Sunday, November 29, 2015

RedBlacks and Eskimos ready to bring curtain down on 2015 CFL season

The hoopla, awards and Grey Cup week commitments now behind them, Sunday brings the focus back to the field at the 103rd edition of the nation's November celebration of the Canadian game.

The Ottawa Redblacks the storyline of the season looking to write that final chapter in a story that was one of the more positive of themes for a CFL season that offered a few concerns for those that have a strong attachment to the three down game.

Issues of attendance for some cities has provided for the customary bit of reflection as to the state of the nine team league, a dip in television ratings as well noted by more than a few, though some terrible play by the teams most mentioned perhaps had something to do with the slippage in both areas.

An epidemic of Quarterback injuries left teams scrambling from week to week to revisit offensive plans to fit replacement pivots, a situation which gave those following at the need to research pretty well every week, sometimes looking up to their screens to proclaim ... who the heck is that?

One of the main stories was the fact that the residents of the nations largest market for the most part were left unaware to their own team this year, owing to any number of reasons that left the Toronto Argonauts to be CFL Bedouins, wandering from city to city seeking a few fans and a little respect.

They are issues that will be examined we imagine as part of the season review, but should  make for a task that can wait for 24 hours.

Today is Grey Cup Sunday, there is but one question to ask on this day, can the RedBlacks make a remarkable run through November last one more game, or will the Edmonton Eskimos a team with their own pretty impressive back story this year return a championship title to Northern Alberta.

You go back a few decades in the CFL history books and the concept of an Ottawa - Edmonton championship game would be an expected match up, the two cities fixtures in championship games that remain vivid for fans who can rattle off the participants on the field from memory, heart breaking moments still to be mourned, levels of excitement and success for others to be relived.

This final Sunday of November, will bring new additions to those reports, tales of exploits yet to be written at Grey Cup 103.

There are of course the sub plots, the return of Ottawa to the championship in only its second season of rebirth and the timeless nature of Henry Burris who has taken this squad and brought them along for a most fascinating ride. A coach in Rick Campbell with famous CFL bloodlines about to face the team that his father made a perennial champion. And the work ethic of the RedBlacks defensive unit, a group that brings back memories for the long starved fans of the days of the Capital Punishment units of the seventies and eighties. A time when a trip to Ottawa meant a win wasn't guaranteed and a toll would be claimed from the turf at Lansdowne Park, the personality of the team and their dedication to task quickly found favour with the fans, who having been burned by owners of the past have been quick to embrace the RedBlacks, a team that has brought a new attitude and work ethic to town.

The Eskimos offer their own stories for today's finale,  a team which has responded so well to head coach Chris Jones, the turnaround from the dark years of but two seasons ago replaced by a team that has resembled the machines of the glory years. The key feature a defensive unit that shows no weaknesses, holding the opposition in check. A team with depth in many positions, the most important at the Quarterback position, with starter Mike Reilly injured and out until late August, it fell to James Franklin to hold the fort, a process which delivered valuable playing time and key game time experience. When a healthy Reilly returned by Labour Day, the energy level for Edmonton built with each week,  his performance against the former Champs last week an indication that he and his offence are on mission, with only sixty minutes left to see that blue print through for the year.

When you reach the final game of the season you want the two best teams to be the one's standing, both Edmonton and Ottawa have earned their way into the Grey Cup the best way, through hard work and a commitment to their work.

No one will argue the point today that the representatives of the East and West don't deserve their place on the field when the anthem is played.

Whichever team claims Lord Grey's Cup at the sound of the final gun, one thing will be certain, both teams will have left all they had to offer on Winnipeg's near frozen field, neither has travelled this far into the 103rd season to take a day off now.

Some background on today's match up can be found below: Preview
CFL Writers Picks
Keys to the Game
Players to Watch


Loggers banned after Esks raise stink
CFL to Redblacks chainsaw team: You're cut
Winterpeg painted RedBlack on eve of Grey Cup
RedBlacks looking to 'set the world on fire' against Eskimos in 103rd Grey Cup
No Respect? Nothing new for Ottawa RedBlacks
Finally, a Grey Cup to get excited about
For some Ottawa football fans, it really has been a lifetime since last Grey Cup win
'Take advantage' of opportunity Redblacks tell themselves
Pressure's on" The story of the Grey Cup football
Ottawa Redblacks fans huddle up the jammed pregame party


