♦ The York Lions are a dramatically better team this Spring than they were when these two teams scrimmaged 2 years ago. It is a night and day difference in my opinion. I genuinely felt bad for York 2 years ago. I wrote little about the scrimmage because to have reported honestly would have been to embarrass that program. Two years later, York looks like a legitimate OUA football team. I don’t know how many games they will win but I do think they will be able to play competitive games with a least 5 or 6 other OUA teams.
♦ As much improved as the Lions are, they still aren’t ready to compete with the defending Yates Cup Champs. At least 10 or 12 likely Gryphon starters in 2016 watched the combined practice in street clothes. Still, the Gryphon first teamers were able to dominate. York was able to compete with Guelph’s 2nd-teamers. They couldn’t do that two years ago.
♦ One area that the Gryphons dominated on both sides of the LOS was the run game. Other than a singular failure to convert on 2nd & goal at the 1, early in the scrimmage, the Gryphons ran the ball with repeated success picking up significant yardage and producing first downs. The biggest run of the day was a 60-yard (+/-) burst by Johnny Augustine. On one drive the Gryphons strung together 3 1st downs just by handing the ball to Mack Jones who repeatedly pounded it forward for gains likely averaging 7 or 8 yards.
The most highlight-worthy runs may have come from Jamal Hooker. The former Team Canada U18 running back repeatedly made spins moves and cutbacks that left York defenders grasping at air or laying on the ground. Hooker’s exploits also brought oohs and ahhs from the crowd of 150 or so, and big cheers from his teammates.
Kyle Sinden also picked up some nice rushing yardage when he touched the ball, with the exception of a couple times he danced around or tried to bounce outside instead of hitting the hole. Early in the scrimmage Johnny Augustine powered into some congested-looking holes and with the help of his O-Line turned them into 5 yard gains.
The Gryphon D stuffed the York run game. Just a guess, but the Lions may have averaged 1-yard per carry or less. Their longest run of the day was 5 or 6 yards. The Guelph D was solid vs the run whether the 1st or 2nd unit was on the field.
♦ Obviously the defensive line was solid. And while D-Line wasn’t what I was focusing on there are a few things I did notice … Greg Corfield and walk-on Matt Reuter were two young players who were playing well in the middle … the only experienced DL I saw out there was DE Derek Drouillard. Reza Shayani was in street clothes … Previously a receiver, Mark Horta didn’t look out of place working at DE … When I did see Lukas Brennan he was playing DE in a 3-man front.
♦ The 1st unit linebackers were Job Reinhart in the middle, Luke Korol at WILL and Royce Metchie at the SAM /Coverage LB. Starter Andrew Graham was in street clothes. I believe I saw Justice Croasdale also working at the SAM position and possibly as a Rush End. I can’t really say too much more about the linebackers because I didn’t watch them much. I was more intrigued by some of the changes, or experiments, I saw in the defensive backfield.
Nick Parisotto played Safety early on. Marcus Volpe also saw lots of action at Safety. Orion Edwards worked at defensive half instead of Corner. I think Akeem Knowles played at Corner more than anyone. Veteran Corner Colin Mandich played some. Jailon Bell was the other DB among the starting five. Elijah Walker, Riley Baines, Shaq Monroe and Josh Cassista all saw lots of snaps.
♦ York completed some passes including a couple of long ones late in the scrimmage. With no run game their passing game was their bright spot but not to the extent that I was the least bit concerned about our pass defense. I didn’t actually pay attention to which of their QBs was in the game probably because their QB play wasn’t a negative like it was two years ago. Kyle Quinlan is the new York OC and he was out on the field calling the plays. Given that Quinlan likely brought a new offense with him to York it will be interesting to see how their offense and their QBs develop over the course of the season.
♦ Swinging back around to offense, A’dre Fraser and Jacob Scarfone were in street clothes, so the receiving corps contained a lot of new faces with several of them getting snaps with the 1st team. Those new faces included Colton Jones in the slot, and Aidan Fraser and Marcus Joseph at the W & Z wideout positions. Lucas Spagnuolo and Ryan Nieuwesteeg were vets who caught multiple passes and both picked up big YAC yards.
On one pass play right in front of me, Nieuwesteeg caught a pass at the sideline, 2 or 3 yards short of a first down, and with York defenders all around him. I think the York defenders failed to understand who they were dealing with and thought they would easily push him out of bounds. Nieuwesteeg, whose feet were only an inch or two from the sideline, slipped through the smallest of gaps and past a host of York tacklers to pick up the 1st down, and about more 17 yards, before finally being pushed out at the 1-yard line.
Former QB Alec Reid continues to look like he has improved this athleticism and speed, and could be a real threat at Tight End. I believe he made several catches. One, for sure, he turned into a long gain. Might have even been a TD if I recall correctly.
♦ I thought the passing game looked relatively good in both the 7-on-7 drills and the scrimmage. There were some over- and under-thrown passes, and some miscommunication or misunderstandings between QBs & Receivers but relatively few dropped passes that I saw. The O-Line generally provided the Guelph quarterbacks with plenty of time to throw.
It was really hard to evaluate the QB run game as there was a “No Hit” rule in place and quick whistles when defenders closed in on the QB. I recall both Theo Landers and David Luke scrambling for large gains but you couldn’t really evaluate how well they ran the read option.
♦ As always in these scrimmages, there are players that I’m not even able to identify. I did have several sideline conversations with Curtis Rukavina and Neil Lumsden as we helped each other to try and figure out who was who. The Gryphon practice jerseys are starting to show signs of wear.
Some don’t have any numbers. Others have a two digit number on the front but a one digit number on the back. WTF? There were two players wearing Black #4. One was Parisotto. The other was a defensive end. It was confusing to the casual observer.
♦ I have an idea that I’ll throw out now, just in case I forget to send Coach MacNeill an email. Why not use some of those non-Adidas jerseys we can’t wear anymore when the public may be coming to watch a scrimmage? If there is going to be a Red vs Black scrimmage during training camp this August, then real unis and a roster sheet with player numbers would be a great help to this blogger and any alumni, parents or other fans who come out.