to a perfect 10-0. There is talk that the Jr. Gryphs could play in a bowl game in Burlington later this month, but nothing was confirmed immediately after the OFL final.

“So far so good,” coach Faulknor said. “Even if we play in this other game, I consider our season is essentially done. That’s just sort of icing on the cake. At 10-0, it feels good.”

As the Jr. Gryphs started their pre-season practices, there were no signs that an undefeated season was a possibility.

“Just before the season, we lost a few key guys to other clubs,” coach Faulknor said. “We thought we would be average to above average, but we would work. We knew that we had our workhorses here. We knew we had the guys that would put in the work and put in the time and if they did it, then we would be very successful. Our coaching staff was excellent. The coaching staff that we have, the experience that we have together and our personalities, we mesh so well. It was a good combination with this team. We’ve been preaching all season a team is one and that’s how our coaching staff was down to the kids. It was just a fantastic experience for me.”

The title win was the second by a Guelph Minor Football Association team at the OFL’s championship day. The Jr. Gryphs prevailed in a tyke tier one meeting between two undefeated teams as they downed the Brantford Bisons 33-13.