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Weekly Predictions

Week 4

Niagara Spears vs. Guelph Jr. Gryphons

The 0-2 Gryphons are at home for the first time this season hosting, what I would assume will be, a very upset Spears team coming off a loss to the Ravens in Windsor. Niagara QB Ethan Reid had a frustrating day against the Essex defense only completing 33% of his passes and not looking like he did in week 1. The Niagara run game didn't help Reid any as their leading rusher Jeremiah Nyambiya only rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries and Reid himself scampered for 21 yards on 3 rushes. If Niagara hopes to be a part of the top tier of teams in the West they will need to have a more successful run game. Niagara's defense held them in the game for as long as they could, and if it weren't for two interceptions by the Spears defense, the game may have been worse than it was. The 44-22 score in favour of Essex doesn't necessarily tell the full tale of the game, a few mistakes here and there was the difference in 2 or 3 big plays that made the difference for the Ravens. Look for Reid and Nyambiya to bounce back big time and put points up on the board this week.

Guelph has had a tough time sustaining any sort of offense in the first two games and it has certainly put their defense in unfavourable situations. Not all the fault is on the offense - this is a very young team and all of these games are experience builders and are going to be very important for this team come next year. But we live in the present, and as of now the Gryphons are going to need to figure things out rather fast. Their QB Daniel Brown will need his OL to give him some time in the pocket and Brown needs to be able to hit open receivers when they are beating their man or finding zones. Brown is their leading rusher this year and if Guelph hopes to improve on the bad start they will need to find someone to take the reins or do it by committee. The Guelph OL has struggled in the first two weeks and they will need to improve in both pass protection and run blocking if these young Gryphons hope to get consistent offensive drives going. On defense the Gryphons are led by Luis Alfieri who is leading the entire league in defensive stats which might be the lone positive for the Gryphons thus far. The Gryphons defense has been the bright spot of the team but are constantly being given bad field position by their offense.

This team is an inexperienced and young group that, as previously mentioned, will only get better and learn from these games. That being said, I don't see a drastic change coming in one week. Niagara should look to assert their dominance early and try to get their power run game going and let the big boys up front push the pile. Niagara bounces back in a big way, could be a tough year for Guelph.


Week 4 Prediction: Spears 45 – Jr. Gryphons 7

Kingston Grens vs. Ottawa Sooners

Kingston showed great offensive ability last week staying in a shootout until the very last second with what seems to be a solid Durham Dolphins offense, the Grenadiers have a bit of a Quarterback by committee. I see 3 guys that took snaps for them behind center and all 3 look like they have decent ability and can get the job done when called on. I expect Kingston to lean on one guy starting very soon and ride with him as the starter - I think most people will agree with me it’s very difficult to not have a number 1 QB and win in any league. Kingston seems to have a number of weapons in the backfield and out wide, Nigel Legood leads the receiving crew with 15 catches but there are 6-7 different guys with receptions and meaningful yards for this Kingston team. Kingston will NEED to get a better push from their big boys up front moving forward if they want to beat the good teams in this league; their leading rusher Tegan Misuraca only having 9 carries for 29 yards on the season. The big boys up front will need to get more aggressive and start moving people and opening lanes because as we have quickly seen the 1 dimensional teams get centered out quickly and they haven't had much success. I expect Kingston to really try hard to get their run game going this week knowing that they have the ability to air it out with the best of them if need be. Kingston on defense has allowed too many yards both rushing and passing, and with yardage comes points and they've given up a lot of them. Kingston will need to slow down the Ottawa run game and force them to become one dimensional through the air. The Grenadiers defense in the first two weeks has been below average and travelling to play a good Sooners team won’t get any easier. I would be very surprised if Kingston didn't have a much better game of defense this week and come out aggressive and hungry for their first win.