Eskimos Mike Reilly could match Getty and Warren Moon Grey Cup success
Will the Grey Cup be much of a game?
Eskimos slipping under the radar amid RedBlacks fanfare
Edmonton Eskimos invade Winnipeg for the 103rd Grey Cup
Spirit of Edmonton Hospitality room 'always the best party at Grey Cup'
Eskimos QB Reilly creates relationships with receivers on and off the field
Eskimos back in Grey Cup after a decade away, want to contend for years to come
Eskimos part of Edmonton's history, not its future


Grey Cup could be life-chafing for Ottawa RedBlacks offensive coordinator Jason Maas
Edmonton Eskimos QB Mike Reilly looks to add second Grey Cup to resume which includes engineering degree
Redblacks' Henry Burris knows no guarantees head into Grey Cup weekend
Redblacks  coach Rick Campbell almost out of father's long shadow
CFL kickers Chris Milo and Sean Whyte's nomadic journeys to the Grey Cup
The Grey Cup is small, quaint and distinctly Canadian
Team commitment, co-operation a recipe for Ottawa RedBlacks success
Henry Burris' cuts from previous CFL teams has driven his MVP season
Redblacks' defensive coach Mark Nelson knows old-school football
Eskimo defence may get the headlines but RedBlacks shouldn't be overlooked

Saturday, November 28, 2015

And the winner is ...

Henry Burris was a double award
winner at Thursday night's
The CFL recognized excellence from 2015 on Thursday evening, handing out the SHAW CFL Awards at the annual ceremony this year held at the Club Regent Event Centre in Winnipeg.

The event, which signals the start of the real countdown to Grey Cup Sunday featured 11 different presentations and by the evening's end it became a familiar refrain to hear ... representing the Ottawa RedBlacks  is ....

The remarkable second season for the reborn entry for the nation's capital was recognized frequently at the awards podium on Thursday, as RedBlacks accepted five trophies on the night, with Quarterback Henry Burris making two trips to the stage.

Burris, the team leader and most amazing story for 2015 was honoured as the League's Most Outstanding Player, the second time in his career that the has been awarded that trophy, he also received the Tom Pate Memorial Award which is awarded to the player who displays qualities that distinguish him from his peers.

The RedBlacks also were honoured for the work of SirVincent Rogers who claimed the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award and Brad Sinopli, who provided the RedBlacks with big play after big play through the season, was recognized as the Most Outstanding Canadian.

Rounding out the RedBlack night was head coach Rick Campbell, and there surely is no more deserving candidate for the Coach of the Year award, with Campbell having led his team from expansion to Grey Cup finalists in but two seasons of play.

Thursday's awards show may provide a bit more motivation for the Edmonton Eskimos, the Esks only received one award on Thursday as receiver Derel Walker claimed the Outstanding Rookie award for 2015.

Other award winners on the night include the Tiger-Cats Brandon Banks, the explosive receiver and kick return specialist for the Cats received the Most Outstanding Special Teams player award, while the Commissioner's Award also honoured a player with ties to the Cats organization, with Berine Custis, one of the trail blazers in the fifties was honoured for his contribution to the game.

The Most Outstanding Defensive player of the year award went to Adam Bighill, a standout on the BC Lions roster this year during a year off challenge for the west coast team.

The Jake Gadaur Veteran's Award was presented to the Montreal Alouettes Offensive Tackle Jeff Perrett, who used his own story of struggles with alcoholism, to raise awareness across Canada on the impact that addiction can have on families and to stress that help is available.

And Bob Iriving, the longtime CFL broadcaster in Winnipeg and walking encyclopedia of Canadian football history, was recognized for his contribution to the game. Irving was awarded the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.

You can learn more about the CFL Awards here.

The re-broadcast of the Thursday presentation can be viewed below:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Finals

Grey Cup berths are on the line as familiar foes renew acquaintances in the CFL divisional finals on Sunday.

The Ottawa RedBlacks, a team that looked every much of an expansion team but 365 days ago, have shown that with the right plan, the right draft and a lot of belief impressive results can be found and surprises can become the narrative to CFL seasons.

Led by the CFL's elder statesman Henry Burris, the RedBlacks surged through the final two months of the season, taking advantage of the depleted line ups of their rivals, while putting together weekly game plans that not only found success, but built confidence as the season rolled on.

With some impressive victories over Hamilton in back to back games at the end of the season, Ottawa vaulted into first in the East and a chance to rest up during Semi Final Sunday, confident that whichever squad prevailed last week, they would be prepared in seven days time.

