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Bagayogo the Gryphon defence rise to the occasion

Guelph improves to 3-2 with a 48-0 blowout win over the University of Toronto

Siriman Harrison Bagayogo made the decision three years ago to join the Guelph Gryphons for Ontario university football play and it’s a decision he has never second guessed.

“After visiting Guelph and seeing all their plans and all that, I don't regret my choice,” the defensive back said Saturday on the Alumni Stadium turf as his teammates celebrated a 48-0 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues. “Guelph was for me and I'm happy that I'm here. This is a team that's rising from the darkness to the light. We're underdogs and 48-0, that's what we can do right now.”

Bagayogo is part of the Gryphon defence that has been keeping opponents in check, holding them to less than 12 points per game. His assignment Saturday, covering Toronto’s explosive receiver Will Corby, was one that brought him a lot of extra homework.

“I had a crazy practice,” he said. “I watched a lot of film on him. I did my duty to be able to cover him, but, of course, the staff and the players helped me. We help each other. We had a great game plan, we did what we had to do and we got it done.”

Bagayogo got it done so well that Corby, who had 18 receptions for an average of 17.6 yards per catch, left Guelph with those exact same stats as he was held without a catch.

However, Bagayogo refused to take credit for that.

“Our DC (defensive coordinator Dennis McPhee) is incredible,” Bagayogo said. “He puts a fire under us, pushes us every time in practice. We want to win and we want the ball. The key is going after the ball every play, never let anyone down, don't let our offence down. That's it.”

While OUA football was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, it didn’t keep the Gryphon players apart. Rather than staying in his hometown of Bois-des-Filion, a suburb of Montreal, Bagayogo and most of his teammates stayed and studied in Guelph. And they practised however they could while abiding by whatever COVID-19 protocols were in place.

“I was here in Guelph with the team,” he said. “I had school here and was training with the guys. It was a hard time, we didn't have football.”

Bagayogo is one of 10 players from Quebec on the Gryphons roster and that certainly helps when they start longing for home.

“It was hard sometimes, but at the end of the day the guys are there for you,” Bagayogo said. “We eat together and we all stay together and the coach helped us, too, to bring us together. It's a second family.”

That togetherness and a lack of a 2020 football season helped get the team fired up for the start of this season, one that started with a victory over the then top-ranked Western Mustangs.

“We were so hot, right? We were waiting for it,” he said.

Saturday’s 48-point output was one point shy of the Gryphons’ total point total for their previous three games, a win and two losses.

The win also left the Gryphons tied for second in the tough OUA West, tied with the Laurier Golden Hawks at 3-2. However, only one of the four playoff berths in the division has been spoken for as Western is assured of advancing to the postseason.

The Gryphons are to complete their regular season next Saturday in Hamilton against the McMaster Marauders (2-3). If the Gryphs win, they’re in the playoffs. If they lose, they can still qualify for the playoffs depending on the results of the games involving the other West Division teams.

The locals will go into that game against the Marauders feeling good about themselves after the win over Toronto.

“This proves what we can do and if we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to the Vanier,” Bagayogo said. “This represents what we're capable of.”