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Rookie's miracle play puts Gryphons in semifinals (10 photos)

A blocked punt in the waning moments of the game puts the name Siriman Harrison Bagayogo into Gryphon folklore

Siriman Harrison Bagayogo was one of the prized recruits that was introduced at the Guelph Gryphons varsity football team’s Freshmen Day at the Cutten Fields golf club back in May.

Saturday, the rookie defensive back became part of Gryphon lore as he blocked a punt and then recovered the ball in the end zone with less than a minute to play for the winning touchdown in Guelph’s 22-17 victory over the Carleton Ravens in OUA football quarter-final playoff action at Alumni Stadium.

“Coach called a punt block and we just went through,” he said. “I just ran and ran and ran and then I saw the ball and blocked it and jumped on it.”

Bagayogo had a couple other near blocks of Carleton kicker Vincent Plouffe’s punts before he finally got a hand on one from Carleton’s 22-yard line. After the ball bounced back toward the Carleton end zone, Bagayogo ran after it, tried to pick up the ball, but ended up booting it into the end zone where he then smothered the ball for the score.

“I tried to pick up the ball, but then I thought ‘You know what? I want a TD so I kicked it and I ran after it,” he said. “At first I tried to pick it up, but when I didn’t I just kicked it. That’s it.”

Bagayogo and his teammates celebrated the touchdown and then a minute later celebrated the win.

“Never back down and fight until the end,” he said. “That’s what I did and that’s what the team did.”

The earlier near blocks in the game gave Bagayogo the belief he would be able to block one sometime in the game.

“I think in that game I was close to blocking three or four field goals and punts,” he said. “This is what was supposed to happen.

“First I used to block (the Raven defender lined up across from me.) This time I was just going to use my speed and my hands, too. So I went and I went through.”

Surprisingly, Saturday’s touchdown was the first he’s ever scored at any level. Never ran a fumble recovery back for a score or had an interception return for a major.

“Since I started playing football, I never had anything big, I never had a major play,” he said. “This is my first one. I worked for this type of play and I made it. For me, this is the first one.”

A Montreal native, Bagayogo came to the Gryphons after playing in Quebec’s CEGEP college program.

“As a first year, I’m pretty lucky to have a starting spot,” Bagayogo said. “I’m still learning stuff. This is a fast league … but if I keep working my (rear) off, I’ll be out of the shadow soon.”

“He’s a tenacious competitor and he comes from a very successful CEGEP program,” Gryphon coach Ryan Sheahan said. “We knew we were getting a step-in guy, but the fact that he earned the boundary spot in short order was very impressive. He’s been very valuable and very reliable all year and today was just an example that if you put him out there, he’ll make things happen.”

Bagayogo’s touchdown came 61 seconds after Carleton had shot ahead with a touchdown of their own.

Quarterback Theo Landers scored Guelph’s only other touchdown of the game and rookie kicker Eric Stranz booted two field goals, a convert and a rouge. The Gryphs also had a team safety.

The Gryphs advance to the semifinals to play the McMaster Marauders in Hamilton next Saturday.