As fate would deliver, the Ti Cats are the ones that had to book the flight to Ottawa, one more chance for Hamilton to reverse the bad karma of November and take the step that many expected at the start of the season of a trip to Winnipeg for the Grey Cup.

Yet, it's the RedBlacks in the favourites role, having show no fear or intimidation of the Cats through the year, the Eastern Final offers Ottawa the opportunity to make 2015 the benchmark kind of year for teams looking to rebuild (in the case of Ottawa just building).

They kick it off at 1 PM and TD Place Stadium will be sold out, football truly back in the nation's capital, with hopes and wishes of one more game to come riding on each and every down.

In the West, it's yet another chapter in the Battle for Alberta, a series that slipped a few notches on the intensity level for a few years as the Eskimos retooled, but now is back full on, with the Esks the team to beat, built on an explosive offence and one of the toughest of defences in the league.

Calgary stumbled a few times through the 2015 campaign, injuries provide part of those tribulations, inconsistent play as well making a rare arrival in the foothills city.  Still, a Grey Cup champion is always a team to be wary of and the Eskimos know exactly what will be in store for them as Calgary takes to the field at Commonwealth.

The match up more than anything a showcase of coaches as Chris Jones who has turned the Esks around in remarkable fashion faces one of the foundation blocks of coaching these days in the Stamps John Hufnagel.

Hufnagels teams come prepared, and with two top echelon QB's calling the signals on Sunday, the result by game's end should be significantly different than when the two teams last met in a playoff matchup with a Grey Cup trip in the balance.

Both Eastern and Western Finals offer up no shortage of plot lines and many match ups to follow.

When you get to the Final Four of any sport, you want the teams that have been hungry all year and dedicated to their goal to be the ones teeing it up and kicking off, this year, there are no surprises really, Ottawa announced early on that they were making a charge, while the three others in this weekends games the most likely of entrants when the league rolled out the 2015 season.

Some great football would seem to be in store over the six or so hours of Canadian Football on Sunday, when the lights come down late Sunday evening, two deserving squads will be making plans for Grey Cup in Winnipeg, whichever of the four making that trek will be full value for the trip ahead.

Below, is our archive for the Eastern and Western Finals.

Sunday, November 22

Hamilton Tiger Cats at Ottawa RedBlacks
( 1 PM ET, 10 AM PT )  TSN

Game Preview

-- Burris two wins away from CFL history
-- RedBlacks predict dogfight with Tiger Cats
-- For Ticats, time to respond again
-- Ticats' Simoni says, let Justin make the call

Game Reviews: Game Recap Stats Review Highlights


Sunday, November 22

Calgary Stampeders at Edmonton Eskimos
( 2:30 MT, 1:30 PT, 4:30 ET) TSN

Game Preview

Game Reviews: Game Recap Stats Review Highlights

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Semi-Final Sunday, November 15, 2015

The road to Winnipeg at the end of the month begins Sunday as the Divisional semi-finals kick off the CFL's playoff season on two fronts

The Toronto Argonauts look to keep their strong season long performance on the road (as if they had a choice on that path) in place as they head to the Hammer and another instalment of one of the league's most hard hitting rivalries.

Toronto takes on the Tiger Cats in the early game of Semi-Final Sunday, a battle of teams that have struggled over the final few weeks, with both watching the Ottawa RedBlacks sprint by them in the October push towards the playoffs.

Both squads have had to deal with a number of key injuries at the starting QB position, the Argos finally getting Ricky Ray back into the lineup as the season was closing, how he adjusts to the sudden shift from idle to full throttle will probably tell the story as to whether the Argos move forward. Should Ray not find his rhythm, or the Cats begin to pull away, the key to the game could be if head coach Scott Milanovich sticks with his long time starter or turns to Trevor Harris, the more than able back up in  who carried the Argos for the bulk of the season.

The Cats will be tossing the ball to Jeremiah Masoli, with head coach Kent Austin only making that decision on Friday afternoon, giving one of the Cats depth players his first start of the year and only his second bit of game action.

The always snarling Ti Cat defence will also have a pivotal role in the semi final, ready to pounce on any opportunity to make the Argos pay the price for any incursion on the Cats side of the 55 yard line, looking to shut down the Toronto offence, aided by the what should be the usual cast of characters that make Tim Horton's Field one of the toughest stops on the CFL tour.

