Ben Maracle put up 288 yards in the Gee-Gees third win this season
Returning to Ottawa after a 20-14 win on the road against McMaster, the Gee-Gees were looking for their first win at home.
Sitting at a 2-1 record early in the 2022 season, the University of Ottawa’s football team suffered their only loss in what was a long, rainy affair. The Gees couldn’t hold onto their first half lead, ultimately dropping their home opener 26-16 to Queen’s University.
This time, the Gees stood across the field from the Guelph Gryphons (1-2).
U of O head coach Marcel Bellefeuille acknowledged their past performance at home.
“We learned a lot from the last game at home and we found that we’re a more focussed team on the road,” Bellefeuille said. “We talked about trying to revisit the feeling of focus and eliminate distractions.”
Two of the U of O’s offensive weapons, J-P Cimankinda and Willy-Pierre Dimbongi, started their university football careers in Guelph.
Cimankinda was sure to be a key player in overwhelming Guelph’s defence, already registering 276 rushing yards so far.
Zachary Copeland kicked the ball off at noon, marking the beginning of the Kayembe-Perron Memorial Game.
Guelph came up short on their opening drive, relying on their run game to convert first downs. Jake Helfrich’s first pass attempt hit the turf, and the team was forced to punt.
With their first possession, Gee-Gees quarterback Ben Maracle found Daniel Oladejo for a 14-yard gain. Unfortunately, the only other highlight of the drive was a high snap to the U of O punter, Campbell Fair. Scrambling in the backfield, Fair still managed to get the ball out safely.
It wasn’t long before the ball was back in U of O hands. Kevin Victome read Helfrich’s throw perfectly, sneaking in front of the intended receiver for a huge interception.
Starting the drive at the Guelph 39, the Gee-Gees had a great field position to work with. Cimankinda was unable to earn a first down after two rush attempts, and the Gees field goal unit stepped onto the field.
Copeland’s 38-yard attempt went wide left, and the first quarter remained scoreless.
The Gee-Gees put points on the scoreboard early in the second. A big toss by Maracle found the hands of Dimbongi for a 56-yard touchdown pass.
“That kid’s an athlete — if I throw the ball, he’s going to go get it,” Maracle said about Dimbongi after the game.
The extra-point attempt went nowhere. 6-0 for the Garnet and Grey.
Guelph was able to respond, and Isaiah Smith put the visitors in a first and goal position after a 26-yard run. It was the quarterback, Helfrich, who snuck the ball in for the Gryphons.
Halfway through the second quarter, Guelph led 7-6.
A 48-yard kick return by Dimbongi gave the Gees a shorter field to work with, starting the drive on Guelph’s 50-yard line.
Maracle found Nicholas Gendron wide open on the left side of the field for a 26-yard pass, putting the Gee-Gees in field goal position. This time, Fair sent it straight through the uprights. Gees reclaimed the lead, 9-7.
On their next possession, Maracle and the Gee-Gees were back in the red zone.
A 36-yard pass to Oladejo got the U of O to Guelph’s 17-yard line. Maracle found Gendron in the corner of the endzone for the score. Once again, Fair was clean on the point-after.
Up 16-7, the Gees weren’t done building their lead.
With 13 seconds remaining, the U of O had managed to put themselves back in field goal range.
19-7 in favour of the Gees as the second quarter came to a close.
The U of O was receiving to get the second half of play started. Right away, the Gee-Gees offence was firing. Maracle put his arm on display again, logging a 37-yard pass to Oladejo for a touchdown.
The Gees lead was extended to 26-7, but it didn’t end there. On their next possession, Amlicar Polk rushed for a 42-yard touchdown.
Even with 33-7 on the board, Guelph had yet to be put down, putting together a scoring drive. Helfrich finally pieced together some throwing plays to put his kicker in position. Eric Stanz made the field goal to add three points to the Gryphons’ score.
With the Gee-Gees up 33-10, Guelph had a lot of points to make up in the final quarter.
Guelph was definitely doing a better job at moving the sticks, but the U of O defence didn’t let them close to the end zone. A sack and an interception sealed Guelph’s fate.
With 22 seconds left on the game clock, Cimankinda added one last touchdown for good measure.
A comfortable score of 46-10 was displayed on the board, meaning the Gee-Gees had earned their first win on home turf, improving to a 3-1 record on the season.
“I feel like this is what we needed to really jumpstart our season, from here on out I’m feeling really good about our team,” Maracle said.
Next week, they’ll be in Waterloo to take on Laurier in their last game before Panda.
Click here to contribute to the Loic Kayembe Gee-Gees Football Memorial Scholarship or the Francis Perron Gee-Gees Football Memorial Scholarship.