From the Guelph Mercury’s Rob Massey, a story today that carries a message very much like Coach Stu Lang delivered at the four regional alumni events of the past few months. Essentially, the Gryphons are not satisfied with being the winningest team in the OUA the past three seasons and second only to Laval in the CIS. The Gryphons and their head coach want to GO BEYOND that and capture the Yates Cup.
GUELPH — The Guelph Gryphons figure it’s time to “go beyond” in the OUA football league.
They want more than just being the most successful team in the league during regular-season play the last three years.
“We think we’ve hit a plateau — 7-1 is great, but let’s not stay there,” Gryphons’ head coach Stu Lang said. “Let’s go beyond and win some hardware and I think that will do wonders for the program. It’s nice to brag and say we’ve won more games in the last three years than any other team in Canada except Laval, but we don’t have anything to show for it. That’s the next step up the ladder for us, to win a championship.”
The Gryphs have made two appearances in the OUA final, the Yates Cup game, the last three years, but lost both to the McMaster Marauders at Hamilton.
“That’s part of a standard progression,” Lang said. “I went through it with the Edmonton Eskimos. It took our third Grey Cup to finally win it and once we got over the hump, then things sort of flowed from there.”
With the Eskimos from 1974 to ’81, Lang played in the CFL final in all but one season (1976). After losses in 1973 and ’74, Edmonton won in ’75 and every year from ’78 to ’82.
There is a sense of excitement and anticipation around the Gryphs as they prepare for this weekend’s opening of training camp. The returning players are looking at the season as one of atonement, one where they make up for last season’s 20-15 loss in the Yates Cup. A photo of the McMaster scoreboard showing that score is posted in the Gryphon performance centre where the players see it every time they do their workouts.
“There is an air of optimism and I think there’s a little bit of wanting to correct the past,” Lang said. “We really felt we that we should’ve won the Yates. To be honest, the players played well, but I made a couple of bad decisions on my part. The players obviously have nothing to forgive themselves, but they want to get back and win it.”
The players are to report Saturday for their fitness testing while the first on-field session is Sunday starting at 8:30 a.m. The Gryphons will play a pre-season game against the Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg Aug. 22 and open their regular season against the Warriors at Waterloo Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
Gone are the days when the team entered training camp with trepidation when a .500 season and a shot at a playoff berth were realistic goals. Now the aim is higher.
“We’ve reached the point in our progression where we can beat everyone,” Lang said. “It’s not hoping to win, we expect to win. The other teams are difficult, but we’ve got a good recruiting class and a large percentage of players returning. We’ve developed a winning attitude, certainly over the last three years, so everything is positive and there are no excuses. We determine our own fate. There’s no huge football team out there that’s going to steamroll over us. We feel we can compete and win any game we’re in.
“I think we have a team that could win the Yates if we stay healthy and everyone plays as well as they can.”
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Two days earlier the Mercury carried a story on rising sophomore QB James Roberts – Roberts enters camp as Gryphons’ top quarterback. There is no question that Roberts, the OUA All Rookie Team QB and the only returning quarterback on the roster, comes into camp as the #1 QB. In 2015 I saw of Roberts play in two OVFL games, a preseason game against the Montreal Carabins and in OUA play. I have no concerns about going into this season with the rising sophomore as the starting QB.
What does concern me is the idea of having Roberts “backed up by three rookies”. And, in this case, we’re talking about three teenage quarterbacks coming in directly from high school. That’s why talk of former Laval QB Alex Skinner joining the team was so enticing. Just a week ago that was still a possibility. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime I hope to have recruit profiles for QBs Theodore Landers, Simon Shi and David Luke posted this weekend.
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CTV Kitchener News coverage – interviews with James Roberts and DC Kevin MacNeil start at 1:35 mark.