In the West, the Stamps and Lions will renew what has been a fairly interesting tango over the last few years, Calgary hols favourite status for the second half of the Semi-final Sunday doubleheader, a strong offensive squad that can put points on the board quickly and without mercy.

Defensively, the Stamps have found home field to be a helpful aspect of their game, leading the league in points allowed per game while defending the turf of McMahon Stadium.

The Lions have been an enigma for much of the season, occasional indications that they were finally hitting a groove, would suddenly give way to bouts of giving games away, mental mistakes and undisciplined play at times undermining much of what they had hoped to achieve through the season.

The Leos head into Sunday turning to rookie QB Jonathan Jennings and that's a start that's well deserved, for it was mostly through Jennings that British Columbia even remained in the playoff conversation this year.

He's had an accelerated curve through the season, whether he can take things to one more level given that short amount of time as the go to guy will provide us with an idea if the Lions ambitions beyond this weekend will come to pass.

If they are looking for omens, BC can take some incentive from another British Columbia based football team, on Saturday the UBC Thunderbirds went into McMahon Stadium and wrenched a playoff victory from the U of C Dinos, an impressive performance that left the top ranks Dinos somewhat shocked by games end.

One day later, the Lions will be hoping to deliver the same kind of feeling to Calgary's professional team as well.

Below, is our archive for Semi Final Sunday.

Sunday, November 15

Toronto Argonauts 22 at Hamilton Tiger Cats 25
( 24,029  )  

Game Preview

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shaw Top Performers for Week Twenty

The RedBlacks brought their regular season to a successful finish, taking down the Hamilton Tiger Cats to claim first place overall in the CFL East, earning a bye for Ottawa into the CFL East Division final and securing two of three spots on the weekly honours list in the process.

Not surprisingly, considering the year he has had, Henry Burris once again took the first place finish of the last week, this sixth time he has been placed among the list of three, twice as Top Performer, the most recent placement coming after he threw six career high touchdown passes, amassing a total of 358 yards going 28 for 37 on his overall passing game.

Greg Ellingson, also of the RedBlacks benefited from a few of those Burris tosses, collecting 152 yards, with three touchdowns against the Cats.

John Bowman brought some positive news to a generally crummy year for the Alouettes, earning  his first Top performer honours for the week, based on three sacks in the Als final game of the year against Saskatchewan.

No results from the fan voting for week number seven have been released as of yet.

The CFL's Shaw Top Performers for Week Twenty

1st -- Henry Burris -- QB  -- Ottawa RedBlacks -- 100 points

2nd -- Greg Ellingson  -- WR  -- Ottawa RedBlacks -- 50 Points

3rd --  John Bowman -- DE -- Montreal Alouettes  -- 25 points

Fan Vote -- Ballot Results not released yet--10 Points review of the Players of the Week

Twelve Men on the Field Archive of the Shaw Top Performers Listings for the 2014 season

Friday, November 06, 2015

CFL Week Twenty

Finalizing the eastern division playoff situation is all that remains for the final week of the CFL's regular season, with Ottawa and Hamilton both still in the conversation for first place overall and home field advantage at playoff time.

Toronto launches the final weekend of play hosting the Blue Bombers tonight at Rogers Centre, their final appearance in the home that this year never was.

The Argos move over to BMO field for the start of 2016, hoping that the new environment will bring back the once loyal legions that supported the team

The outcome Friday won't make any difference for the Double Blue and their playoff future, with a road trip on the agenda for November 15th, the only thing to finalize whether its Northeast or southwest that they will travel.

Ottawa will be looking to make sure that the Argo travel planners charter a bus for Hamilton  as the RedBlacks take on the Ticats tomorrow at TD Place field in the nation's capital, an Ottawa win secures first place and a bye into the Eastern final, a significant achievement for the still new franchise.

As for Argos, they probably won't be too concerned about the need to make it road trip journey for a berth in the 2015 Grey Cup, it's not like they've spent much time in Toronto this year in the first place and the road has been a pretty successful place for the team through much of 2015.

Saturday also features the Lions and Stamps at BC Place, a preview of sorts of what will be the Western Semi Final match up next Sunday in Calgary, though we suspect that the back up talent will get most of the play on Saturday night, while the two teams rest up their starters for the real drama eight days away.

Sunday finds the Alouettes and Riders bringing their seasons to an end, as the two teams not invited to the CFL's playoff dance meet up to bring the regular season schedule to an end.

