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Friday, November 9, 2018

PLAYOFF NOTEBOOK

MAAS TO RETURN IN 2019

EDMONTON - Jason Maas will return for a fourth season as Edmonton Eskimos head coach.

The team made the announcement Thursday.

Maas's return was in question after the Eskimos finished the season at 9-9 and missed the playoffs. The disappointing season was compounded by the fact that Edmonton is hosting the Grey Cup this year.


The Eskimos also announced that offensive quality controller Kelly Bates; special teams co-ordinator Dave Jackson; wide receivers coach DJ McCarthy and defensive quality controller Rob Payne will not return in 2019.
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LIONS WELCOME ELIMIMIAN BACK FOR EASTERN SEMIFINAL

SURREY, B.C. - All-star linebacker Solomon Elimimian has spent much of the CFL season watching his teammates on the B.C. Lions' defensive line first struggle then surge.

After notching 26 defensive tackles in the team's first four games, Elimimian was sidelined by a wrist injury in B.C.'s win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 14.

Now the four-time all star is ready to get back on the field. He expects to be in the starting lineup on Sunday when the Lions (9-9) face off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10) in the East Division semi final.

B.C. struggled to start the season, going 3-6 in the first half before winning five-of-six in September and October.

A powerful defensive line was key to the turn in fortunes.

It took some time for the coaching staff to figure out what the defence are good at, said Lions head coach Wally Buono.

"When you look at the transformation since then, it's been good, it's been strong, it's been aggressive,'' he said.

"We've shut down some very good offences and most of the time it's been because we've been able to man cover them.''

B.C. and Hamilton split their regular-season series, but the Lions will have a number of fresh faces on the roster this weekend.

They include Lulay, who missed both previous meetings with Hamilton due to injury, and running back Tyrell Sutton, who was traded to the Lions from the Montreal Alouettes in late September.

Buono expects both teams to put forward intense, exciting performances.
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CFL TO OBSERVE REMEMBRANCE DAY

TORONTO - The CFL will pause Sunday's Eastern semifinal for a moment of silence to honour Canada's veterans.

The game in Hamilton between the Tiger-Cats and B.C. Lions is scheduled to take place on Remembrance Day, when a moment of silence is traditionally observed at 11 a.m.

The East semifinal is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. ET. The moment of silence will be held an our later, which will be 11 a.m. in Pacific time.

The CFL says it will also honour veterans during the pre-game coin toss ceremonies prior to the game in Hamilton and before the Western semifinal in Regina between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In addition, players will sport a poppy decal on their helmets.
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MASOLI, MITCHELL TOP CFL MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER NOMINEES

TORONTO - As the individual accolades pile up for Jeremiah Masoli, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback is quick to give credit to those who help make him look good.

Masoli was named the East Division nominee for the CFL's outstanding player award Thursday. It came a day after Masoli captured his first-ever division all-star nomination.

"I feel like this about any individual awards in football, it's obviously a huge team deal,'' Masoli said. "I can't do all these things without the line blocking for me, the receivers getting open and all that stuff.

"It's a true team game and I just give all the props to my coaches and teammates.''

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is the West Division nominee. Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and nine CFL head coaches with the winner being named Nov. 22 in Edmonton.

Masoli, 30, had 5,209 passing yards (second-most) and 28 TDs (third overall) in his first full season as Hamilton's starter. The five-foot-10, 220-pound San Francisco native registered a league-high 12 300-yard passing games in helping the Ticats (8-10) finish second in the East Division.

Masoli was also the league's second-leading rusher among quarterbacks with 473 yards. He anchored the CFL's top offence (405.6 yards per game) despite an ever-changing receiving corps as veterans Shamawd Chambers, Chris Williams, Jalen Saunders, Terrence Toliver and Brandon Banks all suffered season-ending injuries during the campaign.

Even if Hamilton doesn't reach the Grey Cup, Masoli will have company in Alberta. Ticats linebacker Larry Dean (defensive player) and guard Brandon Revenberg (top lineman) also received East nominations.

Mitchell, the '16 award winner, registered his second career 5,000-yard season (5,124) with a league-high 35 TD strikes. Like Masoli, Mitchell played through many injuries to Calgary's receiving corps in leading the Stampeders (13-5) atop the West Division.

"It's definitely a year I'm proud of everybody for what we've done ... but you hang your hat on championships and that's what we're striving for,'' Mitchell told reporters in Calgary. "MOP is an individual award that goes out to an entire team.

"It's an award for all of the O-linemen, everything they've done this year keeping me upright and they've had to work even harder with what's happened with the receivers and me having to hold on to the ball a little bit longer. All the work the receivers put in, the coaches, running backs everything everybody has done throughout the entire year. It's been an entire group effort and definitely very very honoured for it.''

The other finalists include: running back Andrew Harris of Winnipeg and Ottawa receiver Brad Sinopoli (top Canadian); tackle Stanley Bryant of Winnipeg (top lineman); kickers Ty Long of B.C. and Ottawa's Lewis Ward (special teams); Ward and Saskatchewan receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert (rookie); and Saskatchewan's Chris Jones and Ottawa's Rick Campbell (coach of the year).
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REED, SHERMAN TO RETURN IN MONTREAL

MONTREAL - The Montreal Alouettes are promising a playoff team in 2019 to their long-suffering fan base.

"You all deserve much better and we need to give you reasons to celebrate,'' said team president Patrick Boivin, acknowledging fan frustration after the Alouettes (5-13) wrapped up their season by missing the playoffs for the fourth year in a row last weekend.

"To find ourselves here today with five wins is unacceptable.''

Boivin was joined by Als head coach Mike Sherman and general manager Kavis Reed, who took turns answering questions about the disappointing campaign.

Boivin expressed confidence in the core of the team going into 2019 and felt there was tangible progress in the second half of the season.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win,'' Boivin said. "But we also found way too many ways to lose, therefore we have a ton of work to improve our execution and most of all our consistency.''

Boivin noted that he, Sherman and Reed had only been working together for one season and deserved a chance to see their plan through.

There was considerable change going into the 2018 season, including Sherman, a former NFL coach, and a new coaching staff.

Boivin also flatly denied reports the team was actively shopping for a replacement for the embattled Reed, who has run up an 8-28 record in two seasons since being appointed GM in December 2016. But the president added anything less than a playoff appearance wouldn't suffice in 2019.

"These guys both know exactly what they have to do and they know we need to have results,'' Boivin said.

Reed, who took responsibility for a team that fell short, acknowledged he'd heard the rumours about being replaced.

"I obviously heard about it but my biggest thing is when you start to focus on those things, you become unfocused on what you're supposed to do,'' Reed said. "At 5-13, there will always be noise ... as long as I'm here, I'm going to my job, period.''

Reed goes into the off-season with a lengthy to-do list that includes upgrading a receiving corps that lacks an explosive threat, more depth on the defensive line and more competition in the secondary.

(Canadian Press)

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