Monday, September 27, 2004

This weekend not all the action was on the field

It was your typical CFL weekend; the Alouettes controlled their opponent seeming to toy with the Blue Bombers throughout the game, as they continued on their path to Eastern division domination. The Bombers who are battling only the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a playoff spot must also keep their eyes on the East division standings as a crossover berth may be their one shot at making the semi finals. With Toronto starting to put some distance in the Eastern standings tracking the Tiger Cats will become a popular feature of the Winnipeg sports scene. Not many gave the Blue much of a chance against the Als and this result reflected that lack of faith as Montreal handled them handily on Saturday 47-25.

With that result recorded in the books the Blue took to the CFL trading floor and swung what amounts to a blockbuster of a deal as they moved marquee player Khari Jones and fullback Randy Bowles to Calgary in return for defensive lineman Joe Fleming, safety Wes Lysak and fullback Scott Regimbald. The Blue will also receive draft pick in the 2006 Canadian draft from Calgary. It’s hard to say one team won over the other in this one, as both teams filled a definite requirement on their rosters. Fleming will add quite a bit to the Bomber defensive attack while Jones, once he gets into a rhythm in Calgary could very well be the missing ingredient to a sputtering Calgary offence.

For the moment the advantage is certainly Winnipeg's
as they receive the most starters ready to go, but long term a healthy Khari could make a big difference in Calgary. One thing is certain this trade could come back to haunt somebody on the final game of the year, that’s when Calgary travels to Winnipeg in one month to finish off the season. The Stamps more than likely won’t be challenging for any playoff berth but Khari Jones may get to have an impact on the Bombers season, an impact the faithful at CanadInn stadium may not like!

With Scott Regimbald moving East he will have one fond memory of his final game in a Stamp uniform, his touchdown with seconds to go in the game sent the Stamps on to victory over the BC Lions as Calgary ended a horrendous slump with a controversial 22-21 victory over the Leos. Controversial in that to a man, the Lions believe that Regimbald never actually crossed the goal line and the officials botched the call and “gave” the Stamps a victory. Of course the Lions forget the missed opportunities earlier in the game to put more points on the board and the troublesome kicking game that reared its head for a bit, sending the Lions to defeat for the first time in eight games. The Calgary win finally brought down the high flying Leos and gives hope to the rest of the division that Wally Buono’s formidable squad can be shut down. It was a questionable result but that’s the nature of the game, the key is to bounce back and not lose focus on the job at hand, it will be interesting to see how the Leos address the situation.

The Lions loss was no doubt a message received in Edmonton, where the Eskimos watched as Argonaut QB Michael Bishop finally provided some consistent work in the final two quarters of play. The Argos stormed back in the second half to defeat the Esks 26-17. It was a huge win for the Argos as they put a bit of distance between themselves and the Tiger Cats in the battle for the right to host a semi final game at home. The loss provides more questions for a mysterious Eskimo team to try and answer, very hot and cold all year the Esks continue to make themselves the topic of discussion around Edmonton, not in a How about them Eskies way but for of a what the heck is with the Eskies way. With first place probably out of reach, the Esks can breathe a little bit in their bid for second but stumble too much and a retooled Winnipeg of Saskatchewan may just make the charge.

The Riders began that process with a dominating second half over the Renegades on Sunday; Henry Burris took control of the game in the second half as the Riders kept Kenton Keith and Rich Dominguez busy loading up on yardage and points in a 36-22 victory. Burris made use of his two star attractions through the third and fourth quarters as the Riders kept pace with the Bombers in the CFL’s west. Ottawa’s troubles were compounded early in the game when Demetrious Bendross was ejected for a wild fist fight with Saskatchewan DB Darnell Edwards. Edwards, who roughed up Bendross in the end zone, kept his punches to himself and was spared eviction but the hot tempered Bendross let loose with some attempted haymakers none of which really found a target.

Regardless, his lack of control cost him and his team as the Renegades never seemed to generate much in the way of offence with Bendross banished. The loss drops the Rens further off the pace in the East and puts their bid to make the playoffs in jeopardy as they continue to struggle in the latter stages of the season. The turmoil on the field was rivalled by that in the boardroom as the Rens managers, coaches, owners and shareholders fight among themselves as a most disappointing season winds its way to conclusion. As the season moved along it appeared that the two franchises that seemed to be struggling the most were Calgary and Ottawa, neither able to put many wins together and off field distractions taking their toll in the dressing room.

