Gryphs defeat Western for first time since Yates Cup win
GUELPH – Most Guelph Gryphons fans likely had some sense of trepidation when they first saw the shortened OUA football schedule for 2021.
After all the Gryphons would be the last team in the league to get their season started as they were the lone squad given a bye in the first week and then their first opponent would be the perennially-strong Western Mustangs.
“I think some people looked at it like that,” Gryphon head coach Ryan Sheahan said. “I think when the schedule was made I was just so happy to be back let’s just take what we can get. It was a great test. They’re a great team with a great legacy. I’m not one to ever look for a soft opponent. If it were up to me we’d play strong opponents because if you’re any good, you have to be good teams when it’s required.”
Guelph Gryphons 23 Western 21
The Gryphons responded to the challenge with a 23-21 win in an anything-you-can-do-we-can-do match.
“This is a great feeling. After such a long hiatus, to be able to go out there and do what we love to do, I’m ecstatic,” Sheahan said. “I was ecstatic in the beginning just to be here and the fact that we made it all the way back and now to see our guys battle like that for 60 minutes. It was a little squirrelly at times, but I expected that to be the case considering the hiatus. These players, it’s all about them. They never stopped believing. They played their butts off and I’m just so proud to be their coach.”
Western kicked a pair of field goals in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead, but the Gryphs came back. Kiondre Smith caught a two-yard TD pass from rookie quarterback Shawn Lal, Eric Stranz kicked the convert then gave up a safety instead of punting and then followed that with a field goal of his own to put the Gryphs up by a point. However, Western grabbed the lead just before the halftime intermission with another field goal.
Those final two field goals of the opening half were the start of five consecutive field goals as Stranz and Western’s Brian Garrity took turns booting the ball between the uprights. Both also missed a long field goal attempt when the ball struck one of the uprights and bounced back to the field.
Deandre Rose, another Gryphon rookie quarterback who’s been with the team since 2017 but not seen any game action, scored on a two-yard run with a tick over seven minutes to go in the final quarter. Rose was used exclusively on short-yardage plays near the Western endzone, a role that Luke Nangle had in 2012 and 2013 when Jazz Lindsey was the starting QB.
Rose’s touchdown and ensuing convert by Stranz proved to be the winning score as it put the Gryphs up 23-14, the nine-point lead being the biggest advantage by either team in the game.
Western made it an exciting finish when QB Jackson White hit Savaughn Magnaye-Jones with a pass on a 61-yard scoring play, the longest play from scrimmage in the game, a minute and a half after Rose’s TD. Garrity’s convert would be the final scoring play of the game.
“We got rookie quarterbacks, a long hiatus, new players to our team — 50 vets, 50 rookies. The world’s changed,” Sheahan said. “You know Gryphon football has changed, hopefully for the better. We’ve got a great team and there’s great chemistry. The guys have really worked and earned this.”
The game was the first for the Gryphons since their 19-9 loss to the McMaster Marauders in an OUA semifinal at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium Nov. 2, 2019. It also followed a long training camp that officially started Sept. 3.
“Very (long),” Gryphon receiver Smith said. “We knocked off so much rust during training camp that it was just building up anxiety at this point. We were ready to go two weeks ago. We started before most schools even got to practice. We’ve been out all the time because our team actually committed to not going out, not doing a whole lot of partying. We had no cases during this whole quarantine thing — we probably had two out of the whole time. We were prepared and we were ready.”
Smith caught seven passes from Lal for 63 yards. No other receiver had more than two catches.
“He’s a baller. He’s our best guy,” Lal said. “Get him the ball, right? That’s what our offence is, get the best player the ball and make him make a play.”
Smith also returned two punts for 31 yards and two kickoffs for 62 yards.
“It was a busy day and I was just doing what my team asked me today,” Smith said. “That was a big game. We haven’t beat Western in all the years that I’ve been here. We have guys that have been here for six years that have never beat Western so this is a big personal win for a lot of our seniors and our fifth-year and sixth-year guys. I needed it today, we all needed it.”
The win over the Mustangs was the first for the Gryphons since their 23-17 Yates Cup victory in London Nov. 14, 2015. It also put a stop to a five-game win streak in the series for Western.
“I’ve had many better (games), but they don’t all feel as good as this one,” Smith said. “They don’t all feel this good.”
Next up for the Gryphons is a game against the Windsor Lancers at the University of Windsor Stadium Oct. 2. Game time is 2 p.m.
Quick Gryphon Stats
Passing: Lal, 14 completions, 28 attempts, 185 yards, 1 TD, 1 sack; Rose 1 completion, 2 attempts, -10 yards.
Rushing: Stevenson, 7 carries, 28 yards; Osei 6 carries, 24 yards; Jeffrey 3 carries, 12 yards; Lal, 3 carries, 3 yards; Rose, 2 carries, 2 yards, 1TD; Kankolongo, 6 carries, -2 yards.
Receiving: Smith, 7 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD; Janusas, 2 catches, 40 yards; Dicks, 2 catches, 39 yards; Jeffrey, 1 catch, 26 yards; Atkins, 1 catch, 10 yards; Kankolongo, 1 catch, 7 yards; Kalenga, 1 catch, -10 yards.
Tackles: Lauzon, 7 solo, 2 assisted; Allen, 5 solo, 4 assisted; Kalenga, 6 solo, 1 assisted; Cromwell, 3 solo, 1 assisted; Beeksma, 2 solo, 2 assisted.
Sacks: Lauzon 1; Allen .5; Campbell, .5.
Interceptions: Beeksma, 1.
Punts: Stranz, 9 punts, 351 yards.
Field Goals: Stranz 3 field goals (25, 45, 45 yards).
Kickoffs: Stranz 2 kickoffs, 95 yards.
Punt Returns: Stevenson, 3 returns, 28 yards; Smith, 2 returns, 31 yards.
Kickoff Returns: Smith, 2 returns, 62 yards.
Guelph Sports Journal