Guelph squares off against Toronto on Sportsnet 360

Guelph squares off against Toronto on Sportsnet 360
HAMILTON, Ont. – Stu Lang’s Guelph Gryphons took a tremendous step forward in 2012, going 7-1 en route to a Yates Cup championship appearance. Looking to prove that last year’s run was no outlier, the Gryphs have jumped out to a 2-0 start this season. They’ll have a chance to make a statement Saturday at 1 p.m. when they visit Varsity Centre and battle the Toronto Varsity Blues (1-2) on Sportsnet 360, presented by Pizza Pizza.  

Regardless of their standing, the Blues and Gryphs have played each other like bitter rivals over the past three seasons and two of those games were decided by two points. The Blues have been called Guelph’s krypontite.

“Toronto has given us a tough time every time we’ve played them during my career,” coach Lang said. He added that his team will not be looking past the feisty Blues on Saturday.

Despite their record, the Gryphons offence is only averaging 22.5 points per game; just enough to score wins over the Laurier Golden Hawks (21-7) and the Windsor Lancers (24-23). The win over Windsor was a dog fight, as the teams traded narrow leads before Guelph sealed the result on a last second field goal.

“Hopefully our offence will have a coming out game,” Lang said. “They’ve struggled the first two games, but we had a good two weeks of practice … (QB) Jazz (Lindsey) is feeling a little more comfortable throwing to his receivers and reading defences. So we’re hoping that the offence steps up and puts some points on the table.”

Lindsey, a Markham native, doesn’t have a great stat line to start the season (29 for 59, 312 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but Toronto presents a chance to improve upon those numbers. The Blues have given up the most passing yards in the league (1370) by a wide margin, nearly 400 more than the Carleton Ravens.

Instead, Guelph’s success has come from a strong defence, led by big linebacker and Niagara native John Rush (6’0”, 267 lbs., 15.5 tackles) and a formidable front four. Lang was concerned about his defence after losing four veterans in the offseason, but the coach shuffled a few vets from the offensive side of the ball to provide leadership in the backfield. Through two games, the new-look defence has allowed 30 points, 86 rushing yards and the front four – Cam Walker (London, Ont.), Jeff Finley (St. Catharines, Ont.), Jordan Thompson (Burlington, Ont.) and Ian Marouf (Fort Erie, Ont.) – sacked Windsor QB Austin Kennedy (Windsor, Ont.) 10 times.

Saturday could also mark the return of RB Rob Farquharson (Niagara Falls, Ont.), who Lang said is a game day decision after missing the first two games with an injury. Rookie running backs Johnny Augustine (Welland, Ont.) and Bryson Wishloff-Dobush (Edmonton, Alta.) shared the duties and have filled in nicely, but a player of Farquharson’s caliber could spark this offence.

On the other side of the field, the Blues offence is led by quarterback Chris Jugovic (Hamilton, Ont.), who has a respectable stat line (62-105, 820 yards, 4 TDs) through three games. The second-year QB has elevated Toronto’s passing game dramatically, from last in 2012, to fourth this season. He’ll be looking for Paul de Pass (Ajax, Ont.) and Alex Pierzchalski (London, Ont.), Toronto’s top two receivers. de Pass has 252 yards while Pierzchalski leads the team with three touchdowns. Expect a ton of pigskin to go towards the two veterans, which is fine by head coach Greg Gary, who praised Jugovic, de Pass and Pierzchalski adding that he likes the direction the offence is trending through the rebuild.  

However, Toronto’s ground game ranks in the lower tier of the league with 236 yards gained through three games. The Blues were able to run for 187 on the Gryphons last season, but they’ll be hard pressed to repeat that feat given that Guelph’s d is rolling. Aaron Milton (Whitby, Ont.) will take the rock for the Blues when they line up on Saturday.

As a program, the Blues are working towards their own breakthrough and an end to their lengthy postseason drought, which is in its 18th year. Focusing on their schedule, there is a conceivable path back to the playoffs for the Blues. They have already played Western and finish the season against Windsor, Carleton, York and Waterloo. If they can get by the Gryphs, they’ll be 2-2 at the halfway mark and control their own destiny going forward, although Gary doesn’t want his team to think too far in advance, or that it will be easy.

“The thing we talked about is just playing one game at a time,” Gary said. “Those teams are competitive now. Waterloo’s a competitive football team; Carleton’s going to be hungry for a win at that point. York just beat Laurier, so that back end is going to be competitive.”

Gary is also preaching that the team needs to stay the course and approach every game the same way: reduce penalties, win the turnover battle and execute their game plan.

“On offence we are starting to get things done,” he said. “The mistakes we made on defence are correctable, but that’s part of a rebuild. I think our defence will play better this week.” 

Guelph and Toronto have treated fans to some entertaining tilts over the past three seasons and OUA fans have come to expect that from the two squads. Will Toronto spoil Guelph’s undefeated record and get into the playoff race, or will Jazz Lindsey bring the Gryphs' offence back to life in downtown Toronto?

Tim Micallef and Mike Morreale have the call as the drama unfolds on Sportsnet 360 this Saturday at 1 p.m., presented by Pizza Pizza.

GUELPH LEADERS

Passing

Jazz Lindsey
29 completions, 59 attempts, 312 yards, 1 TD

Lucas Nangle
2 completions, 4 attempts, 34 yards

Rushing

Johnny Augustine
27 carries, 156 yards

Jazz Lindsey
11 carries, 61 yards

Receiving

Alexander Charette
8 catches, 117 yards

Saxon Lindsey
9 catches, 93 yards

Defence

John Rush
15.5 tackles, 10 solo tackles

Chris Newtown
11 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1 sack

MacKenzie Myers
7.5 tackles, 6 solo tackles

TORONTO LEADERS

Passing

Chris Jugovic
62 completions, 105 attempts, 820 yards, 4 TDs

Aaron Milton
1 completion, 1 attempt, 30 yards, 1 TD

Rushing

Aaron Milton
25 carries, 136 yards

Alex Malone
19 carries, 80 yards

Receiving

Paul de Pass
15 catches, 252 yards, 1 TDs

Alex Pierzchalski
23 catches, 223 yards, 3 TDs

Defence

Dylan Gordan
19.5 tackles, 16 solo tackles

Trevor Harvey
18.5 tackles, 16 solo tackles, 1 interception

Harrison Beeforth
17.5 tackles, 14 solo tackles

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