LONDON, ONT. (OUA) -- The Guelph Gryphons captured their first Yates Cup title since 1996 with a come-from-behind 23-17 victory over the Western Mustangs at TD Stadium in the 108th Yates Cup, presented by Investors Group.
Trailing throughout the first three quarters, Guelph tied the score in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter from a 36-yard touchdown reception by Jacob Scarfone (London, Ont.), and took the lead on a pair of Gabriel Ferraro (Mississauga, Ont.) field goals.
Linebacker John Rush (Niagara, Ont.) was honoured with the Dalt White Trophy, presented by Porter Airlines, as the game MVP, leading the Gryphons with 12.0 tackles, including 3.0 sacks.
"Going into the fourth quarter, we had a strong belief that we could do what it takes to win this game," said Rush. "We just kept throwing punches and knew we would overcome them."
Head coach Stu Lang, in his sixth season at the helm of the Gryphons, marked his first Yates Cup coaching victory after appearing in two of the previous three championship games, including a 20-15 loss to McMaster in 2014.
"We've been close so many times," said Lang. "Right from the start this year the guys committed. They knew how it hurt so much in Hamilton 12 months ago. I am so proud of these guys, to win on enemy field against a team that has not lost and to fight back – this is amazing. This is one of the greatest Guelph Gryphons football teams ever."
Guelph quarterback James Roberts of Cambridge, Ont. led the victorious offence, connecting on 14 of 28 passes for 221 yards and tossing one touchdown. Scarfone accounted for 142 of those receiving yards, reeling in six passes.
The victory gave Guelph its fourth Yates Cup title in club history, having previously hoisted the venerable trophy in 1984, 1992 and 1996.
Western quarterback Stevenson Bone (Darien, Conn.), filling in for injured conference MVP Will Finch, completed 21 of 39 passes for 236 yards, and led the Mustangs with 85 yards on the ground on 16 carries, tallying both of Western's touchdowns. Jamal Kett (Orangeville, Ont.) topped Mustang receivers with six receptions for 84 yards.
Bone opened the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown dash at the 9:28 mark of the opening frame. Guelph later broke onto the score sheet on their first possession of the second quarter, tallying three points on a 22-yard Gabriel Ferraro field goal. Bone added his second major of the afternoon, running a one-yard keeper over the goal line just after the nine-minute mark.
Western took a 14-3 lead into the intermission, but had failed to capitalize on a number of first-half opportunities, missing two field goal attempts from within the 40-yard line, and failing to convert a pair of Gryphon fumbles into any points.
Guelph scored its first major of the afternoon with a one-yard run by Roberts to draw within four points. Western restored its one-touchdown advantage late in the third frame with Ben Kelly connecting on a 38-yard field goal.
After three quarters of offensive inconsistency, the Gryphons tied the score on the second play of the final frame, Roberts connecting with Scarfone for a 36-yard touchdown. Western fumbled on the ensuing play from scrimmage, turning the ball over to Guelph on their own 20-yard line. A 20-yard touchdown run by Gordon on the following play was called back for holding by the Gryphons, and Western reclaimed possession two plays later with an interception by linebacker Nick Vanin (London, Ont.). The Gryphons took, then insured their lead with a pair of field goals from Ferrero before the final gun. A last-minute drive by the Mustangs fell short, the game clock clicking to zeroes with the Mustangs stranded on the Guelph five-yard line.
With the victory Guelph hosts the RSEQ champion Montreal Carabins in the CIS semi-final Mitchell Bowl on November 21.
WES – TD Bone 11 run (Kelly kick) 9:28
GUE – FG Ferraro 22 4:56
WES – TD Bone 1 run (Kelly kick) 9:09
GUE – TD Roberts 1 run (Ferraro kick) 5:30 WES – FG Kelly 38 13:30
GUE – TD Scarfone 36 pass from Roberts (Ferraro kick) 0:45
GUE – FG Ferraro 23 8:16
GUE – FG Ferraro 14 12:11