While those who attended the Gryphons’ opening game, their home opener against the McMaster Marauders, will likely remember the kickoff return for a touchdown by Clark Barnes on the opening kickoff, they might not remember that another kick was returned to the McMaster endzone.
Kiondre Smith returned a missed field goal about 115 yards, but it was all for naught as it was called back due to a penalty flag thrown in the Guelph endzone.
“It was disappointing just because we thought we did a very good job blocking on it, but I don’t fault anyone for it,” Smith said. “We’re going to have more opportunities and we’ll do it next time.”
A second-year receiver and punt returner for the Gryphons, Smith and his teammates will be looking to do better in their second home game of the season after they dropped that season opener to McMaster.
“We definitely do because there was a lot of hype coming into the first game and we just have to refocus and start new,” Smith said.
The Gryphons are to face the unranked York Lions at Alumni Stadium Saturday. McMaster wound up being ranked sixth after the win over the Gryphons while the Carleton Ravens were ranked eighth until beaten by the Gryphons in Ottawa last weekend. That pushed the Gryphons into the top 10, taking Carleton’s spot at No. 8.
“We pay no attention to rankings,” Smith said before the Carleton game.
Now that he’s in his second season with the Gryphons, Smith is feeling a lot more at ease with playing Canadian university football. Last year he had the typical first-year case of the nerves.
“Mentally, it’s a lot more comfortable than it was,” he said. “First year was like, OK, you’re getting used to a new speed and a new style of game. Now that I’ve been in the system for a year and I’ve played, the game comes to me in slow motion like it used to.”
However, there are always mental challenges and all the Gryphon returnees had to learn a new playbook this season with Ryan Sheahan taking over as head coach.
“There was a whole new playbook and there were a lot of challenges, but we all got together and studied extra hours in the pavilion upstairs,” Smith said. “With a lot of studying, it got a lot easier.”
Of course, some playbooks are easier to learn than others.
“Depending on the system – with coach Sheahan’s system, it’s a lot tougher than our last playbook because it’s more complicated and it’s more indepth,” Smith said. “If you take the time and you learn the meaning behind everything, it gets a lot easier. It’s not that hard once you understand it.”
The biggest challenge might be to completely erase the previous playbook from your mind.
“Some of the words and technology are the same words, but they mean different things this time. That’s a little bit confusing,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to put it out of your mind and that’s kind of tough.”
Last season Smith had 16 kickoff returns for 403 yards and 38 punts returns for 401 yards and one of them went for a touchdown. That gave him a team-best average of 100.5 all-purpose yards per game.
Those numbers also resulted in Smith being named the OUA’s second-team all-star returner and he was also named to the all-rookie team as a receiver and that has led to Smith setting lofty goals for himself this season.
“A good season for me would be to have about three-plus returns for touchdowns and 10 receiving touchdowns,” he said. “That would be a good season for me. I don’t really want anything less than that. I want to end the season as an OUA all-star again and I want to continue to do that every year that I’m here.”