Hamilton, ON- Heading into their game against the McMaster Marauders, the Guelph Gryphons football team were at a low point.
They had just lost back-to-back games in convincing fashion – 41-18 to the Windsor Lancers and 60-21 to the Laurier Golden Hawks. They were now 1-2 and in danger of slipping behind in the OUA standings. They needed a victory.
On the afternoon of Sept. 16, they got that much-needed win against the Marauders. Guelph led for most of the low scoring game. They were outgained by their opponents but stood firm for 21-13 triumph.
“I felt it was almost like a chess match,” Gryphons quarterback Tristan Aboud noted. The Gryphons would score, then so would the Marauders. The Gryphons would get a stop and the Marauders would do the same.
McMaster would pull within one point after a Michael Horvat field goal late in the fourth quarter. However, Guelph answered with a long drive mainly through the ground. It was capped off with a touchdown pass from Aboud to receiver Vyshonne Janusas.
“We dug deep,” quarterback Marshall McCray said. “We went into the fourth gear. Our lineman, the running backs hit the hole well. Had great vision, great speed. It was just great overall from the offence.”
McCray himself got into the rushing attack, finishing with 20 yards on six attempts, including a five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Overall, Guelph won the ground game with 183 rushing yards to 113 for McMaster.
The Gryphons are led behind centre by Aboud and McCray – two first-years. Aboud said they match well with the offence – each with their own strengths. “So when we blend together, it’s what’s best for the team,” he added.
McCray notched his first passing touchdown in their season-opening win over the Toronto Varsity Blues. He’s had a rushing touchdown in every game he’s played – including a season-high 80 yards against Laurier.
Aboud’s taken a majority of the passing snaps, earning a season-best 277 yards against Laurier. His 75 per cent completion rate against McMaster was the highest of his short career.
They’re both going the fresh experience of getting used to playing university football together. Aboud said he’s learning something new every week. McCray said he’s been looking forward to playing after a long time training. “Our coaches are doing a great job with us,” he added. “Keep us improving each week so just get better from here on out.”
The Gryphons will hope that mantra of improvement continues as a team. They are 2-2 and in the thick of the OUA playoff picture. They rebounded from their losses and won what McCray called a battle against McMaster.
“At the end of the day, we stayed together as a team and ended up winning,” Aboud said. “That’s all that mattered. We needed this one.”
Marauders Turnovers Prove Costly In Familiar Story
The McMaster Marauders aren’t used to missing the playoffs. Yet, they have in the past two OUA seasons. After losing to Guelph and dropping to 1-3, they’re in danger of the same fate.
That McMaster team that was so crispy and dominate in their 71-0 thrashing of the York Lions a week ago? Nowhere to be seen. Instead, some familiar issues plagued them against Guelph.
They were able to move the ball through the air. Their defence was able to get stops to keep the game close. However, they couldn’t finish well enough, settling for two field goals – including during a crucial scoring drive in the fourth. “That one we’ve got to figure out,” Marauders head coach Stef Ptaszek noted.
The turnovers were an issue as well. They had one punt blocked, a snap muffed on another punt. Quarterback Keagan Hall threw two interceptions – one on their last drive of the game. Ptaszek pointed out they had terrible field position in the first half. “You got to hope it’s going to stop at some point and it snowballs,” he added.
There were signs that they might win the game. Like when they opened the third quarter with a touchdown drive. But it didn’t last.
The performance was a setback for a Marauders team that was seemingly trending in the right direction. Just a week earlier, their head coach was talking about how they’ve improved over the first three games of the season. “We had a great week and primed to play some of our best football,” he noted. “We did not.”
Once again, Ptaszek talked about the “little micro things” that caused that. It’s a familiar theme from their season-opening loss against Windsor.
In the wake of the loss, Ptaszek said all three areas has to play better if they’re going to contend for anything – including the playoffs. “We all got to look in the mirror and figure out how to get better,” he added.
Their margin for error is dwindling now. They face the undefeated Laurier Golden Hawks on the road next. If they win that game, they’re back in the playoff mix. If not, they might have to run the table to keep their season alive.
“The casual fan would say we don’t have much of a chance [against Laurier], which means…I love it,” Ptaszek said. “Nobody expects us to do anything. This is a very good football team. At some point, they’re going to start to show it and show it more consistently.”
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics