U SPORTS Playoff Preview: Week 1 – OUA Quarterfinals
The push for a top six playoff spot in the OUA came down to the wire and the field is now set. This Saturday the quarterfinals begin, with Guelph, Ottawa, Waterloo and Carleton all gunning to advance.
By Mike Still
Carleton Ravens (4-4) @ Guelph Gryphons (6-2), Saturday 1 p.m. ET
First-year Guelph Gryphons head coach Ryan Sheahan, the former assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Calgary Dinos, has had his squad rolling in 2019. They won seven of their last eight regular season games and pushed perennial powerhouse Western to their limit in a 9-3 loss during week five.
As evidenced by the above score, Guelph’s defence has been a major key to their success. They led the OUA in the regular season in points per game allowed (17.8) and sacks (31). Fourth-year defensive lineman Alain Cimankinda – a highly sought-after recruit a few years ago who played at New Mexico Military Institute in 2016 – has been one of the catalysts on defence, demonstrating his high motor with 6.5 sacks, good for a tie for third in the conference. Just behind him was second-year 6’8” matchup nightmare Tavius Robinson, who had six sacks.
The heart and soul of Guelph’s defence however, rests in fifth-year linebacker Job Reinhart, a seventh-round pick of the Calgary Stampeders in this past year’s CFL draft. He had 44.5 tackles in the regular season as well as 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. In his U SPORTS career he has now collected 130.5 tackles as well as nine sacks and also won a bronze at the U SPORTS wrestling championships this past February. He was massive in Guelph’s 37-20 week two win over the Ravens, recording eight tackles and 2.5 sacks, while Cimankinda had four tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Combating the Gryphons well-rounded squad is a Carleton team that has come on strong as of late, winning three of their last four games including back-to-back victories to end the season over McMaster and Laurier.
A big component of their late-season surge has been second-year 6’1”, 188-pound running back Joshua Ferguson, who entered the picture as the Ravens’ lead back beginning with the McMaster game. He went off for 187 yards and two scores and followed that up a week later with 142 yards and a major. If the Ravens can successfully balance the run game with a passing attack led by fourth-year Tanner Dejong (2,125 yards) and veteran receivers Phil Iloki (644 yards, sixth in the conference) and Quinton Soares (615 yards, ninth in the conference) they should stand a healthy chance for an upset.
The x-factor in the contest could very well be Gryphons rookie returner/receiver Clark Barnes, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of his first three contests of 2019, including a major to start week two against the Ravens.
Donnovan Bennet, Sportsnet: Guelph
Marshall Ferguson, TSN 1150: Guelph
Waterloo Warriors (4-4) @ Ottawa Gee-Gees (5-3), Saturday 1 p.m. ET
Waterloo and Ottawa didn’t meet in the regular season, making this particular contest an intriguing one, especially for a Gee-Gees squad whose only regular season win over a playoff-bound team occurred in week six over Carleton.
That’s no slight on Ottawa however, who’ve gotten inspired play from redshirt freshman Ben Maracle. The 6’4” signal-caller took over controls from standout sophomore Sawyer Buettner after an injury to the latter on Sept. 1, throwing for 1,029 yards and eight touchdowns while also rushing for 134 yards. Maracle’s favourite target has been 6’3” fifth-year receiver Carter Matheson, a 2018 OUA First-Team All-Star who had 698 yards in the regular season, good for third in the conference.
It’s Ottawa’s defence that has been their bread and butter however. They led the OUA with six defensive touchdowns, along with ten interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries, the latter of which also led the conference. Pacing the front seven has been fourth-year defensive end Reshaan Davis, who finished third in the OUA in sacks with seven. The secondary has also been lights out, led by 6’2” CFL draft pick Cody Cranston, who has three interceptions.
While Ottawa’s defence has been great, Waterloo’s offence has been simply outstanding. They’re just behind Western, averaging 36 points per game including 210 on the ground as one of nation’s most explosive and entertaining teams.
Third-year do it all pivot Tre Ford – who helped the Warriors return to the playoffs last year for the first time since 2003 – has been nothing short of spectacular once again. The 2018 OUA MVP has thrown for 2,158 yards and 13 scores while also rushing for 634 yards and six majors. He’s been aided by fourth-year 6’0”, 225-pound power back Dion Pellerin’s 977 rushing yards and 11 scores, as well as the dynamic duo of fourth-year Tyler Ternowski (695 receiving yards, fourth in the conference) and third-year Gordon Lam (657 receiving yards, fifth in the conference).
While Waterloo’s offence has been can’t miss, their defence has struggled at times, including three straight losses to Western, Laurier and McMaster where the squad gave up at least 31 points. The Warriors ability to shut down players such as Matheson and speedster Kalem Beaver will be critical, led by the combination of defensive backs Tyrell Ford, Lautaro Frecha and Daeshaun Jupiter-Deane, who have ten total interceptions. Fourth-year linebacker Michael Reid will also need to be on his a-game. He finished second in the OUA with 59.5 tackles.
Donnovan Bennet, Sportsnet: Waterloo
Marshall Ferguson, TSN 1150: Waterloo
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