Guelph is not a team that has gone through long periods without success. If Guelph has ever gone winless in a season it must have been 50+ years ago. Many of our OUA rivals – McMaster, UofT, Waterloo & York – have experienced that in recent decades. The Gryphons were the only OUA program that made the playoffs every season in the decade of the 1980s. We won two Yates Cups in the 1990s. Guelph is the only team with a perfect record in the Vanier.
The worst won-loss record of the past 40 years was 1-6 in 1995. But that record was an anomaly. Four players from the 1994 team had been drafted by the CFL. The 1995 team had a strong defense, led by Kyle Walters, Kevin Mellow, Bill Brown and Bill Vastis but lacked an experienced QB and stud RB Gerrit Stam. With the return of Stam and the addition of two experienced QBs – Nathan Body and Wally Gabler – the team bounced back to win the 1996 Yates Cup.
More recently, the 2006 team went 2-5-1. [The OT loss was to the defending Vanier Cup champions.] The following year the team made it to the Yates Cup final. And made it into the playoffs four consecutive years. I’m not predicting a Yates Cup run in 2012, just pointing out that Guelph may have had some disappointing seasons but the program has never stayed down.
A large part of the reason for that is that Guelph has never been a program without talent. From 2000 to 2004 the Gryphons only made the playoffs
once three times.* But they did win 14 games and produce many All Canadians – Jeremy Oxley, Michael Palmer, Norm Nasser and Jon Bohnert. Mike Hradil led the OUA in tackles in consecutive seasons and was one of many OUA All Stars on those teams. Anthony Mason, Chris Portwood, Mike Dougherty, Chris Hladich, Andrew Oosterhuis, Elvio Bomben and Jeff Keene were others.
Those teams had some outstanding talent. The problem was they were usually a piece or two short of being a complete team. Or didn’t have sufficient depth to withstand a few injuries. With that being the case, perhaps its not surprising that members of those teams now make up a large part of the current Gryphon recruiting team. Mark Antonelli, Steve O’Brien, Dan Noble and Alex Delo are all regional recruiters. I’ve got to think that they know as well as anyone the difference that recruiting can make in a program. The first two members of the current Gryphon recruiting team were players from the 1990s – Bill Brown & John Casasanta.
Much like 1995 and 2006, the seeds of our future success have already been planted. The 2-6 record this season obscured the performance of many young players on this team. There are still several members of the 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes who will become key contributors in 2012. I would expect Keith Walker, Connor Pritty and Mike Ullerick to be among them. If we can land another recruiting class as good as last season we will be in great shape going forward.
*Correction: in the early 2000s eight OUA teams made the play-offs.