The Stamps have started to address some of those problems and while their changes are more for the long term, they have started the process of getting things back on track. Ottawa seems to be going in a totally different direction at the moment; until the perceived acrimony in the boardroom and in the dressing room is taken care of the Rens are going to have problems. It will be interesting to see I the names Tillman, Paopao or Etcheverry will still be in a Renegade press guide next season. With time running out on this one, there aren’t many more games left to make a stand and show that the blue print wasn’t flawed!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Renegades losing on the field, now troubled off of it as well

Well it wouldn’t be the CFL without some kind of controversy regarding ownership and while many felt that the Stampeders would be the discussion point this year, it turns out the mess might be in Ottawa.

Stories out of the Capital the last few days have a very unhappy bunch of campers in the land of the Renegade. With the team stumbling on the field the last eight weeks or so, the finger pointing and back biting is at full steam ahead. But in a twist of the norm, it’s the folks in the front office that are doing all the yakking and complaining, while the talent on the field try to get it all back on track.

Canoe released a story today that GM Eric Tillman may or may not be a member of the Renegades as he and upper management have been butting heads regularly since training camp. Today’s latest bombshell has it that a minority owner, Kevin Imsa wants to be relieved of his shares of the team, apparently tired of having to share in losses of 4 million dollars over the last two years.

Brad Waters who handles the bulk of the public face for the investors in the Renegades said that he would have no comment on the financial dealings within the Renegade ownership. He did however advise that the owners were dedicated to producing the best possible product on the field and are committed to the long term future of the franchise.

The underlying theme of discord has been long rumoured all season long, with the Tillman situation the most confusing for all observers. With Joe Paopao’s duties being expanded at the start of the season and a new bean counter in John Lisowski in place to reign in expenses, many wondered what Tillman’s job position consisted of.

The low point for the Rens came last week prior to the Stampeder game when apparently Paopao was told to fire Defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry, Paopao refused managements request and put his own position on the line the story goes. Fortunately for all concerned the Rens won the game and the defence were a huge part of that victory.

With all the confusion and confrontation taking place behind the scenes, its no wonder the product has suffered on the field. With the season quickly winding down towards the playoffs, now is not the time for a divisive atmosphere in the dressing room.

For the sake of the Renegade players and the fans, the bean counters, macro managers and suits with cheques should sort out their problems out behind the scenes. Make your changes after the Grey Cup, which the Rens are hosting this year. Judging by the way things are falling apart in Ottawa, that will be an event the team won’t have much more to do at than count the gate receipts and cash the cheque!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Head to Head with the NFL!

Finally the CFL is no longer running from the NFL Sunday festival of football. This Sunday features an actual CFL game live on a Canadian sports network; Sportsnet will be picking up the Renegades and Riders from Taylor field, offering in all areas of the country except the Sportsnet west delivery area. For CFL fans every where we say Hallelujah

The last two weeks had seen a loyal CFL fan scratching their head, wondering why they couldn’t find scheduled games on their local cable affiliate. Games were played and scores were posted, but try and watch the games and you would be one frustrated football fan.

In a bizarre sense of marketing the CFL limited the games on September 12th to regional set ups in Western Canada and Quebec. This gave football fans without access to RDS or Sportsnet west nothing to do but watch the Blue Jays battle for last place or Mike Weir stumble in Oakville. But football, nope it’s off to the NFL for you football fan.

Now no doubt there are many football fans that were going to be checking out the debut week of the NFL regardless, but there must have been CFL fans wanting to see if Danny Mac and the Ti cats were up to the Montreal challenge (they weren’t) or wanting to watch the much ballyhooed Banjo bowl (which turned out to be a heck of a game). But instead we were left abandoned; the truly dedicated fired up the computer and listened to the net feed of the radio broadcast, others just went NFL surfing.

The game on September 19, received the same treatment this time with no television coverage at all as the Riders (do we sense a bias against the Green machine here?) took on the Tiger cats (hmm them again as well?) at Ivor Wynne, a game that had playoff implications. Once again an exciting nail biter of a game was unavailable on a wide basis. I say wide basis as the Tiger Cats actually did broadcast the game, in a little known event the Cats put the game up on the World Wide Web, a real time feed of the game from the facilities of Cogeco cable. A test of you will of the potential for the web and how it may serve the CFL in the future.

The actual streaming of the game was fairly impressive, though you received better quality video on a smaller picture window in your computer, one shudders to think what the game may have looked like on a huge big screen TV with the computer feed. Not being technically savvy I assume it might have been a tad blurry, but who knows. The play by play was by a couple of local cable TV guys, (shades of Wayne and Garth of Wayne’s World fame) so it wasn’t quite the same professionalism as TSN or CBC would have put on, but the crew tried and did an admirable job.

