Gryphons set for preseason match with Laval

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons are finished their training camp and ready for their first game action of the Canadian university football season.

“It’s been good,” interim head coach Todd Galloway said of the camp that concluded Thursday. “In seven days, the guys handled it well. They actually came out fairly injury free which is great and that’s a testament to Dave (Wright), our therapist, and Shea Pierre, our strength and conditioning coach. The guys have such a great energy.”

After a week of four-hour on-field sessions and numerous meetings in the new Gryphon Pavilion, the Gryphs will get a chance to his another opponent Saturday in Quebec City when they take on the Laval Rouge et Or who have made 10 appearances in the national championship Vanier Cup game in the last 15 years. But the trip isn’t just about the football game, it’s also about team bonding.

“We’re going and we want to play a great opponent in Laval, which they are,” Galloway said. “We want to be battle-tested going into Week 1, which I think it will, but it’s also the travel, the time spent together, the time in a hotel and all the time they get as a team. That really brings them closer and I think that’s a really important piece of the chemistry of the football team.”

However, not every member of the team made the trip as some Gryphons remained in Guelph.

“I told them that everybody has a special role on this team,” Galloway said. ”It’s not necessarily right now the best 70 football players, it’s the 70 who are the most prepared in our eyes as coaches to go into a game for a preseason game. We still think those guys who aren’t making the trip have a lot of potential and will have a bright future with the program. They’re just not ready to compete right now.”

It won’t be a weekend off for the players who remained in Guelph.

“They’re job this weekend is to take care of their bodies,” Galloway said. “We want them working out this weekend so our strength and conditioning coach is going to put them through a workout Friday and put them through a workout Saturday so they kind of come back in the same physical condition as our players (who went to Quebec) come in and we can pick it up Sunday as a team again and get going for Week 1.”

While the Gryphons and Laval are hooking up for the preseason game, it won’t be the same as a regular-season match. There won’t be any hit allowed on quarterbacks as neither team wants to lose a signal-caller before the start of league play.

When the Gryphons resume workouts next week, it’ll be on the schedule they use during the regular season. That means they’ll be hitting the field around 5 p.m. instead of the 8 a.m. starts that were the norm during training camp.

“We’re back to evening practices and, hopefully, it’ll be a little cooler in the evenings,” Galloway said. “It’s a chance for those guys to mentally get a bigger break coming out and get their legs back a little bit and start to get back into that routine because before they know it, they’re going to be students as well.

“For me it’s about getting them into a regular routine so they can manage once school starts and be great students as well.”

For Galloway, who’s been with the Gryphons for seven seasons, six as the offensive coordinator, this year’s training camp was his first as the interim head coach.

“It was great,” he said. “Obviously, it’s different. I’ve normally been out here yelling and calling plays for six or seven years, but it’s awesome. Getting to see the big picture come together more and seeing it from a bigger lens, I guess you could say, or a bigger scope has really given me a greater appreciation for all the pieces that get put together to make a team successful.”

The Gryphons are to start their OUA league campaign Aug. 26 against the McMaster Marauders at Hamilton’s Ron Joyce Stadium. Game time is 3 p.m.

Guelph will be looking to break a trend in that game as they haven’t won at McMaster since a 25-21 victory in the OUA quarter-finals in 2007. They’ve lost eight consecutive games there, including two a season (regular season and playoffs) in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Home opener for the Gryphs is Labour Day Monday, Sept. 3, when they’re to host the York Lions in a 1 p.m. game.