Gryphons push bruised Varsity Blues aside
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – The Toronto Varsity Blues might have been just what the Guelph Gryphons needed in their quest to secure a berth in the OUA football league’s playoffs.
“We talked this week that we didn’t want to look past this one,” Gryphon coach Todd Galloway said. “That’s a good football team out there. They had a few injuries coming into this game, but I was proud, especially as I asked our offence to step up and have a better start and I think they did today.”
Coming off their Thanksgiving bye, the Gryphs didn’t let the lure of looking at next weekend’s end-of-season game with huge playoff implications with the Waterloo Warriors get to them as they dismantled the Blues 46-8 Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
“We thought that we could out-physical them a little bit and we established the run early,” Galloway said. “We really got two first-year running backs rolling and they both finished with over 100 yards rushing.”
In a game when they turned away from the pass in the second half, the Gryphs had their running game working as rookie running backs Jewan Jeffrey and Jean-Paul Cimankinda both surpassed the 100-yard mark: Jeffrey with 125 yards on 17 carries and Cimankinda with 119 yards on 13 carries.
For Jeffrey, the performance was another strong one in his first season in Guelph.
“it was a great game, a great confidence booster,” Jeffrey said of the win over Toronto. “We need to keep running going into Waterloo. That’s a big game. These are big games. Every game that we play is a big game.”
The game against Toronto was Jeffrey’s first 100-yard game in the OUA as the Gryphs have slowly been giving him the ball more and more. He had 13 carries for 81 yards and his first TD in the league in the win over Laurier Sept. 29 after getting 14 carries for 56 yards in his first three games combined.
“I think I did well,” he said. “As a team, my O-line was blocking well for me. We were cycling running backs. My teammates were doing good and I was doing good. Me, I’m proud of the effort and I’m proud of my team’s effort as well.”
In all, the Gryphs gained 317 yards rushing and held Toronto to 37 yards. The Gryphs also gained 203 yards on 16 pass completions while the Blues had 262 yards on 20 completions. Not so good, the Gryphs took 127 yards in penalties, most of the calls coming in the first half. Toronto was flagged for 75 yards on nine calls.
“We’re nicked,” Galloway said. “It was a physical game, but it puts us in a good position. We didn’t have any too major injuries so we’re going to have a good physical week of practice because we’ve got an important one next week.”
With one week to go in the regular season, three teams have locked in spots in the playoffs — the Western Mustangs (7-0), Ottawa Gee-Gees (5-2) and Carleton Ravens (5-3). That leaves the Gryphs, McMaster Marauders, Laurier Golden Hawks, Waterloo and Queen’s Gaels fighting for the other three berths in the playoffs. All are at 4-3 except the Gaels who are at 3-4.
The York Lions (2-5), Windsor Lancers (1-6) and Toronto (0-7) won’t be participating in the playoffs.
No matter what happens elsewhere, whoever wins the Guelph-Waterloo game is in the playoffs. The loser will qualify only by winning tie-breakers with whomever they are tied with and that doesn’t look good for the Gryphs. If they lose to Waterloo, they’ll lose tie-breakers to everyone in that pack except Laurier.
However, the Gryphs will, of course, be focusing on the win-and-your-in scenario.
Saturday, the Gryphs were up against the beaten-up Blues, the only team in the league that entered this week’s play already knocked out of the playoffs and they were using a quarterback (junior Vince Luccisano), who hadn’t suited up for four of Toronto’s previous games. Luccisano’s game experience had been about half of the previous week’s 53-21 loss to Ottawa when he came in to replace injured starter Connor Ennis.
The Gryphs weren’t challenged and they took away points from all eight times they entered Toronto’s red zone including touchdowns by Jean-Paul Cimankinda (two-yard run), Kian Schaffer-Baker (16-yard pass from QB Theo Landers) and Kade Belyk (16-yard pass from Landers). The other five were field goals from Gabe Ferraro who went a perfect 6-for-6 as he hit from 25, 34, 43, 13, 15 and 26 yards.
The other TD came from Kiondre Smith who broke free for a 52-yard punt return early in the second quarter. Ferraro also converted all four TDs.
Guelph led 17-0 after the first quarter, 37-0 at halftime and 40-7 after the third quarter.
The Gryphs vow they’ll be ready for their game against Waterloo at Alumni Stadium Saturday.
“Keeping the same energy week to week, we try to keep up the intensity in practice,” Jeffrey said. “You know you want to practise the same way for every game.”
All of Saturday’s season-ending games carry 1 p.m. starting times. The other four games feature Laurier at Western, McMaster at Windsor, Ottawa at Queen’s and York at Toronto in a game that holds absolutely no playoff implications.