Monday, August 28, 2017
OUT OF THE TUNNEL
WE'RE REALLY ROLLIN'
The only thing better than a win at Mosaic Stadium is a win over the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders did that - 54-31 on Friday - and answered so many questions in the process. The first being, “Can they win a divisional road game?”
For the first time since 2014, it was an emphatic yes, smashing the Eskimos in front of 41,378 fans (many of them rooting for the Green and White) using all three phases of the game in their victory.
A commonly used cliché in football is “defence travels” and this is what the Riders used in their victory. It was stunningly familiar fashion at home in Week 8 to defeat the B.C. Lions 41-8, beginning up front.
The front seven made Eskimo quarterback Mike Reilly’s life miserable. They made the first big play early in the first quarter on 3rd and short, forcing a Reilly fumble that was recovered by Ese Mrabure. The offence converted on the ensuing drive capped by a Glenn to Roosevelt touchdown (an incredible onehanded grab by Roosevelt).
They continued with the constant pressure as Reilly was only able to pick up 160 yards through the air and had two big interceptions that were returned for touchdowns thanks to Kacey Rogers and Jovon Johnson.
Offensively, that was what you want in a road game: no costly turnovers, chew up the clock and convert on opportunities.
And you can’t forget the punt block/recovery and touchdown by Willie Jefferson in the first quarter that gave the Riders momentum that they would never relinquish.
So…this brings us to Sunday’s Labour Day Classic. When was the last time that this game mattered? (Ok yes, no matter the records, the Labour Day Classic has ALWAYS mattered.)
It’s been so long since both teams have been at - or above - the .500 mark and jockeying for playoff position as the Classic rolls around.
You must go back to 2007 when Winnipeg entered Mosaic Stadium at 4-2-1 to face a 6-2 Riders team. It was a Classic for the ages. Kerry Joseph passed for 348 yards and two scores, but had one of the most memorable plays in Labour Day Classic lore.
In case you weren't there or maybe forgot (though I wonder how you could forget), the Riders were in field goal position at the Winnipeg 27-yard-line in the final minute, when Joseph went up the middle on a designed quarterback draw, and was pretty much untouched as he scampered into the end zone to cap a 31-26 Rider victory.
This year, at 7-2, Winnipeg is in a three-way battle for first in the West Division with Edmonton and Calgary. Now the Riders at 4-4 are the hottest team in the CFL.
It’s shaping up to be a memorable Labour Day Classic, so let the partying begin!
A LOOK BACK AT WEEK 10
2017 may be one of the most competitive seasons in many years. Ottawa finally woke up from their Grey Cup hangover to knock off the B.C. Lions, Montreal pushed Winnipeg to the limit, Saskatchewan is clawing their way back into competition after an impressive win in Edmonton and Calgary continues to roll.
But what made this week in the CFL truly (and wonderfully) Canadian was a pair of plays:
- After the Montreal Alouettes tied up Thursday's home game against Winnipeg on a Boris Bede field goal, he kicked off to the Bombers Timothy Flanders who then lateralled it to Ryan Lankford. From there, it became very Canadian. Lankford punted the ball (a pretty solid kick) that was picked up by Bede at the Alouette 50. They only needed a single to win it, and he hammered a punt down to the Winnipeg five. Lankford again recovered it and sent a kick the other way where it was received by Daryl Townsend. He was finally tackled to end regulation.
- The Edmonton Eskimos regained a little momentum with a one-yard Mike Reilly touchdown plunge to cut the Rider lead to 14-6 on Friday night. Hugh O’Neill missed the ensuing convert which was caught by Duron Carter three yards inside the Rider end zone. It was all Carter after that as he demoralized Edmonton with an incredible 113-yard return and a 16-6 lead.
CAN WEST FOOTBALL KICKS OFF THIS WEEKEND
The Can West football season is upon us and it all kicks off this weekend with a trio of games on September 1st (all games are a 7pm local time kickoff):
UBC at Regina
Saskatchewan at Manitoba
Calgary at Alberta
Here is a quick view at the six teams who will battle for the Hardy Trophy:
Offensive player to watch – QB Michael O’Connor
Defensive player to watch – S Stavros Katsantonis
The UBC Thunderbirds lost their final regular season game in 2016 and backed into the playoffs when the Manitoba Bisons also lost on the same day. Blake Nill and the T-Birds took advantage of it and rolled all the way to the Hardy Cup but lost to the Calgary Dinos in the Can West final. They will ride the offensive connection of quarterback Michael O’Connor to wide receiver Marcus Davis on offence. Defensively they will have a solid backfield led by all-Canadian safety Stavros Katsantonis. Also look out for two-way player Trivel Pinto who may be their best athlete. The 2016 Can West all-star corner also had 273 yards receiving and is their top kick returner.
