Guelph Gryphons get a semifinal shot at McMaster
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons will get a chance to avenge their OUA football league’s season-opening loss to the McMaster Marauders thanks to some late-game heroics Saturday.
“In the playoffs it really doesn’t matter how you do it,” Gryphon coach Ryan Sheahan said. “It’s a matter of winning and losing. On monsoon days when one team kicks a single and wins 1-0, at the end of the day one team is grateful and the other team is disappointed.”
Gryphon defensive back Siriman Harrison Bagayogo blocked a punt by Carleton Ravens kicker Vincent Plouffe at the Carleton 45-yard line, ran after the bouncing ball, kicked it while picking it up and eventually getting control in the Carleton end zone with 57 seconds to play.
“That was a great special teams effort by Bagayogo to make that happen,” Sheahan said. “The right amount of things went right on that play. There was a bobbled snap. The wind was against the snap and that kind of thing. It just happened the right way. It was an exciting moment that unfortunately for them, we were on the right side of.”
Bagayogo’s first ever touchdown in football gave the Gryphs a 22-17 win and a berth in Saturday’s semifinals against the McMaster Marauders at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium.
“They played well,” Sheahan said of the Ravens. “I give them a lot of credit, they played really well. They changed up a few coverages. I felt that we snatched momentum back at certain points of the game, but I’ve got to give credit to our defence again. They really got after the quarterback, was very disruptive and kept us in it the whole way.”
The Gryphon defence held the Ravens within sight throughout the game to give the hosts the chance to score Saturday’s win. Carleton led 4-0 at the end of the first quarter before the teams scored a goal apiece, no, a single apiece in the second quarter. The Gryphs added 12 points in the third quarter as Carleton yielded a safety, Theo Landers scored a touchdown on a quarterback keeper and Eric Stranz kicked a convert and a 33-yard field goal.
Carleton came back in the fourth as Plouffe kicked a rouge and a 42-yard field goal to cut the gap to four points.
After Stranz kicked a 22-yard field goal, the Gryphs gave up a safety as the margin fell to five points with four and a half minutes to go. Then, on second and 13 from their own 53, Carleton QB Nathan Dejong hit Nick Renaud on 54-yard play that only a lunging tackle by Gryphon defensive back Graham Brodie saved from going for a TD. However, Dejong crashed in the final yard for the major two plays later. A two-point convert attempt failed, but Carleton had a 17-16 lead with 1:53 to go.
The game looked lost when Carleton’s Shawn Arabsky intercepted a Landers pass to give the Ravens the ball at their own 43 with 1:16 to go. However, the Gryphon defence came through again, holding the Ravens to a total gain of two yards on two plays to force the fateful Plouffe punt attempt.
The Ravens had one last-ditch attempt to steal the victory back. After a running attempt was stopped for no gain, Carleton completed four consecutive passes to get the ball to the Guelph 54-yard line, but Dejong was sacked on the final play with Guelph natives Job Reinhart and Tavius Robinson combining on the sack.
Landers and Bagayogo had the TDs for the Gryphs while Stranz added two field goals, a convert and a rouge and Carleton gave up a safety.
Dejong had Carleton’s lone TD of the game while Plouffe kicked 29- and 42-yard field goals and three rouges and the Gryphs yielded a safety.
The Gryphon offence sputtered throughout the game as the hosts were held to 13 first downs and had 219 yards of total offence. Guelph did get 151 yards on punt and kickoff returns combined and the defence recorded four sacks for a loss of 17 yards with Alain Cimankinda leading with 2½ sacks.
The Gryphs will be looking to reduce their penalties as they took six for 80 yards against Carleton while the Ravens also took six for 51 yards.
“Some I thought were legit and some I thought were not so much, but I’m going to check the film,” Sheahan said. “Look, we addressed it. Taking penalties in the playoffs is not something that’s going to help us win so we need to kind of take a look at that and reduce them moving forward.”
The Gryphs will also study their film of the season-opening 25-10 loss to McMaster at Alumni Stadium Aug. 25 as they prepare for Saturday’s semifinal in Hamilton.
“(They’re) a well-coached football team that just had a week off so it’ll be a challenge,” Sheahan said of Guelph’s semifinal against the Marauders. “We’ve got to go down the highway and play them in their barn, but we have 47 (players dressed for the game) and they have 47. If we have any chance at this thing, we have to go beat a good team on the road. That’s all I can say.”
The other semifinal pits the Waterloo Warriors against the Western Mustangs at Western Saturday. The Warriors won their quarter-final 44-21 over the Ottawa Gee-Gees at Ottawa.
Winners advance to the Yates Cup championship game Nov. 9. The Gryphs will host that game if they defeat McMaster and Waterloo beats Western. If the Gryphs beat McMaster and Western drops Waterloo, the Mustangs will host the Gryphs in the league final.
Game time Saturday at McMaster is 1 p.m.
Gryphons 22 Ravens 17
- Guelph Sports Journal