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A new leader emerges on Gryphons defence (8 photos)

Jared Beeksma making the most of a starting role as Gryphons win second straight game

Third-year linebacker Jared Beeksma of the Guelph Gryphons has higher expectations of himself after being named Ontario university football’s defensive player of the week last week.

“The bar is set now,” Beeksma said Saturday after the defence helped the Gryphons clout the York Lions 53-19 at Alumni Stadium. “Now the work ethic goes up and the effort in practice goes up because that’s the expectation. It doesn’t give you a week off now. It’s not a vacation. You take it to another notch because now that’s possible.”

Beeksma had three and a half tackles, one for a loss, and he knocked down a pass in Saturday’s win, which improved Guelph to 2-1 on the season. York falls to 0-3.

For Beeksma this years marks his first as a starter and he says the last two seasons were trying at times, but beneficial.

“It’s tough to a certain extent, but it was also a huge learning experience,” he said. “My first year I was behind Derek Drouillard who helped me tremendously and then Lukas Korol who’s now in the CFL. So I had the opportunity in both the first and second year to learn from some extraordinary guys and great talent. Now that I get the opportunity to play, it’s only a collective of the things that I’ve learned from these great players. I’m just the product of that.”

Beeksma credits the players he’s played behind for the work ethic he has displayed this year.

“I want big things for myself and I have big goals for the future so my work ethic has to match that,” he said. “Coming into university, I may not have had the proper work ethic and Derek Drouillard and Lukas Korol and other players that I have played with have taught me that and I’m grateful for that.

“It’s just having that non-stop motor – just giving everything all the time. You can’t take a play off because every play you have the opportunity to make a play.”

The Gryphon defence has been making plays this season as the offence tries to find the right gear.

“I think it’s just communication,” Beeksma said. “We have a lot of vets on defence who have played together for a long time now so it’s important that we all trust each other. That changes the way we think. That we all trust each other changes the way we fill in on plays and stuff like that. It’s a huge difference maker knowing the guy next to you.”

The Gryphon defence and special teams could be excused if they get discouraged waiting for the offence to get it in gear, but that hasn’t been the case.

“It’s cool because two parts of the three-part game have to win to pull someone’s weight,” Beeksma said. “We have great special teams and our defence has been pulling its weight and we just know that we have to be confident that if we keep going on special teams and defence, our offence will get it together. We’ll get two and outs, give our offence the ball and give them another shot because they’re eventually going to click. It’s all about giving them a chance.”

The offence did click in the fourth quarter Saturday, scoring three touchdowns to put York away. Special teams (Clark Barnes on another kickoff return) and the defence (an interception return by Justin Lauzon) had scored touchdowns in the first three quarters. Barnes also had a TD on a pass from quarterback Theo Landers.

Receivers Kian Schaffer-Baker, Abdraman Abdel-Rahim and A.J. Chase each caught TD passes from Landers in the fourth quarter while Eric Stranz kicked three field goals (35, 34 and 42 yards) and six converts.

Despite being a starter on defence, Beeksma still gets playing time on special teams.

“Some players make their careers on special teams and that’s a huge part of the game. Players underestimate that,” he said. “Talented first years who are maybe third or second on the depth chart have a huge opportunity to make plays on special teams. That’s how I got my playing time my first and second year and I have the opportunity to start this year.”

A leadership and organizational management student, Beeksma looks to excel in the classroom, too.

“I’ve set lofty goals for myself academically this year,” he said. “I’ve always stayed on the straight and narrow. You just have to make sure you stay in school so you can come back and play year after year.”

The Gryphons play the Waterloo Warriors at Waterloo next Saturday.