It took Jacob Scarfone about 10 seconds to boil down to the essence of what teams feel when they play the Guelph Gryphons.
“I don’t think anyone wants to play us right now, especially not Western,” said the fifth-year Gryphons receiver.
The Western Mustangs take on the Gryphons Saturday at TD Stadium in an Ontario university football semifinal.
Scarfone is spot on when he says no one would want to play the Gryphons. Even though the Mustangs are ranked No. 2 in the nation and the Gryphons finished fifth in the OUA they could be one of the best fifth-place teams in the history of the OUA.
The Gryphons have won four games in succession. They travelled to Ottawa and defeated the Gee Gees easily in a quarterfinal game. They finished the season at 5-3 but two of those losses came in their first three games of the season.
One of those losses was a 41-34 overtime game against the Mustangs, a game the Gryphons led until late. It was also a game that was delayed by 2½ hours at the start by thunder and lightning. It finished at 12:30 a.m.
Scarfone is a Londoner, so coming home is always special.
“It’s exciting to play in London,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting (Saturday), especially after the game we had with Western this year, the way to overtime went down. We definitely want another opportunity to show what we can do. The way the game went, we didn’t feel they won it, we just feel that we . . . you know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Scarfone said. “Our confidence level is really good right now. We’re coming together as a team at the right time.”
The Mustangs and Gryphons are similar. They are balanced teams that can throw and run. Their special teams include two strong kickers who chased each for the OUA scoring title. The Mustangs’ Marc Liegghio finished with 129 points while Gryphons Gabriel Ferraro had 122.
Ferraro had five field goals in their quarterfinal win over the Gee Gees.
Scarfone has managed to survive some difficult times in his career. It’s also taken some interesting turns.
He graduated from Thomas Aquinas in London where he played with Mustang Jesse McNair and Gryphon Derek Droulliard. Scarfone went to Guelph as a kicker but started working out with the receivers. Going into his second year, he decided receiving was what he liked doing.
Scarfone started only in his third year. He tore an ACL and his meniscus in his draft year and sat out Year 4. It took almost a year to recover.
But he was drafted in the 2017 CFL draft going in the sixth round, 47th overall, to the Hamilton Ticats. He remained on their practice roster for six weeks before he was given the choice to remain with the Ticats or go back to the Gryphons.
“I could have stayed on the team,” Scarfone said. “At the time I was thinking about it. They said it was, up to me if I wanted to come back. Just the whole situation — my knee, the lack of experience I actually have, I only started in my third year — at the end of the day I thought it was the right choice to come back to get more experience at this level, play a little more on special teams. I get to return kicks this year, which I’ve never done before and wouldn’t have done if I stayed there. It’s not your typical football career.”
Despite going through a tough couple of years, he’s still an important cog in the Gryphons’ system. He’s caught 42 balls, averaging 17 yards per catch this year with seven touchdowns.
“It was kind of like I was coming back from two years away,” Scarfone said. “The camp was really tough. It was a great experience, but where I learned the most was the six weeks I was on the team on the practice roster with the team. There’s a lot less guys, you get a lot more coaching, you get a lot of help from the other players. Then you are actually on the team, with the exception of playing the game. In terms of technique, going against bigger, faster, more experienced players who have played in the NFL, when I came back I found that everything slowed down a lot and I could use everything I could at this level.”
The Mustangs are undefeated this year and face pressure to win. Scarfone and several other Gryphons are coming home to play. The teams are well matched, and victory puts the winning team into the Yates Cup game. That’s quite a combination. Can a little revenge be tossed in the mix?
“I don’t know what it is with Western, but it seems everyone wants a little revenge when they play them,” Scarfone laughed. “They are always winning. Any time you have a chance to beat a team that is always winning, there’s always a little more excitement.”