The Sooners starting out 1-1 on the season so far have looked rather impressive for a team that seems to be flying under the radar a little bit. Quarterback Wesley Tshimanga has had a slow start to the season but not by any means a bad start. The Sooners offense hasn’t been beating the breaks off people but they get the job done when need be. Ottawa will need to open up more and rely less on their run game moving forward because they have the ability to be a dynamic offense if they open up a little bit and let Tshimanga air it out. The Sooners are filled with talent all over their offense with 5 different runningbacks having 5 or more carries this season for great averages; that also says a lot about the big boys on the Sooners offensive line that it doesn’t matter who carries the rock, you can expect positive yardage. At wide receiver the Sooners spread the ball around very well and haven’t necessarily found their #1 guy yet, but as the season progresses and the offense meshes together better you will see the Sooners passing attack evolve into a dangerous one. That being said, the Sooners want to run the football and if you allow them to do so it will be a long day for any football team. On defense the Sooners are being led by Markaedyn Nelson and Trey O'brien, who may just be the leaders of the best defense in the league. It may be early to say that, but in 2 weeks the Sooners have given up 22 points and less than 200 yards per game to their opponents. The Sooners defensive backs are long, athletic and rangy defenders who can cover man on man as well as zone coverage better than most I've seen so far this season. I expect the sooners aggressive and big front 7 to continue doing what they've been doing allowing less than 100 yards rushing per game in the first two contests. I think the Sooners are going to be a physical, mean, and in-your-face type of team this year that plays very sound defense and mistake free offense in order to give themselves a chance in any game. I expect this is the week that Tshimanga and company try to open up a little bit and prove they have the ability to throw the ball. Be sure not to sleep on runningback John Lubemba though, who is making his case for one of the best backs in the Junior Varsity division.

Look for Ottawa to take advantage of Kingston's inability to get stops and get off the field on defense I expect Lubemba to have another big day with one Sooners receiver breaking out of their shell and taking that #1 spot. Sooners win big and continue to improve.

Predicted outcome: Sooners 28 - Grens 7

Essex Ravens vs. London Jr. Mustangs

London has not had the best outings so far this season. They have started their season who two tough losses. They currently pass the eye test as a team but are struggling to keep drives going on offense. They seem to be very one dimensional and rely on their run game to get the job done and when that’s not successful, they are unable to pass their way out of it. London put themselves into a lot of 2nd and longs against Cambridge and could not get a run game going against the Lions front 7. London quarterback Brian Harkness has struggled in the first two weeks to consistently deliver the ball and find open receivers, his offensive line hasn't made his life any easier. Harkness has got to be able to make some plays if the Mustangs want to get back on track this season. Runningback Timo Scheele couldn't get anything going and was frustrated all day long. The Mustangs defense was decent against the run this past week but they allowed the Lions QB to escape the pocket too many times. London's defense will need to play better contain on the edges and will need to have their DBs play better coverage if they are going to play a lot of man. Look for London to try and get Scheele going early on some power runs and see if they can't help  Harkness out a little bit by giving him a run game. If the Mustangs don't turn things around and soon, they could find themselves being on the outside of the playoffs looking in - and its only week 3.

This is an absolute must win for London and the Ravens I'm sure would call it a must win for themselves as well. The Ravens bounced back against the Niagara Spears in a big way after a disappointing week 1 loss. Ravens wide receiver Justin Pope had himself a day against the Spears scoring FIVE touchdowns, he had an 80 yard punt return, 3 receiving touchdowns and even carried the ball twice, once for a touchdown. Jake Heydon and Boriz Wright did their thing against the Spears both putting on impressive performances showing the Ravens balance and versatility on offense. Heydon threw two interceptions again and I'm sure the Ravens coaching staff will be working with him to limit big mistakes and turnovers down the stretch. The Ravens obviously want to get #1 Pope involved but they don't just have 1 weapon. Out wide #2 Ethan Mackinnon can make plays whenever his number is called on as well. On defense Essex was smothering the Niagara run game from the start, if it wasn’t for turnovers by the Ravens offense putting them in bad field position the score may have been worse. It seems as if Zack Argent and the Ravens defensive front are going to be one to lookout for.

I look for Essex to show their dominance and prove that they're the better team early. Look for Boriz Wright to have a big day, Jake Heydon to do his thing, and the Ravens defense to slow down Scheele and stifle the Mustangs offense.

