GUELPH, ON – The No. 5 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team ran into a stout Guelph defence on Saturday afternoon as the No. 10 Gryphons downed the purple and gold 24-14.
The Gryphons (4-3) were led by their defence all afternoon as they limited the Hawks (5-2), who entered the contest ranked second in the OUA in yards per game, to just 186 yards, including holding the nation’s leading passer, Michael Knevel of Brantford, Ont., to just 116 yards on 36 attempts.
While Laurier’s defence was just as strong, holding Guelph’s offence out of the endzone, they couldn’t contain the Gryphons’ special teams. Kicker Gabriel Ferraro of Mississauga, Ont., accounted for 17 of the Gryphons points, including hitting five of his seven field goal attempts, and Jacob Scarfone of London, Ont., returned a missed field goal 122 yards for Guelph’s lone major of the day.
The opening half saw Guelph control the field as they held the Hawks to just six first downs while a trio of field goals and a single from Ferraro staked the to a 10-0 advantage.
Despite the deficit, the Hawks found themselves only down by two scores heading into the second half and looked poised to get on the board on their opening possession after forcing a two-and-out from Guelph.
Looking to cut the lead to seven, Nathan Mesher’s (Waterloo, Ont.) 39-yard field goal missed wide left and the dangerous Scarfone took over from there, finding the sidelines and returning it to the endzone to give Guelph a 17-0 lead.
The Hawks would get on the board two possessions later as a costly penalty by Guelph set them up on the one-yard line. Running back Levondre Gordon of Mississauga, Ont., would do the rest as he punched in his eighth touchdown of the season, moving into a tie for first in the OUA for rushing majors, to cut the lead to 17-7.
Another Ferraro field goal stretched Guelph’s lead to 13 but Laurier responded early in the fourth quarter. Facing a third and goal on the one-yard line, Knevel punched the ball into the endzone, giving Laurier life, trailing by just six, 20-14.
However, on the next possession, Ferraro connected on his fifth field goal of the afternoon to make it a two-score game once again.
Laurier would make one last push but couldn’t break through the Guelph defence as the Hawks dropped into a tie with the Ottawa Gee-Gees for third in the conference.
A tough afternoon for Knevel, who finished the game 17-of-36 for 116 yards and an interception, was made worse as he left the contest late in the fourth quarter after taking a hit from a Gryphon defender. The third-year quarterback needs just 18 yards to set a new Laurier record for passing yards in a season, currently held by Bill Kubas at 2295 which he set back in 1994.
Gordon would wind up with 71 yards on 21 attempts to go along with his touchdown while receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.of Ottawa, added eight catches for 47 yards. Gittens Jr. continues to lead the country in both receptions (65) and receiving yards (839) and is now nine catches shy of matching the U SPORTS single season receptions record.
For Guelph, the majority of their offence came on the ground as fifth-year Johnny Augustine of Welland, Ont., rushed for 176 yards on 31 attempts. Quarterback Theodore Landers of Maple Ridge, B.C., making his second career start in the place of injured started James Roberts of Cambridge, Ont., had 86 yards rushing on 14 attempts while finishing the contest 13-of-20 through the air for 111 yards.
Nicholas Parisotto of Guelph, Ont., and Luke Korol of Lynden, Ont., paced Guelph on defence with 9.5 tackles and an interception each.
Despite the loss, Laurier can still clinch second place in the OUA and a bye through the first round of the playoffs with a win next Saturday at home against the McMaster Marauders (6-1) and a Western victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Kickoff against the Marauders is set for 1 p.m. on October 21 at University Stadium.