♦ Yesterday’s big win wasn’t without a little bit of adversity. Western jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game. On the opening series Guelph conceded a safety rather than punt from their end zone. Western started their first drive at their 39 but marched the ball 71 yards in 5 plays for a touchdown. That’s not how you want to see the game start.
♦ QB Jazz Lindsey left the game with an injury only three plays into the 2nd Q. Then a little while later WR A’dre Fraser went out of the game. Neither returned. Were the Gryphons rattled? Not in the least. James Roberts completed a deep pass to Lucas Spagnuolo on his very first play for a 62 yard TD. This is a MATURE team that is tough, resilient and can handle adversity.
♦ This Gryphon squad is a real team. I mean that in the sense that coaches like Jay Fry, Tom Mooney, Dick Brown and Tom Dimitroff Sr. preached it. It’s all about the team. And if you’ve ever heard Tom Dimitroff Jr, Kyle Walters or Mike O’Shea speak at a Gryphon Football Gala Dinner you know they have all learned and embraced that approach. A Gryphon team isn’t just a collection of 47 individuals who all just happen to have the same colour jerseys on. That being the case, it was really nice that the Gryphons didn’t introduce 12 starters in the pregame. All 47 players walked out to the numbers on the far side of the field and raised their helmets to the applause of the fans.
♦ I’m very happy that Rob Farquharson was named the Porter Airlines Player of the Game. He had a phenomenal game and won two tickets to anywhere Porter flies. Farquharson is the only fifth year player on the offense and we all had high expectations for him this year. But with multiple injuries things hadn’t gone as well as he or Gryphon fans had hoped. In the preseason I wrote that I hoped Farq would have a 1,000 yard season. He finished the regular season with 651 yards while not even playing six complete games. If he keeps playing the way he did yesterday he could equal that total in the playoffs.
♦ Mid last week Rob Massey had a story on freshman offensive lineman Andrew Pickett. Pickett, who dressed in seven regular season games, had played at the LG, RG and long snapper positions. Then in the season finale at Laurier Pickett also saw some action at DT. That “experiment” continued yesterday as Pickett saw some snaps on the O-Line when Steve Mburanumwe came out of the game for several plays. He also lined up on the D-Line in some obvious run situations. The 302-pound Pickett adds some beef to the Gryphon defensive front when it’s needed but it doesn’t sound like a permanent move is contemplated.
♦ Today Massey has a story on freshman QB James Roberts – Rookie Roberts steps up at quarterback for Gryphons. Of note, he writes that “Roberts was called on to guide the Guelph Gryphons to victory … after quarterback Jazz Lindsey aggravated his shoulder injury”. That makes more sense than reports he had a sprained MCL. Jazz was bothered by a shoulder problem in the Mac & UofT games at the start of the season. It is great that Roberts appears more than ready to play in the pressure of a playoff situation.
♦ There were many fans cheering for Ottawa to upset McMaster yesterday, clearly hoping that Guelph would host the Yates Cup. According to a coach I talked to the players had a very different perspective than the fans. Almost to a man Gryphon players preferred the idea of going back on the road and settling a score with the Marauders on their own field. End the OUA season by winning the Yates Cup on their opponents home field. I’m okay with that. 🙂
♦ At the same time I relish beating Western for the third game in a row, I have to admit I feel a little bit sorry for the purple ponies. This team has underperformed for a year now. Their injury issues are a big deal but don’t fully explain their problems. I guess I remember the 2009 season when Guelph was very close to being an elite team. That squad was very talented. Expectations were very high. And they were painfully close to beating Queen’s, Western and McMaster that year. The season ended in a playoff loss at TD Waterhouse and I still get a tear in my eye when I recall the pain and tears of my son and his Gryphon teammates after that game. You have to know Western players and families feel something similar.
♦ While watching the game I split my time between the stands and the VIP tent. The VIP area, or Gryphon Business Club as the signage called it, was heated and licensed. But there is a trade off when viewing the game from there. For all the benefits you just can’t see the field as well. Last game I talked with Dave Easter, Manager of Marketing & Communications, about the layout and there are definitely some issues to deal with, not the least of which is that Alumni Stadium has had a different footprint for three years in a row. In 2012 we had new turf and the Hill was closed while it was re-sodded. In 2013 we benefited from the Ticats enhancements including 13,000 seats and 16 private “boxes”. This year the VIP tents in the south end zone are another new feature, I think in response to the fact that people really enjoyed the Ticat “boxes”.
♦ The growing success of the VIP area [there were line-ups to get in at half time] means there is an opportunity to grow it. There appears to be the demand for it and people down there all seemed to be having a great time. There is also a raised, accessible seating area at the southwest corner which is vastly under-utilized. Expanding the licensed VIP area to include the accessible seating in the future would be great but Dave Easter explained to me some of the issues that complicate what looks like a simple solution.
♦ BTW from what I saw there was a very outstanding group of recruits in attendance. That included a whole bunch of players I would have on my wish list for 2015 prospects and multiple Team Canada calibre players. I have no reason to believe the 2015 recruiting class won’t be another among the best in the CIS.
Photo profile of a touchdown via Lou Toppan: