There was a lot on the line when the Guelph Gryphons and Queen’s Gaels played two weeks ago in Kingston. Both teams were playing for a first round playoff bye and a chance to host a semi-final game. Queen’s won the pivotal game 37-23, but as sweet as that victory was for Queen’s, it was little consolation after being eliminated by Guelph in dramatic fashion in last years’ semis. The only way to truly settle the score is to return the favour and send the Gryphs home empty handed.
“The sting of last year, it takes a while to lose things like that,” Queen’s head coach Pat Sheahan said. “Failure is a great teacher, it provides a very direct and long lasting instruction. There’s no question that our guys have learned a lesson from Guelph in not taking care of business, and not playing with adequate poise under pressure, and we all paid a price for it. These are the lessons that we learn as student-athletes.”
Both teams will have the opportunity to learn from their lessons when Guelph and Queen’s meet again this Saturday at 1 p.m. and wager their seasons for a chance to go to the Yates Cup final. The game from Richardson Stadium will be broadcast Sportsnet 360.
Queen’s treated a packed house to a dynamic performance against Guelph two weeks ago. The Gaels won nearly all the statistical battles – save for punting, kickoff returns and penalties – and were able to bounce back when they faced adversity early on. Queen’s ran for nearly three times as many yards as Guelph (145 to 58), finally solving a very stingy Gryphons defence. Billy McPhee (Burlington) completed 24 of 35 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps more importantly, he kept the ball in friendly hands, only throwing one interception.
Conversely, Guelph let a 16-7 lead slip away in the last minute of the first half, conceding a touchdown, a field goal and the game’s momentum. Queen’s came out of a raucous half time and scored 20 unanswered points, effectively putting the game out of reach before a late fourth quarter touchdown by Guelph. Quarterback Jazz Lindsey (Markham) threw for 280 yards and two scores, but his 52.9% completion rate (18 for 34) and three interceptions are cause for concern. He can’t give away the ball if Guelph wants to go back to the Yates Cup.
“We have a game to correct. It’s on us to correct the recent defeat,” Gryphons head coach Stu Lang said.
The Guelph front four was all the talk heading into the game, but it was the Queen’s defensive line that stole the show. Guelph running back Rob Farquharson (Niagara Falls) was held to 49 yards on 14 carries and lost possession on a costly late fumble. Queen’s Ryan Granberg (Sherwood Park, Alta.) picked up 95 yards on 14 carries winning the battle of the star backs. Daniel Heslop (Scarborough) also picked up 69 yards and a touchdown for the Gaels, who controlled the ground game.
With Giovanni Aprile out of the lineup with an injury, McPhee had to look for other options at receiver. Scott MacDonnell (Montreal) and Alex Carroll (Victoria, B.C.) were his primary targets, catching a combined 13 passes for 164 yards and a MacDonnell touchdown.
Sheahan has been impressed by the play of Carroll and Macdonnell this season.
“They’ve have had good careers so far, perhaps just a bit overshadowed in the past by some others who have been outstanding. But they’re both coming into their own in their senior year are extremely valuable to us,” said the Gaels coach.
Peter Hannon (Toronto) and Aaron Gazendam (Kingston) also caught touchdown passes, so McPhee showed that he’s got his head on a swivel and is looking for the best option, not just his favourite one.
Lang is well aware of the danger of the Gaels’ passing game and the Gryphons will aim to eliminate that threat on Saturday.
“We gave Billy too much time in the pocket last time we played Queen’s. They (Queen’s) have some phenomenal receivers. It’s a major goal for us for the game this weekend.”
Carl Trivieri (Ashburn) had the best day of all Guelph receivers, catching six passes for 136 yards and a second quarter score. Alex Charette (St. Catharines) caught for 84 yards, while Saxon Lindsey (Markham) picked up 40 yards. Coming off of a career-high 515 yards and six touchdowns this season, the Gryphons need more from Lindsey come Saturday.
Defensively, Andrew Lue (Markham) had a great game for Queen’s, catching two interceptions and making three tackles, ultimately being named Porter Airlines player of the game. Justin Baronaitis (Rexdale) had 5.5 tackles against Guelph two weeks ago and leads the team with 47. Also expect all-star linebacker Sam Sabourin (Stittsville) to be a force in such a big game.
Guelph’s highly touted front four Cam Walker (London), Jeff Finley (St. Catharines), Jordan Thompson (Burlington) and Ian Marouf (Fort Erie) should be motivated for the rematch with Queen’s. Tristian Doughlin (Toronto) led all Gryphons with 11 tackles against Queen’s and Curtis Newton (London), this week’s CIS football player of the week, had 7.5 tackles and a sack two weeks ago.
Guelph did rebound with a 31-21 quarter-final win over Windsor last week and there were good signs. Jazz Lindsey’s interceptions were down, Farquharson yards were up and Saxon Lindsey caught for 77 yards, but the Lancers don’t present the quality of opponent that Queen’s does. Guelph also won’t have the benefit of playing on home turf; Richardson has the notorious grass field. The field has made a difference, as the home team has won the last three meetings.
These two teams have added a few chapters to their history books over the past two seasons and both are seeking revenge, as well as a trip to the Yates Cup final. They played each other hard two weeks ago and with raised stakes, they’ll play even harder. Like last year, this one should come right down to the wire.