Although he played it down a bit, Gryphon quarterbacks coach Stevenson Bone had to be looking forward to the home match with the Western Mustangs.
Bone played five seasons at quarterback for Western, starting in 2013. During his time with the Mustangs, he completed 120 passes for 1,679 yards and 11 touchdowns and was intercepted four times.
“I’ll always be an alumnus, so that’s cool, but it’s much like the other members of our coaching staff which is pretty unique,” he said. “It’s built of Queen’s grads. It’s built of Waterloo grads. There are numerous teams all over the OUA that they’re all from and I’m just like they are in terms of coming to Guelph. Guelph has opened their arms to me and I’m a Gryphon now.
“I’m cheering for this team and I’m heavily invested in this team and these quarterbacks and I want us to succeed. I will always have fond memories of the time I was there. A lot of the coaches that were there when I was there have moved on. There’s actually just head coach (Greg Marshall) who’s the only one that’s left. I’ll always respect Guelph because I was always on the other side of these games when we played the Gryphons. It’s a great rivalry. The players on both sides really respect it and they both circle it on their calendars now.”
While the Gryphons and Western usually have tough matches, the players have tremendous respect for one another and often leave the field revelling in the enjoyment of the battles. That was true with Bone and the Gryphons he played against.
“John Rush is a good friend of mine,” Bone said. “Curtis Newton, I know him – Cam Walker, Tristan Doughlin. We had numerous battles where we played against one another and it’s unique being on this side of it. But I really enjoy our coaches and I really enjoy our players. I think they worked really hard and I’m really excited for this weekend. There’s always a great opportunity as a player to make a statement against a team that’s ranked No. 1 in the nation now – especially when they come into your house. We’re definitely excited for that challenge and hopefully we rise to it.”
Reportedly the first Mustangs to become a member of the Gryphon coaching staff, Bone admitted that the Gryphon on the shirts he wears around the team certainly looked a little strange at first.
“It took time to get used to it, but that’s anyone,” he said. “It was coach Sheahan when he went to the University of Calgary from Queen’s, (offensive coordinator) Mark Suryea when he went to Laurier, when he went to Toronto and when he went from Queen’s as well. There’s always that transition period. I’m a Gryphon now and I fully embrace this team. I’ll always have fond memories and relationships with the guys I played with, but those days are done and we’re kind of on to the future.”
That future is likely to include more coaching in the Guelph Minor Football Association just as he did with the GMFA’s Junior Gryphons in the Ontario Provincial Football League’s varsity division in the summer.
“Thankfully Daniel Ferraro -- the longtime Gryphon kicker who actually hit a game-winner against Western in 2014 in the regular season, a shootout game here at Guelph -- is the head coach of that team and he actually, when I came on staff, he asked me if I’d be able to help them out a little bit.
“It ended up being a great season in terms of getting to know the kids. We had some struggles on the field, but it was the first year back in the OPFL. We were really excited that we were able to field a team and not have to fold this year.”
The Junior Gryphons dropped out of that league in 2018 and lost some local players to other teams in the area and most stayed there this summer. That left a fresh-faced bunch of players with several getting their first taste of rep football.
“It was a fantastic group of kids and a fantastic group of parents,” Bone said. “The support was great here in Guelph and we’re excited to see where we can kind of build that into next year.”
The Junior Gryphons finished with a single victory that came on a forfeit, but the main goal for the team was to complete the entire season and set a base for years to come.
“Learn, grow and have a fun football experience -- that’s kind of what that program is about,” Bone said. “It’s interesting that we’re going to run some of the similar plays that university-level teams get to run. It’s an excellent opportunity for any kids in high school to get high-level coaching and kind of be taught some of the proper techniques. That’s the real nice thing about the summer is that you can kind of break it down to the fundamentals of football and teach the kids the skills they’ll need to get to the next level. It’s really a good relationship between those coaches and those players.”
Other members of the Junior Gryphons’ coaching staff included Keegan Arnott, Kade Belyk, Mikey Carney, Aidan England, Brandon Ferigo, Kyle Fraser, Andrew Graham, Anthony Hall, Afram Jolak, Jeremy Kapelanski, Liam Lapointe, Nicholas Mirijello, Brendan Murphy, Matt Reuter, Harry Robinson, Tavius Robinson, Darius Samuels, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Charlie Taggart and Elijah Walker.
“They get experience too to get into that next chapter of their lives if they want to be coaches.”
Stevenson’s time in Guelph has been so enjoyable for him that he almost wishes things had been different during his playing days.
“Guelph is a great place, something I didn’t really know about when I was a player,” he said. “I wish that maybe I would have been recruited here back in the day. I really like the whole city, I like the whole community and I like the Gryphon team.”