Predicted outcome: Ravens 42 - Stangs 14

Burlington Stampeders vs. Mississauga Warriors

The Stampeders, coming off a thrilling win over the Essex Ravens, continued to show their mental toughness and grit again by outlasting the Cumberland Panthers in an offensive battle 38-35. The Stamps on offense were able to effectively and efficiently mix things up between run and pass keeping the Cumberland defense guessing all day long; hence the 38 points. QB Keagan Hall had a solid day going 16/28 for 219 and 2 TDs; he’s showing he has the ability to spread the ball around to his many different weapons as well as make smart decisions by not turning the ball over. Burlington RB Josh Munoz had another consistent day wearing down the defense of Cumberland. He’s a big strong back and as the game progresses, he gets harder and harder to tackle. As the Stampeders are one of the two teams joining the OPFL from the OFC, they are a little more accustomed to the 3 down style of ball and it shows with how fluent their offense runs. Now not to be the downer on the Stamps parade but they will need to have better production out of their defense moving forward; in the first two weeks they have given up a lot of yards and 60 points. On the defensive side of the ball Burlington has had a tough time getting consistent stops in the run game and getting off the field on second down. If the Stamps want to continue what looks like a possible championship run out of the East, they will need to continue to improve on the defensive side of the ball and not rely on their offense to score 30 points a game. That being said, the Stamps appear to be a team to be reckoned with and have shown two weeks in a row that they are able to overcome adversity and win games that are right down to the wire.

The Warriors had a disappointing second game coming off their big win against the London Mustangs. Mississauga struggled on offense all day long against the Sooners and were unable to sustain any meaningful drives and really unable to threaten the Sooners defense at all. Warriors Quarterback James Duke finished the day 6/9 with 51 yards and no scores; if the Warriors want to compete with the top teams such as the Stamps they will need to get a better pass game going. Mississauga runningback Jayden Kerr has been fed the ball 26 times in 2 games and has been rather productive putting up 119 yards - considering there has been next to no pass threat from the Warriors. Look for Mississauga to try and open this week and let Duke air the ball down field a bit. The Stampeders have showed signs of weakness in their secondary at times over the past two weeks, and the Warriors will need to exploit that if they want to win this game. The Mississauga defense deserves a round of applause after their first two weeks of game action. In week 1 they got stop after stop and turnover after turnover to win them that game. This past week they held a pretty good Ottawa Sooners team to 3 scores but couldn't get any help from their offense. I expect the Warriors will be better on the offensive side of the ball this week not only because the Stamps defense isn't the strongest part of their team, but also because I think James Duke has the ability to throw the ball well if the coaches allow him to do so.

Look for this game to be closer than people expect early but I think the Warriors defense will get worn down by Munoz and the passing ability of Hall and eventually crack. The Stamps are the better team and should win rather handily.

Week 4 Prediction: Stamps 38 – Warriors 14

Hamtilon Jr. TiCats vs. Cambridge Lions

Hamilton matched up with an undersized and young Guelph team in week 2 (really week 3) and showed that they were the better team from the first drive. Hamilton seems to be the real deal this year having size along both O and D lines and athletes all over the field at every position. They're lead by QB Daniel Eldridge who seems to be incredibly efficient and comfortable in the pocket. He passed for 143 and 2 touchdowns against the Gryphons and he has a variety of weapons at wide receiver with Drake Bodi, Sebastian Masotti and Ryan Ogilvie. The Ticats have a committee at runningback and everyone that carries the ball can do the job as well as the last. They have 3 guys who get consistent carries and run the ball very hard, and two guys who have over 100 yards rushing each in 2 weeks. Hamilton also mixes up their runs very well running inside and outside so it's hard to key in on one strength of theirs. The Lions will be in for a tough week on defense trying to game plan for what players to key on as well as which facet of the ticats game they'll want to take away. Hamilton's defense is athletic across the board and super versatile, they are able to play a 3-4 defense and a 4-3 defense and do both well. They used their versatility and aggressiveness to stop the Gryphons completely in their tracks. The Ticats have athleticism and ball vision at the DB position and their DBs are not afraid to tackle and get their noses dirty by any means, look for the Ticats to key in on Cambridge's pass game this week on defense forcing the Lions to beat them with the run. On offense look for Eldridge to have a good game because I'm sure the Lions will be wanting to slow down the 4 headed monster that is the Ticats run game which will allow the plays to be made for Eldridge he just has to make them.

