Season's Greetings everyone and wherever you're reading this week's column during the Holidays, we at Out of the Tunnel hope that you get to spend some time with family and friends, and we hope you got a little something special under the tree.
We received an early gift with the CFL schedule being released before the holidays for the second year in a row and this is one that the front office worked very hard to figure out.
There are only a pair of Sunday games and one of them is the Labour Day Classic on September 1st at Mosaic Stadium and the other is a random game the week before at BMO Field in Toronto between the Argos and Alouettes.
This is a fantastic move and one that was desperately needed. TSN has built a solid foundation on Friday nights and across the league Saturday games are the best draws.
Other than the two Sunday games, there are 12 Thursday night games (the first ten weeks and with double headers in week seven and eight) and three Monday games (July 1st home opener at Mosaic Stadium and the two Labour Day games in Calgary and Hamilton.)
Hopefully this a new tradition being built in the league where everyone knows that Fridays and Saturdays will be the home of CFL football and fans can arrange their schedules accordingly.
Now to the Saskatchewan Roughriders 2019 schedule. As families get together over the holidays, the first steps towards planning your summer begins.
Training camp would more than likely begin on the weekend of May 25th with the lone home preseason game coming Thursday, June 6th as the Riders welcome the Blue Bombers.
Here’s the first quirk of the schedule: if training camp is in Saskatoon again in 2019, other than the pre-season game, Rider fans will not see their team play until the home opener on July 1st. That’s because they start the season on the road with back-to-back Thursdays in Hamilton and Ottawa.
Then three straight home games in the teeth of the summer. With bye weeks in Weeks 5, 10 and 15. That is about as good as it gets when it comes to bye weeks. Nothing too early or too late.
The big trouble spot will be at the end of the season when the Riders end with three of four games on the road. All of them are against West Division rivals.
Just seeing a 2019 schedule begins the yearning for CFL football. Let’s all hope with the impending CBA negotiations on the horizon that football will arrive on schedule for 2019.
The Riders took a couple of great steps last week with the signing of a pair of key Canadians and a standout in the defensive backfield.
Next was inking homegrown favourite, Zack Evans. He signed a very rare long-term deal (four years) making a commitment to the Riders, the province and most importantly, his family. Evans will be a name kids will remember for a long time and his time in the Green and White will be looked back upon fondly in 10-20 years.
Finally, Louchiez Purifoy signed an extension with the Riders. He was a key contributor to the Rider defensive backfield when he arrived in the second half of the season.
Chris Jones and staff are being proactive by keeping their own. Evans and Purifoy are under 30-years-old and Lavoie just turned 31 in October, so all are still on the good side of their careers.
The tough part around having Lavoie meant the Riders found long-time fullback/tight end Spencer Moore expendable. He was sent to the Alouettes for a conditional draft pick. He was a team first guy and great in the community, so it is tough to see him go.
With Moore gone, that leaves just Brendon LaBatte, Dan Clark, Rob Bagg and Zack Evans remaining from the 2013 Grey Cup team. This is how fast football moves folks.
Taking a little bit of a left turn here. It was the early national signing day for the NCAA this past week. This is where high school seniors sign their letters of intent to their future colleges.
There are many current and former CFL’ers that were five-star recruits and were the most sought after high school players in the U.S.
Edmonton Eskimos receiver Vidal Hazelton was a five-star recruit in 2006 and the number three ranked overall player in the country. Other familiar five-star recruits from that year are C.J. Gable and Michah Johnson (who was the second ranked linebacker). Also, in the 2006 class were LeShaun McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Matt Stafford and Tim Tebow.
2007 saw another handful of recognizable names. Joe McKnight was the top ranked player in the country and had a great college career before heading towards a pro career. He is still dearly missed. Chris Rainey and Terrance Tolliver were also five-star recruits as well as former players Noel Devine, Torrey Davis and John Chiles.
This may be a whole lot to do about nothing, but if you come across stories about high school recruiting, take a peek, there may be some future CFL players on that list.
Jonathan Femi-Cole (RsJr.) - RB
Hometown – Vaughn, Ont.
High School – St. Andrews College
Femi-Cole has seen spot duty with the Golden Gophers over the past couple of seasons. In 2018 he saw duty in five games and has carried the ball five times for 23-yards and added a reception for 12-yards.
He may have a tough time cracking the lineup in 2019 as a trio of freshmen got the bulk of the carries in 2018.