Son of Adrion ‘Pee Wee’ Smith helps Guelph Gryphons upset No. 1 ranked Western Mustangs

By Gryphon Athletics

If you have to wait over 700 days to play football again, you might as well make an emphatic return and that is just what the Guelph Gryphons did Saturday night at Alumni Stadium.

Playing host to the No. 1 nationally ranked Western Mustangs, the Gryphons, ranked No. 7 nationally, went toe-to-toe with the Mustangs for a full 60 minutes and pulled out a 23-21 victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 900 fans.

“It’s such a great feeling to be back out here after such a long hiatus and be able to do what we love to do,” head coach Ryan Sheahan said. “Now to see our guys battle like that for 60 minutes, these players played their butts off and I’m just so proud to be their coach.”

“We have a rookie quarterback, a long hiatus, new players to our team with 50 vets and 50 rookies. The world has changed and Gryphon football has changed and hopefully for the better. We have a great team with great chemistry and the guys have really worked hard and earned this.”

With the Gryphon faithful in full force behind them, Guelph used a tremendous all-around performance to take care of the Mustangs.

Making his first career OUA start, Gryphons’ quarterback Shawn Lal was able to use the first half of the contest to work out his pre-game jitters, before really taking control of the offence in the second half.

“At first I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Lal said. “I just had to go in and get the nerves out by taking hits and stuff like that.”

“We have a great defence. I have great skill positions around me, great offensive line and a great coaching staff and they all really helped me out today.”

Making the plays when they mattered the most, Lal engineered three different drives in the second half that all resulted in the Gryphons taking a lead.

Lal finished the game 14-of-28 for 185 yards with one touchdown. That TD was caught by the hands of veteran receiver Kiondre Smith, the son of Toronto Argonauts great Adrion ‘Pee Wee’ Smith, who made sure let his young quarterback know that he’s right there for him. Smith had a game-high seven receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown.

“No matter what year you are in, as the quarterback you touch the ball every single play,” Smith said. “So I just wanted to make sure that we are keeping him positive and calm because whenever that happens, your team is going to do well.”.

Throughout the opening quarter, neither team was able to execute their offence quite as well as they’d have liked. With both defences holding the upper hand, the Mustangs ultimately kicked a pair of first quarter field goals to hold a 6-0 lead after one. However, once the second quarter began it did not take the Gryphons very long to find pay dirt.

Just under a minute-and-a-half into the quarter, Lal connected with Smith for a two-yard touchdown pass on third-and-two giving Guelph a 7-6 advantage. After the Gryphons relinquished the lead following a safety they conceded deep in their own territory, Guelph regained the lead on a 25-yard field goal off the foot of Eric Stranz. For much of the second quarter, the Gryphs would hold their 10-8 lead, although, with just 11 seconds remaining in the half, Western went up 11-10 on a 35-yard field goal.

The two teams continued to exchange field goals in the third quarter, with Stranz twice connecting from 45 yards out, while Brian Garrity converted from 35 yards out for Western. Stranz’s second field goal of the quarter gave the Gryphons a 16-14 lead heading to the fourth.

After the Gryphons drove down the length of the field midway through the final quarter, short-yardage quarterback DeAndre Rose came in for Guelph and rushed the ball into the end zone from two yards out, giving the Gryphons their largest lead of the contest at 23-14. However, just over one minute later, the Mustangs connected on a 61-yard catch and run for a touchdown which quickly narrowed the advantage back down to two.

From there, the Gryphons defence put the clamps on. Stopping the Mustangs on two separate drives in the dying minutes, the Guelph defence simply decided they were not going to lose the game. Facing a third-and-eight near mid-field and only a minute to play, Western was held one yard short of the line to gain by that Gryphs defence that caused issues all night.

“Including 2019, this is some of the best defence I’ve seen in 41 years,” Sheahan said. “Coach Dennis McPhee is one of the greatest. He had our guys lined up right and they were fired up and ready to play.”

The Gryphons defence forced Western to punt seven times, while recording two sacks and one interception. Justin Lauzon finished the game with a game-high-tying nine total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack, with Saskatchewan Roughriders draft pick A.J. Allen notched nine total tackles, one tackle for loss and half a sack. Making the only interception of the game was Jared Beeksma, who had three pass break-ups and four tackles.

Stranz had a great night kicking the football. He went 3-for-4 hitting from 25 and 45 yards out twice, with his lone miss hitting the upright from 41 yards out. Stranz also made good on a 54-yard field goal, however, it was called back on a delay of game penalty.

“Stranzy’s leg is insane,” said Smith. “That boy is going to get drafted soon and he deserves it.”

Saturday’s victory marked the first win for the Gryphons over the Mustangs since the 108th Yates Cup in November of 2015 when Stu Lang was head coach for Guelph.

Looking to continue their great start to the season, the Gryphons will now set their sights on the Windsor Lancers. Guelph will play their first road game of the 2021 campaign on Saturday when they head to Windsor to take on the 0-1 Lancers at 2:00 p.m. ET.

“We’re going to celebrate this one today,” Lal said, “but Sunday we’ve got film to study and find all of the things that we can continue to improve on ahead of next week’s game.”

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