Alberta Golden Bears
Offensive player to watch – RB Ed Ilnicki
Defensive player to watch – DB Tak Landry
Head coach Chris Morris looks to lead the Golden Bears to end a long playoff drought (last appearance was 2010) and it begins with quarterback battle. Brad Baker returns from missing all of 2016 with a knee injury and looks to return to the starting spot. Ben Kopczynski filled in last season and played well. It will be up to the Golden Bear defence to step up and improve after giving up over 47 points per game.
Offensive player to watch – RB Tyler Chow
Defensive player to watch – DT Matt Kozun
After 33 seasons under the watchful eye of future hall of fame head coach Brian Towriss, the Huskies will be led by a very familiar face in Scott Flory. Flory originally joined the Huskie staff in 2014 and will have a solid grasp on what weapons he has at his disposal. Offensively, quarterback Kyle Siemens returns and will have a pair of great receivers to pass to in Mitch Hillis and Julan Lynch as well as running back Tyler Chow.
Offensive player to watch – RB Jamel Lyles
Defensive player to watch – DB Jayden McCoy
Graduation made a big dent in the Manitoba Bisons losing a pair of All-Canadians: lineman Geoff Gray (Green Bay Packers) and linebacker D.J. Lalama (Montreal Alouettes) but head coach Brian Dobie received a huge off-season gift. Running back Jamel Lyles returns to the fold after spending a season with the BCFC’s Westshore Rebels. Lyles was the 2015 Can West rookie of the year at Manitoba before heading back to B.C. for a record setting year.
Offensive player to watch – QB Adam Sinagra
Defensive player to watch – LB Boston Rowe
The Dinos made it back to the Vanier Cup for the 10th time in team history but were unable to outlast Laval, losing 31-26. Head coach Wayne Harris will lose a lot on offence to graduation, but it should be in good hands with third year pivot Adam Sinagra. The other side of the football will be daunting for Can West opponents. They return Can West all-stars Boston Rowe (LB), Jack McEwen (DT) and Adam Laurensse (DB) as well as their second leading tackler from a year ago, Michah Teitz.
Offensive player to watch – QB Noah Picton
Defensive player to watch – LB Danny Nesbitt
When you return the defending Hec Creighton award winner at quarterback, you are already a step ahead of the game. Second year head coach Steve Bryce has that luxury with Noah Picton. In 2016, he put up video game numbers en route to being named Canada’s top university football player and he will have many of his weapons returning to the fold. Defensively, a pair of all-conference players return with leading tackler Danny Nesbitt and defensive back Jeff Propp.
The Regina Thunder made the long trip to Hamilton on the weekend to face the Hurricanes in CJFL interleague play. Hamilton took an early 7-0 lead, but it was all Thunder after that, to the tune of 61 straight points for an easy road 61-7 victory.
Thunder QB Sawyer Buettner threw for 498 yards and six touchdowns. Both are #2 all-time in PFC history.
In the other interleague game, the Saskatoon Hilltops welcomed the Ottawa Sooners in their home opener at SMF Field. Logan Fischer ran for 137 yards and four touchdowns in the 49-21 Hilltop victory.
In other PFC action, Winnipeg went on the road and knocked off the Edmonton Wildcats 25-17 and the Edmonton Huskies picked up the 55-27 victory over the Calgary Colts.
Week 4 in the PFC:
Calgary Colts at Winnipeg Rifles
Edmonton Wildcats at Edmonton Huskies
A CANADIAN TO WATCH IN THE NCAA
David Knevel – RT
University of Nebraska
Hometown – Brantford, Ont.
Class – Rs-Sr.
Knevel was pegged to start as the Cornhuskers right tackle to begin the 2016 season. He started in eight games before missing three games late in the season with an ankle injury. He will be part of a veteran offensive line that will help Nebraska fight Iowa and Wisconsin for top spot in the Big Ten’s West Division. Knevel was the first Canadian recruit since Patrick Kobongo in 1999.
WHAT TO DO BETWEEN GAMES THIS WEEK:
With the USports football season set to begin this weekend, the PFC in full swing and high schools starting two-a-days this week a great place to keep up to date on everything Canadian Football is Canadian Football Chat (canadianfootballchat.com).
CFC.com will give you everything from the top high school teams in the country, USports football news, NCAA prospects and so much more.
A couple of warnings before heading there, much of their premium information is by subscription and there is no coverage of the CJFL. Other than that it’s a fantastic resource for many up-and-coming university and CFL stars.