Gryphons edged by McMaster in season opener
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
HAMILTON – Another touchdown and the Guelph Gryphons would probably have won their OUA football season opener, but they just couldn’t put the McMaster Marauders away Sunday at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium.
McMaster rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the second quarter to edge the Gryphs 16-15 thanks to a converted touchdown with just less than nine minutes to go in the game.
While the Gryphs were feeling down in the locker room after the loss, there were positives.
“The biggest positive is we know we can beat these guys,” receiver Kade Belyk said. “We could see it first half that we were better, for sure. We’ve just got to continue in the second half to keep moving, keep moving, keep pushing on them and we’ll come out with the dub, for sure.”
“There were a lot of positives,” interim head coach Todd Galloway said. “Our defence played great, even on a couple of situations where there was a short field, they kept it to three points. They had a great day out there today. Gabe (Ferraro) punted well as well and we flipped the field a couple of important times as well. There are some good things to take away, but we obviously wanted a better result.”
“The positives that come out of it are just our morale, our defensive morale during money downs, during tight situations where it’s second and long or second and short,” defensive back Elijah Walker said. “Our defence really held it together and got them off the field and got our offence driving down the field. Also when our defence was on the sideline – I play defence so I’m kind of biased – we were very loud and very energetic to try to help our offence move the ball down the field. I felt that translated or correlated very well and helped our offence make a lot of drives.”
The Gryphs made several mistakes, mainly mental ones, that proved costly. They also took a few too many penalties in the second half, most coming after fatigue set in on the hot, humid day.
“I don’t want to chalk that up to just being Week 1,” Galloway said. “We need to get back and we need to execute better in practice this week.”
“The heat was something that definitely was a challenge,” Walker said. “The guys when we first came out where very shocked about how hot it was, but even our DB coach harps on us that we can’t let external factors affect our game. That was something we all just tried to tune out and focus out of.
“Both teams are playing in it so both teams have to deal with it. It just comes down to not letting external factors have anything to do with the game.”
Fifth-year kicker/punter Gabe Ferraro hit on a 37-yard field goal early in the opening quarter and he also converted a TD by quarterback Theo Landers later in the quarter, a TD that took the Gryphs several tries to get it into the end zone.
A Brendan Murphy interception gave Guelph the ball on the Mac 20 and Jamal Hooker’s run moved it to the Mac 5. Jean-Paul Cimankinda then had five carries, but was stopped each time before Landers took it in himself on a one-yard plunge. That drive was prolonged by a couple of penalties for the hosts, one for facemasking when Cimankinda’s helmet was ripped right off his head, but it didn’t stop him from trying to get in the end zone.
Ferraro missed on a 38-yard field goal attempt on the first play of the second quarter, but the ball went out of bounds for a rouge to give the Gryphs an 11-0 advantage.
The Marauders started their comeback with just than seven minutes to go in the first half when Adam Preocanin hit the first of three field goals he’d score in the game. Like the Gryphs, McMaster also had trouble getting into the end zone.
Preocanin connected on field goals from 21, 17 and 18 yards for the Marauders, but it was his convert of a Michael Bazzo TD with 8:53 to go in the fourth quarter that proved to be the winning point. Bazzo caught a three-yard pass from QB Jackson White for the touchdown.
Ferraro had scored a point on a rouge for a missed 42-yard field goal with just less than two and a half minutes to go in the first half. A Preocanin FG with seven seconds to go in the first half cut the gap to 12-6 at the break.
Four minutes after Preocanin kicked his third field goal of the game midway through the third quarter, Ferraro connected on a 34-yarder to restore Guelph’s six-point lead and set the stage for McMaster’s winning touchdown.
Ferraro did have one more chance to win the game for the Gryphs when he attempted a desperation 56-yard FG with half a minute to go, but it came up short and Mac kneeled the rest of the game away.
For the Gryphs, their offence moved the ball more in the first half than they did in the second half.
“I don’t know if it’s fatigue, too, but we’ve just got to get better – both side, running and throwing,” Belyk said.
The Gryphs had used their running attack for most of their gains as they had 173 yards in rushing and 81 passing. By comparison, Mac had 111 yards rushing and 241 passing.
Both quarterbacks were sacked twice and Murphy’s interception was the lone pick of the game.
The Gryphs do have things to work on before their next game, their home opener on Labour Day Monday against the York Lions. Game time at Alumni Stadium is 1 p.m.
“Chemistry a bit more,” Belyk said. “Trusting each other I think is the No. 1 thing.”