Gryphons a little short on their Homecoming comeback
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – Just a little short.
The Guelph Gryphons left their comeback attempt just a little late and it ended when Gabe Ferraro’s 32-yard field-goal attempt went wide with nine seconds to go as the Gryphs were edged 33-32 by the Queen’s Gaels in their annual OUA football Homecoming Game Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
“That’s a tough one,” Gryphon coach Todd Galloway said. “I was very proud of the heart the guys showed, especially in the second half, but we dug ourselves a hole. We almost came out of it, but we fell just short.”
For fifth-year kicker Ferraro, he was emotional after the miss and will have to get over it in a hurry.
“You just get back to work,” he said. “Win or lose, we still have a game next week. It doesn’t change that fact. We’ve still got three more games. We’ve still got to try to get in the playoffs. Either way we’ve just got to put our heads down and get back to work.”
It took until just before the fourth quarter for Guelph’s offence to get rolling, but once it did it was almost unstoppable.
The Gryphs trailed 33-7 with a minute to go in the third quarter when their offence started to click and it coincided with the Gryphs trying to complete passes of longer than 15 yards.
“We found some adjustments in the second half where we created some one-on-one matchups and we liked our matchups,” Galloway said. “We knew we had to come out and throw the ball more being down in the second half. I was really proud of (quarterback) Theo (Landers). I was proud of the way he stepped up and had confidence and threw the ball out there for those guys to catch.”
“We came from a long way,” Landers said. “We all looked at each other, knew we could do better and believed in each other. We showed a lot in the second half and if we had done that the whole game, that game wouldn’t have been as close as it was. We understand that and we know that’s the level we have to play at so if we can play at that level all four quarters, there’s not too many teams that can stick with us.”
“It was an amazing comeback,” Ferraro said. “The stadium was rocking. It was amazing. The atmosphere on the sideline was awesome. Everyone believed we were going to win that game. We showed that we have a lot of heart, a lot of fight, a lot of drive. I’m so excited to see what we have coming the rest of the season.”
Landers connected with Zeph Fraser on a 45-yard TD on the third quarter’s final play from scrimmage. Ferraro kicked the convert.
Landers found Kian Schaffer-Baker with 22-yard scoring toss at 2:55 of the final quarter. Ferraro kicked the convert.
Kade Belyk hauled in a four-yard TD pass from Landers at 7:23 of the third to complete a seven-play drive and Ferraro kicked the convert to cut the gap to five points.
“We opened up the play book quite a bit in the second half and my wide receivers made great plays and they ran really good routes,” Landers said. “I’ve got to give hats off to those guys. They played really well and the O line held their blocks and I had plenty of time back there.”
The margin fell to two with 1:55 to go when Ferraro drilled a 29-yard field goal.
Then the Gryphs marched the ball from their own 52-yard line to the Queen’s 32 with six plays in 53 seconds to set up the final field-goal try by Ferraro. After dancing to the music being played over the stadium’s extra loud speakers during a time out called by Queen’s, Ferraro booted the field-goal attempt wide to his left and the ball sailed out of the end zone for a single point.
Ferraro wasn’t exactly sure what went wrong with the kick.
“For me, I just take it as just another kick,” he said. “Honestly, I couldn’t tell you at this point. It’s just what happened happened. I don’t even know at this point.”
He did dismiss the idea that a Queen’s defender got a hand on the ball.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
Unfortunately for Ferraro, the team made several blunders earlier in the game and conceded a safety late in the first half, but it will be his missed field goal everyone will remember.
The Gryphs were called for eight penalties for 73 yards, the lowest this season since being whistled for eight penalties for 65 yards in the season opener. However, most of Saturday’s penalties came in the first half and they were crucial ones.
A 10-yard holding call negated a first down on their first possession of the second quarter. A personal foul on a punt return put the Gryphs 15 yards further back to start a drive that had another 15-yard personal foul in it. Ironically, that drive ended with a TD by Landers on a 15-yard run midway through the quarter.
“It’s something that we’ve still got to address,” Galloway said of the penalties. “Last week I was a little happier. There were less URs (unnecessary roughness penalties), less mental type penalties and more technique penalties. This week in the first half we took a couple of URs again. It was an emotional game and the guys have to learn how to control their emotions in front of a big crowd like this.”
Queen’s never trailed in the game. A pair of TDs in the first 10 minutes of the game gave thoughts of Queen’s getting revenge for a 66-0 thrashing on Guelph’s Homecoming Game of 2014.
Jake Puskas scored a pair of TDs for the Gaels on three-yard runs while QB Nate Hobbs on a one-yard run and receiver Matteo Del Brocco on a 21-yard pass from Hobbs accounted for the other TDs for Queen’s. Nick Liberatore kicked a 20-yard field goal and four converts.
While the loss doesn’t knock the Gryphons out of the playoff race, it puts them in a tough spot. Top six qualify for post-season play and the Gryphs are tied for seventh at 2-3. They’re tied with the Laurier Golden Hawks who are at 2-2 and have a game in hand.
The Western Mustangs lead at 4-0 and are followed by the Carleton Ravens at 4-1, Ottawa Gee-Gees at 3-1 and Waterloo Warriors, McMaster Marauders and Queen’s all at 3-2. The York Lions are at 1-4 and Windsor Lancers and Toronto Varsity Blues are both at 0-4.
The Gryphs have three games left on their regular-season schedule. They’re to play Laurier at Waterloo Saturday at 1 p.m., get the Thanksgiving weekend off and then host Toronto Oct. 13 and Waterloo Oct. 20.
“We take it one game at a time,” Galloway said. “We’re going to get over this one and we’re going to focus on the big game that we’ve got next week.”
“It’s going to be tough, but we wouldn’t ask for it any other way,” Ferraro said. “That’s the way it is. That’s the way this game goes. We’ve just got to put our heads down, like I said, and keep working and keep fighting. That’s who we are. That’s what a Gryphon is. We’re going to keep fighting until the game’s over.”