PREVIEW (OUA – Yates Cup): Gryphons set to clash with Marauders (VIDEO)

Guelph, Ont. – September 1st seems like a long time ago.  And while a lot has changed since then, a lot remains the same.  It was on that date that the Gryphons and Marauders met up in Hamilton for a much-anticipated week 1 clash.  McMaster escaped that day with a come-from-behind victory that was ultimately decided in overtime.  If you talk to both teams now, you will hear a common theme:  “we are a completely different team now than we were then.”  Understandable, considering at that point the calendar had just turned from August, the playbooks had not yet reached their end-of-year-capacity, the rookies were still unproven, and even the veterans were getting back into the feel for the demands of a Saturday afternoon in the OUA.  But when the Gryphons and Marauders meet this Saturday at Ron Joyce Stadium, the dialogue will be much different.  There will be no more rust to shake off.  No more comfort in knowing ‘we will see them again later in the season.’  Around 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon, one team will be celebrating a conference title and moving on to host a national semifinal; the other will be left having fallen just short of their championship aspirations.  So with all of that change, what remains the same? Well, just like on September 1st, Saturday’s matchup between the Gryphons and Marauders at Ron Joyce Stadium should once again be a thriller.

The Gryphons arrive at the Yates Cup on the heels of a 51-26 victory over the Western Mustangs.  In that game, starting quarterback Jazz Lindsey (Markham, Ont.) was forced to leave the game due to injury.  In stepped rookie quarterback James Roberts (Cambridge, Ont.) to throw for three touchdowns and 238 yards.  While Jazz Lindsey’s status forSaturday afternoon remains unknown, what we do know is that regardless of who is under centre on Saturday, the Gryphons will be a confident group.  James Roberts has displayed an unusual amount of poise for a rookie.  While his calm demeanour is a huge asset, what is even more important…is that he is just flat out good.  The product of Jacob Hespeler Secondary School has shown a tremendous ability to stretch the field vertically.  Four of his eight touchdown passes on the season have been of the ‘big play’ variety (with 50, 31, 62 and 39-yard touchdown passes to his credit).  As for fourth year quarterback Jazz Lindsey, he is enjoying the best season of his university career.  To give you an idea of what kind of a season it has been for Jazz, he has twice been named the CIS Offensive Player of the Week, has thrown 13 touchdown passes to just three interceptions, and as usual, has made an impact with his feet with four rushing touchdowns on the year.  While the spotlight will continue to shine on the Gryphons’ quarterback situation, there are a number of other reasons why Saturday’s matchup is so enticing.

U of G fans have been spoiled in 2014 when it comes to watching their team put up some crooked numbers on the scoreboard.  The Gryphons are ranked fourth in the country in scoring average with 42.9 points per game.   Saturday against McMaster, points will not be easy to come by as the Marauders’ defence features two of the most skilled players in the CIS at both the linebacker and cornerback positiions.  Over the years, the Marauders have become known for developing great linebackers.  The latest in that line is Nick Shortill (Nobleton, Ont.) who possesses a rare combination of size (6-4, 223 lb) and speed.  Keep your eye on #1 on McMaster on Saturday as Shortill and company will look to slow down Rob Farquharson (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and that explosive Guelph rushing attack.  In the secondary, the Marauders are led by shutdown corner Joey Cupido (Hamilton, Ont.).  While Cupido headlines the group, he is joined by some proven veterans in second team OUA All-Star Scott Martin (London, Ont.) and Steven Ventresca (Hamilton, Ont.). The solid Marauder defensive backfield will be asked to contain a talented group of play-making Gryphon receivers led by slotback Alex Charette (St. Catherine’s, Ont.).  Yet perhaps the most noteworthy member of the Marauder defence is a guy on their sideline.  Defensive coordinator Greg Knox is back wearing maroon after a brief hiatus that saw him leave to join the Varsity Blues coaching staff.  Knox was in charge of McMaster defence for their Vanier Cup run in 2011.  His group held the Gryphons to 27 points in that week 1 meeting (Guelph’s second-lowest point total of the season), but the Gryphons come into this Saturday’s game having scored over 40 points per game in each of their last four.

Defensively for the Gryphons, they will be facing a Marauders offence that ranked third in the OUA with 36.4 points per game.  McMaster’s fifth year quarterback Marshall Ferguson (Kingston, Ont.) completes a high percentage of his passes (62.3%) and has an impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15-to-6.  Ferguson’s favourite target is First-Team OUA All-Star and reigning CIS Rookie of the Year Daniel Vandervoort (Barrie, Ont.) who has quickly established himself as one of the top receiving threats in the country.

Then there are the kickers.  Guelph’s Daniel Ferrarro (Mississauga, Ont.) and McMaster’s Tyler Crapigna (Nepean, Ont.) are clearly the class of the OUA when it comes to kicking.  Both have done a solid job punting, but it is in the place kicking department that they have solidified themselves as a few of the best to ever do it.  This season, Crapigna set the all-time CIS record for made field goals in a career when he connected on the 83rd field goal of his career on October 18th versus Laurier.  Ferraro meanwhile connected on a single-season CIS record 26 field goals in 2014.  Crapigna received the nod as the OUA’s First-Team All-Star while Ferraro was named to the Second-Team.  In 2014 alone, these two combined to connect on a total of 50 field goals, meaning Saturday’s kicking battle could not be more evenly matched.

Yes, a lot has changed since their week 1 meeting; the weather is colder, the crowd will be bigger, the stakes will be higher.  But a lot has remained the same; the venue, the coaches, and the players.  Now it is just a matter of finding out if the outcome will be the same.  If it is, McMaster will take home their third Yates Cup victory in the last four years.  If it is different, the Gryphons will be crowned OUA champions for the first time since 1996.  When these two schools met on September 1st, student-athletes from both teams were just about to begin their courses.  Now, it is exam time.  The 107th Yates Cup kicks off Saturday at 1pm.

Source Guelph Gryphons Sports Information


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