Gryphons stumble in opening-game loss to McMaster

GUELPH – That certainly wasn’t the OUA coaching debut that first-year Guelph Gryphons head coach Ryan Sheahan envisioned.

“On our offence, I’m pretty disappointed,” he said as he stood on the Alumni Stadium field moments after the Gryphons dropped their OUA football season opener 25-10 to the McMaster Marauders Sunday. “I’ve never been shut out before, not scoring a major. The turnover war killed us and we just basically have to hit the reset button and refocus for a different opponent next week who’ll we’ll actually have some film on and etc., etc.”

While the Gryphs were dressed in an all-red combination that might have brought back memories of the University of Calgary Dinos where Sheahan was assistant head coach and offensive coordinator the past four years, the play on the field didn’t.

“I’ve got to commend McMaster, they really looked ready,” Sheahan said. “They definitely had a beat on what we were doing. The defence looked sound and that quarterback (Andreas Dueck) seems to have come of age and found the holes when he needed to find some holes.”

Sheahan replaced Todd Galloway as the Gryphon head coach and Galloway is now an offensive assistant with McMaster.

The Gryphon highlight of the game came on the opening play when rookie Clark Barnes, a transfer from NCAA football at the University of Maine, returned the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

“We had a boundary return so I knew that if I took a big break to the boundary, everybody would shift in so I had that in mind,” he said. “I just made a play, cut back outside, bounced around and took it to the house.

“Just before the ball was kicked, I was envisioning it and it actually happened. That was pretty cool.”

Kiondre Smith also returned a missed McMaster field goal to the house, but it was called back due to an illegal block in the Guelph end zone and the Marauders gained a point on the play.

Eric Stranz converted the touchdown by Barnes for the first point of his OUA career and also hit a 42-yard field goal with 5:10 to go for his first field goal and the final scoring play.

In between there wasn’t much to cheer about as the Gryphs were held to 240 total yards by the Marauders and those Guelph numbers were inflated a little as the Gryphs gained 81 yards on a pair of drives after Stranz’s field goal. Struggling quarterback Theo Landers also completed seven of eight pass attempts during those drives. Overall, Landers was 14-of-25 for 178 yards meaning that half of his completions came in the final five minutes of the game.

“I thought we saw some great special teams play from young Clark Barnes,” Sheahan said. “At times our quarterback showed that he can manage the offence, but unfortunately we were inconsistent at best. Kaine Stevenson looked like he’s ready to be the starting running back here and I thought the O-line got a decent push. This happens.”

Backup quarterback Dante Djan, a transfer from the Laval Rouge et Or where he was listed as a receiver last season, but didn’t play, completed three passes for four yards and both quarterbacks were intercepted once. While it’s Djan’s first season with the Gryphs, he had played at quarterback in 17 games spread over three seasons for the St. Francis Xavier X-Men starting in 2013.

Stevenson was the only running back to get credited with a carry for the Gryphs and he responded with 46 yards on 11 rushes. Quarterbacks Landers and Djan gained a combined 34 yards on eight carries.

Last year Stevenson, a Windsor native, played with the Westshore Rebels of Langford, B.C., a team in the B.C. Conference of the Canadian Junior Football League.

“I feel if I would’ve come out of high school I wouldn’t have been as ready,” Stevenson said. “The CJFL is a little bit better than high school and this is a bit better than CJFL. That just prepared me better.”

Kian Schaffer-Baker and Zeph Fraser each hauled in four passes while Jordan Terrio caught three and Abdraman Abdel-Rahim caught two late in the game.

Tyson Middlemost caught a 16-yard pass from quarterback Dueck for one of McMaster’s touchdowns while Matt Krason scored the other on a one-yard plunge. Kicker Adam Preocanin added 11 points on two field goals (28 and 45 yards), two converts and three rouges. The Marauders also gained a couple of points when the Gryphs conceded a safety.

Sunday’s game came after a shortened run-up period to league play this season. League rules reduced the time that a team could start on-field workouts at training camp to 10 days before the opener. Last year it was two weeks.

“You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. This was going to take more than one week to get ready and, obviously, it showed today that we need more than a nine-day training camp to get ready to play.”

“We would have loved to have an exhibition game,” Sheahan said. “I’m not using excuses. We don’t deserve any because we had the same amount of time in training camp that they did, but we could’ve got a lot of the kinks out had we had a little bit more time to prepare, but that’s life.”

Next up for the Gryphs is a game against the Carleton Ravens next Sunday night in Ottawa. The Ravens edged the Queen’s Gaels 18-12 at Kingston Sunday and the Gryphs will get to view video of that match.

“It’ll be nice to see what they have and who’s going to line up where,” Sheahan said.

Of course Carleton will also get the film from Guelph’s loss to McMaster.

“I guess that the saving grace is that they’re going to study our film and see that we didn’t play very well,” Sheahan said. “Hopefully we show up in Ottawa next weekend.”

“We’ve just got to reload, that’s all it is. We’ve got to come back, reload and do better,” Stevenson said. “We’ve just got to learn from it and just get better. That’s all we can do.”


Marauders 25 Gryphons 10
McMaster     2-11-11-1–25
Guelph             7-0-0-3–10
Click here for complete boxscore
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