Cambridge went into London and surprised a lot of people by making a statement on the scoreboard from the get go. Lions QB Michael Warner again had a strong game throwing to #14 Seth Robertson and company. Warner spreads the ball around well and seems to throw the ball very accurately, wherever he chooses. The Lions got their run game going with #39 Connor Brousseau breaking off 2 or 3 big runs and #22 Ian Kuwibeara scoring 2 touchdowns on goal line runs. The Lions had big games at WR from Robertson and #10 Bradley Button and showed that they will be dangerous through the air this year even if #14 isn't having a big day. The Cambridge OL did a good job keeping Warner clean in the pocket and giving him time to find his receivers down field, they ran the ball at an effective rate but I think if this team wants to be a championship team they will need to prove they have the ability to run as well as they can throw. The Lions defense set the tone on Sunday afternoon getting 2 and out after 2 and out, frustrating the Mustangs offense all day long. The Lions front 7 seems to be very strong and also versatile lead by #52 Braeden Berry and # 54 Grant Gilmore, the Lions are always moving pieces and subbing on the defensive line in order to keep guys fresh at all times. The Lions made the Stangs run game irrelevant and forced London to beat them with the pass, which the Stangs could not do. I think this will be a great test for this Cambridge defense playing a team in Hamilton who is not one dimensional and will be able to spread teams out as well as run the ball very effectively.

I believe this will be the game of the week and could be a very important game come playoff time in terms of tie breakers and home field advantage. Look for the Lions to try and get a more consistent run game going to help Warner and the pass game. I think the Lions defensive front 7 and run stopping ability will be the difference in this game. Eldridge will need to play a safe but big game and the Hamilton defense will need to figure out Warner and this passing attack for them to win. Lions win a close game at home.

Predicted outcome: Lions 31 - TiCats 27

Cumberland Panthers vs. Durham Dolphins

The Panthers coming off a week 1 loss to Cambridge showed that they will be a team to look out for in coming weeks as they almost knocked off Burlington in a 38-35 thriller. Cumberland QB Ryan Licandro had a bounce back game completing 12/26 passes for 205 yards and 3tds, he showed the bye week benefitted their offense big time and they put the points up to prove it. Licandro also benefitted from having his favourite target #7 Kevin Victome back who had 2 catches for 89 yards and 2 scores; he will be hard to cover all year long. The Panthers also got their run game going against the Stampeders with #32 Marvin Simba having 10 carries for 106 yards and added a score. The Panthers need to get some help from their buddies on defense if they hope to be where they expected to pre-season. In two weeks their defense has given up 600+ yards and 66 points which won't cut it in a tough division and tough league. The Panthers defense will need to Shore up coming into game #3 against what seems to be a high octane Durham offense putting up 102 points in 2 games. Cumberland will look to play more aggressive up front and add to the bright spot of their defense which is stopping the run. But on the back end, Cumberland will need to make adjustments because both Burlington and Cambridge put up nearly 300 yards passing and other teams will notice that and look to exploit it. I expect Cumberland to come out this week and continue their improvement.

Durham has been somewhat of a surprise team out of the gate, they've put up 102 points in 2 games and continue to show why they'll be a team to be reckoned with. Their QB Jaden Richards is a duel threat QB who can beat you with his arm - proving that is the 8 touchdowns he's thrown in 2 weeks of game action. He also is extremely athletic and if Cumberland's DL doesn’t get up field and take away escape lanes it could be another big day for Richards. Durham runningback Jayden Smith has also showed he has the ability to do big things when the ball is in his hands he had 7 carries for 58 yards against the Grenadiers. The Dolphins have 2/3 very good receivers who contribute every game and that will make things very difficult for teams to game plan for one specific player. They have two receivers who have over 100 yards and another receiver who also gets targeted quite a bit. The Dolphins seem to have some New Orleans Saints in them where they don't play the soundest defense but when it comes time to make a play they make the important one to force a turnover or even just get off the field. I think the Durham defense will need to be better against what I think will be a better team this week against Cumberland, Durham will need to slow down Kevin Victome and Marvin Simba if the dolphins want to be victorious again this week.

This may be the most exciting game of the week - Cumberland coming off a very close high scoring game against Burlington will look to continue their scoring ways against the most potent offense through 2 weeks, but will need to shore up their defense if they want to win. I see this game going back and forth with the team who takes less penalties and maybe turns the other offense over one time will be winner. I think Cumberland will be a bigger, stronger more physical team than Durham in the trenches but I see Durham having the advantage in the skill positions as a whole. Kevin Victome may have something to say about that after his statement game this past week, but I'm going with the Durham Dolphins to win in a very close high scoring game!

Week 4 Prediction: Dolphins 42 – Panthers 35