Gryphons rally to get a close-game victory
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
WATERLOO – After dropping a trio of close games earlier in the OUA football season, the Guelph Gryphons felt they were due for one to go their way.
That thought came to fruition Saturday when the Gryphs rallied for a 27-24 victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks at Waterloo’s University Stadium in Laurier’s Homecoming Game.
“We find a way to make things tough. Once again the guys showed so much heart today and I just told them we’re due – we’re due to be on the right side of a well-fought game,” Gryphon coach Todd Galloway said. “I’m just very, very proud of the way our guys fought and the way our guys finished that game.”
The Gryphs could also thank their defence that returned two of the six interceptions, most following tips, that they grabbed in the game for touchdowns.
“Both sides played very well, but obviously our defence came up big,” Galloway said. “Even some of our younger guys – (defensive back) Brendan Murphy had an unbelievable game today. Luke Korol was Luke Korol. We had a lot of leaders step up today. It was a team effort, but that defence played incredible.”
Linebacker Job Reinhart returned an interception 72 yards for his second pick six of the season midway through the first quarter to open the scoring and defensive back Dotun Aketepe returned one of his two interceptions 69 yards for his first ever TD. Ferraro converted both TDs.
“It was different,” Aketepe said of his TD. “It was my first TD ever from high school to now. That’s crazy. I saw the ball, went and grabbed it and just ran my heart out. That’s what I did.”
Aketepe got to the end zone just in time as a pair of Golden Hawks were catching up.
“They were closing on me, but honestly I couldn’t tell,” he said. “I was just running as hard as I could and made the touchdown. I saw Luke Korol out here making blocks for me and I saw my teammates making blocks and I was happy about that. I’m just happy that we scored and that we won and that we finally won a close game.”
Guelph’s three losses are all by two points or less as they were defeated 16-15 by the McMaster Marauders, 12-10 by the Ottawa Gee-Gees and 33-32 by the Queen’s Gaels.
The win comes a week before Guelph’s annual Thanksgiving weekend bye which might just come at the right time.
“That was a slugfest. I don’t think there’s any other way to put it,” Galloway said of Saturday’s game. “It was a well-earned win and now our guys get a chance to rest their bodies a little bit. We’ll take that momentum and hopefully keep building off it once we get that bye.”
After Reinhart’s TD, the hosts struck for 24 consecutive points to look to be in control of the match. That streak was stopped by Ferraro’s 42-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half.
In between Ferraro’s convert of Reinhart’s TD and his FG, the Golden Hawks had scored three converted TDs of their own and a 15-yard FG by Nathan Mesher.
Levondre Gordon scored on a two-yard run, Kurleigh Gittens Jr. returned a punt 80 yards for another TD and Gordon also found the end zone on a 16-yard run.
Guelph’s comeback continued early in the third quarter when Ferraro scored a rouge on a missed FG, this one from 33 yards out went wide left.
Ferraro’s FG struggles continued early in the fourth quarter when he missed a 42-yarder that went for a rouge. He’s made 12 of the 21 he’s attempted this season.
Just under three and a half minutes later the Gryphs shot ahead by a single point on their first offensive TD of the game. Rookie Jewan Jeffrey scored his first TD in a Gryphon uniform when he rambled into the end zone from eight yards out. An attempted two-point convert failed.
The final three-point margin was established 41 seconds later when Laurier conceded a safety.
The win keeps the Gryphs in the hunt for a playoff berth as it evens their record at 3-3.
“We tried not to stress that too much, but you couldn’t hid behind it,” Galloway said. “It was an important game for both teams and this kind of puts us back in a position where we control our fate. All I asked the guys was to keep swinging and worry about that and the game would take care of itself.”
“For us, the most important game is the next game,” Aketepe said. “We knew how important this game was and we knew that in order (to keep the next two games meaningful), we had to win this game. We had to focus on this game because we knew we had to win this game to keep playoffs (in the picture). We just focused, did our stuff, followed the game plan and we got the result we wanted.”
Western Mustangs lead the league at 5-0 and they’re followed by the Ottawa at 4-1, Carleton Ravens at 4-2, McMaster at 3-2, Waterloo Warriors, Queen’s and the Gryphs each at 3-3, Laurier at 2-3, York Lions at 2-4, Windsor Lancers at 1-4 and Toronto Varsity Blues at 0-5.
The Gryphs will return from the bye with two home games at Alumni Stadium remaining on their regular-season schedule. They’re to play Toronto Oct. 13 and Waterloo Oct. 20.