The Guelph Gryphons entered their season and home opener Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium without a quarterback who had taken a single snap in Ontario university football.
Now they have two and both Tristan Aboud and Marshall McCray played roles in a 33- 10 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues to equal their win total from the 2022 season.
“For two freshmen quarterbacks to go out there and handle things the way they did, I think the future is bright here,” Gryphon head coach Ryan Sheahan said. “I thought they played super well. For a freshman to go out there and handle the moments, deliver like they did, it speaks to their character and it speaks to their ability and their hard work. I'm really, really proud of both of them.”
Aboud and McCray were said to have differing strengths and the Gryphons used their strengths in their play calling. Aboud was thought to have the better arm and McCray was said to have the better legs. Both shone in their fortes, but both also stood out in the part of the game at which they weren’t supposed to be that strong.
“They've both got arms and Tristan proved today he's got the legs, too,” Sheahan said. “We're blessed here. We've got two great guys for the future. Everybody respects their leadership, their effort and their approach. They're keeping each other in check and they’re competing every week.”
Aboud, from Montreal, played elite prep ball near Boston last fall while McCray played high school football at Welland’s Notre Dame College.
“I was a little nervous, but I get nervous before every game, to be honest,” Aboud said. "I'm used to it.”
“I feel great,” McCray said. “Things went well and it always feels good to get a win.”
Aboud took the majority of the snaps, but McCray came in on short-yardage plays.
Aboud completed 19 of 26 pass attempts for 200 yards and a touchdown and he was also intercepted once. He also had four carries for 59 yards.
“That was great. My first game out there, first win and everyone out there, it went really well,” he said. “We still have stuff to work on, for sure, but it was a really good game overall.”
McCray completed one of two pass attempts for a single, but it was a touchdown. He also ran the ball four times, gained 57 yards and scored a touchdown.
“It felt good. You get in there and everybody's cheering,” he said of his score. “But there's plenty more to come so I don't want to get too excited just yet.”
Both Aboud and McCray reported to Guelph long before training camp as both spent the summer here. That helped both get used to their new teammates and gave them the chance to learn the Gryphon playbook.
“I'm a pretty studious guy,” Aboud said. “I was lucky enough I got ahead of the game. I was studying, studying, studying, so it was pretty good.”
“Training camp went well,” McCray said. “I moved down early to try to get a head start on the playbook and everything. I learned all the new things and I thought it went great.”
And the pair helped each other learn all the plays that were all new to each other.
“He was next door,” McCray said. “We helped each other out and we were always able to answer each other's questions so that was good.”
The touchdowns for the Gryphons were scored by Willem Arseneau on a five-yard pass from Aboud, McCray on a one-yard run, Evan Spangenberg on a one-yard pass from McCray and Anthony Moretuzzo on a 47-yard interception return.
Centennial CVI graduate Ben Lane kicked a 13-yard field goal and four converts and the Gryphons also had a safety.
Toronto had the opening and closing scores of the game. Sam Henke booted a 25-yard field goal five minutes into the game and Jared Currie caught a 10-yard touchdown toss from Scott Barnett with four seconds to play. Henke converted that touchdown.
The Varsity Blues led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter before two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the first half gave the Gryphons a 14-3 lead at halftime. They extended that lead with the field goal and safety in the third quarter.
The Gryphons had 414 yards of total offence and an average of 6.9 yards per play. They also took eight penalties for a loss of 88 yards.
Toronto had 190 yards of total offence and an average of 3.6 yards per play and they were whistled for six penalties and a loss of 58 yards.
The Gryphons also sacked Toronto quarterbacks five times and had two interceptions.
The Varsity Blues recorded two sacks and hauled down one interception.
Next game for the Gryphons is next Sunday when they’re to play the Windsor Lancers at Windsor’s Alumni Field starting at 7 p.m.