Sports

Following the 27-22 win, Guelph will move on to the Yates Cup final game, while the Gee-Gees finish their season. Photos: Parker Townes.

Guelph makes huge comeback to cut U of O’s season short

It was another wet and cold, swamp-like atmosphere for the Gee-Gees football team’s semifinal showdown against the Guelph Gryphons.

The Gees came in ranked fifth in the nation and seeded second in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) league, while the Gryphons were ranked eighth and seeded third.

The Gryphons were coming off a high-scoring victory against the Waterloo Warriors in the quarterfinals the week before, and were fired up to make another Yates Cup championship appearance.

The U of O were also poised to make another OUA championship appearance, but this time around, the Gryphons would spoil those hopes, knocking them out of contention by a score of 27-22.

The last time these two teams played, it was a defensive struggle where a mere safety was the difference in the 12-10 win for the U of O.

This one proved to be a fairly strong defensive game on the part of both teams, with Guelph racking up under 300 yards of offence by the end, and U of O just over 320.

Early in the game, it was a battle of attrition and hard-fought field possession, where the slightest slip-up could cost each team seriously.

The first major slipup came after the Gryphons forced the Gees into a field goal, but took a roughing the kicker penalty that gave the home team another shot on first down.

OUA second-leading rusher Dawson Odei made them pay on the next play to open up the scoring.

The Gryphons slipped up again on their next drive when quarterback Theo Landers threw the ball into coverage, and it was intercepted by Cody Cranston.

The Gees led the OUA in team interceptions throughout the regular season, and clearly were not interested in stopping there. They made the Gryphons pay again, going up 10-0 early.

A second Odei touchdown gave them a comfortable, albeit far from insurmountable 18-0 lead going into the half.

Landers had a hard time through the air early in this one, failing to gain any yards of passing in the first quarter. But he was able to seriously hurt the Gee-Gees on the ground with over 130 yards of rushing, nearly as much as Odei and more than his own running back Jean-Paul Cimankinda.

“They were clever the way they used him in the second half. He’s a runner, they faked and they established a decent run game, and they got him out on the edge,” Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi said. “He didn’t have any intent to throw the ball. He was out there on the edge to run, to their credit.”

The Gee-Gees had a strong run game of their own, with Odei once again gaining over 140 yards.

However, it was the U of O who screwed up first in the second half, following a dropped snap on a punt, which was blocked and taken down deep into Ottawa territory, setting up a Landers touchdown to make it 18-7.

This would prove to be the TSN turning point of the game.

The wind would be in Guelph’s favour in the final quarter, as they cut the deficit to 22-11.

They would not stop there, putting another touchdown on the board to make it 22-17, and then a field goal to make it 22-20.

The play that would seal the game for the Garnet and Grey was a miracle 59-yard touchdown pass from Landers to Thomas Bresciani off a scramble into one-on-one coverage with less than a minute to go. This made it 27-22, where it would stay after the Gee-Gees could not follow up on their subsequent drive. Guelph would complete the comeback and put the nail in the coffin.

“It was kind of a flukey pass, and the kid made a play, and that’s what can happen,” Barresi said. “At the beginning of the half, I believe we had  a punt and the punt was dropped, and they scored within a minute. We were still in control of the game. There’s a lot you can look at.”

The Gee-Gees finish 6-2 in regular season play and 0-1 in the playoffs following the loss, while the Gryphons advance to the Yates Cup championship game.

Meanwhile, U of O’s crosstown rivals, the Carleton Ravens, were playing the Western Mustangs in London in the other OUA semi-final game.

Carleton was trying to get that coveted Panda Game rematch versus the Gee-Gees and make it to their first Yates Cup, while the Mustangs were trying to repeat their championship and extend their undefeated season. They would succeed, handily beating the Ravens 39-13, making sure both Ottawa teams would fall short this season.

The Mustangs will now play the Gryphons in London to determine the Ontario champion on Nov. 10.