Below, is our archive for week number Twenty

Check back regularly through the weekend for updated material.

Friday, November 6

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 11 at Toronto Argonauts 21
( 17,511 

Game Preview

-- Swayze Waters back for Argos' final game at Rogers Centre
-- Blue Bombers bright spot Western takes hat trick of award nominations

Game Reviews: Game Recap Stats Review Highlights


Saturday, November 7

Hamilton Tiger Cats 28 at Ottawa RedBlacks 44
( 24,459 )  

-- Tailback William Powell back at practice

Game Reviews: Game Recap Stats Review Highlights


Saturday, November 7

Calgary Stampeders 28 at British Columbia Lions 7
( 22,900 )  

Game Preview


Game Reviews: Game Recap Stats Review Highlights


Sunday, November 7

Saskatchewan Roughriders 30 at Montreal Alouettes 24
( 20,511 ) 

Game Preview

Thursday, November 05, 2015

CFL Top Performers for October

Henry Burris picked in October where he left off in September, rattling off victory after victory for the Ottawa RedBlacks and claiming spot after spot in the weekly award listings. Such was the work of the Riders QB that once again  he has claimed the top spot for the monthly overview, with 1,724 yards through the air and a completion percentage of 73 percent, a mark which included six TD completions. Though the 2015 season Burris has led the league in passing with 5,335 yards, tossed 20 touchdown passes and held to the 70 per cent range through much of the year when it comes to completion rates on the season.

Another QB who has had a fairly good year has been Mike Reilly, who once back in the line up after recovering from injury hasn't looked back as he and the Eskimos tore up the West Division this season, with October the exclamation mark on the year thanks to a 5-0 record.  Through the month, Reilly threw for 1,579 yards and nine TD completions, securing first place in the West and a home playoff date in three weeks time.

One of Reilly's favourite targets claims the third and final spot of the month, with Adarius Bowman providing some of the heavy artillery in an impressive Eskimo arsenal. On the month Bowman accumulated 558 receiving yards on 37 receptions, picked up a pair of TD's during the Eskimos undefeated march through October.

All three players will have their bonus points added to the Top Performers listings through to the end of the season.

The CFL's Shaw Top Performers for September

1st -- Henry Burris  -- QB -- Ottawa RedBlacks -- 200 points

2nd -- Mike Reilly -- QB -- Edmonton Eskimos -- 100 Points

3rd --  Adarius Bowman  -- SB -- Edmonton Eskimos -- 50 points review of the Players of the Month

Twelve Men on the Field Archive of the Shaw Top Performers Listings for the 2014 season

Shaw Top Performers for Week Nineteen

The Eskimos not only are ruling on the field these days, but when it comes to the Shaw Top Performers, there's a pretty good chance that when you glance over the weekly listings you'll find an Eskimo or two on the page.

Such is the case this week, with the Esks claiming two of three spots in the weekly rankings.

Leading off with Wide Receiver Derel Walker, who claims the top spot this week thanks to three touchdown passes over the weekend against the Montreal Alouettes, his three TD's doubled his output on the year to six, while the 128 yards on 10 catches moved him  to the 1100 yard total for the season. With Esks holding the bye for the final week of the season, Walker puts the wrap on his regular season numbers with 89 receptions.

Defence has been one of the keys to the rise of the RedBlacks this season and last weekend Shawn Lemon provided some of the evidence for the ability of the Ottawa defence to shut down opponents. Lemon picked up a pair of sacks on the way to the RedBlacks 12-6 victory over the TiCats, marking the fifth QB sack of the year for one of the leaders of the Ottawa defensive unit

Eskimos QB Mike Reilly replays last week as he rounds out the three selections on the week, passing for 308 yards in the win over Montreal, while completing 29 of his 35 passes, three of them for majors to the previously mentioned Derel Walker on the way to the Esks victory over the Als.

No results from the fan voting for week number seven have been released as of yet.

The CFL's Shaw Top Performers for Week Seventeen

1st -- Derel Walker -- WR  -- Edmonton Eskimos -- 100 points

2nd -- Shawn Lemon  -- DL  -- Ottawa RedBlacks -- 50 Points

3rd --  Mike Reilly -- QB -- Edmonton Eskimos  -- 25 points

Fan Vote -- Ballot Results not released yet--10 Points review of the Players of the Week

Twelve Men on the Field Archive of the Shaw Top Performers Listings for the 2014 season