It made for an interesting way to watch a CFL game, though limited to only about 4,000 web viewers a ratings winner this would not be. One wonders why the web cast wasn’t offered up to Sportsnet or The Score surely one less Blue Jay game wouldn’t be missed in this horrid season for that squad, and for the Score it would make a welcome break from the continual replay of the same highlights over and over again.

Bob Young is to be commended though, he continues to be a leading visionary in the CFL trying out new things and making the presentation of the game the key focus point of selling the game. Something the folks in the head office should take note of, there’s no reason to be afraid of the NFL. All four games this weekend were far superior in entertainment than what the NFL could offer up; it’s a pity that a stumbling broadcast strategy keeps the good news away from the fans.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Riders edge out Ti cats in last second to avoid Overtime

The flags were flying, the coaches were screaming and so was the crowd. Sunday’s non televised CFL game between Saskatchewan and Hamilton was yet another barn burner in a weekend full of them.

Paul McCallum kicked the winning field goal with one second on the clock giving the Riders a hard earned 32-30 victory over the Ticats, who looked as though they might pull off another late game surprise for their loyal fans.

Saskatchewan were leading 29-24 late in the fourth quarter when Danny McManus tossed the long ball down the sidelines to DJ Flick who reeled it in after it bounced off of the shoulder of defender Omarr Morgan. With a 30-29 lead the Ti cats went for the two point conversion which failed. The shortfall would the scene for McCallum’s heroics a few minutes later.

Rider QB Henry Burris took the remaining 2 minutes and 20 seconds and engineered a brilliant drive to set up McCallum’s 36 yard winner his fifth field goal of the game.

The play capped a wild back and forth game between the two sides punctuated by flags, fumbles and interceptions. Remarkable catches and crushing hits were also part of the affair as both teams battled back and forth in what may have been a pivotal game for both squads.

With the win the Riders kept pace with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who have been on a tear of late, but more importantly the win also kept the Riders alive for a possible cross over berth in the upcoming November playoffs. With a record of 5-8 now, the win was huge for the struggling Riders. With the big three in the West continuing to roll up the wins, Saskatchewan will be keeping an eye on the Tiger Cat and Argonaut win/loss ratio for the rest of the season. For Danny Barrett’s Green machine a possible trip to the Grey Cup may have to go through the East, the win over Hamilton Sunday may go a long way to deciding if the Riders play in November.

The game put the wraps on an entertaining week end of football, with all four games close, exciting and going down to the last minute of play before the outcome was known. The only puzzling thing from a league stand point is why the game was not on television. In a country with three sports networks desperate for programming, having a match up with playoff repercussions not televised is baffling.

This makes for the second week in a row the CFL has abandoned Sundays to the NFL. Having watched a few of the NFL offerings over the weekend which provided all the excitement of a porcupine crossing a road, one wonders why the CFL isn’t more enthusiastic about its product. The Sunday game provided more thrills and entertainment in one quarter than most of the NFL games could muster in 60 (ask the folks at ESPN about that Cincinnati/Miami barn burner!!). With the CFL enjoying a rebirth this year, there’s no excuse for surrendering Sundays to that other league, put the game on TV and the viewers will come!

Playoff Preview?

Hugh Campbell summed it up nicely with his comments after Saturday night’s CFL classic match up between the Esks and the Leos. Said Hugh, “We’ll concede them first place, but not the Grey Cup!”

And with that a barn burner of a game was laid to rest, with the second straight sell out of the year at BC Place, both teams traded points, hits and big plays through sixty minutes of football. Having so much fun in the process, they decided that overtime was needed to provide a final score.

The Lions needed to come from behind, taking the lead in OT on a Duncan O'Mahony field goal, only then having to watch nervously as Sean Fleming came oh so close to tying the thing on the Esks last possession of the game. But 51 yards were a few inches too far, as the ball bounced off the cross bar, sending the Leos on to a 36-33 victory, their eighth consecutive win and all but locking up first place in the West.

Probably the best game of the season so far, in a season that has provided some pretty decent entertainment, the two teams battled back and forth through the game. Both Jason Maas and Casey Printers making statements about the level of quarterbacking in the CFL this year, each answering the others charge down the field with big plays of their own.

Almost lost in all the excitement and the amazing finish, was Mike Pringles record making run into the record books. Pringle didn’t take long to collect the two yards needed to claim George Reed’s record for most yardage. A ten yard scamper on the second play of the game put him over the top, stopping the game for brief ceremony with Reed, then with a quick “lets get back to football” Pringle was back in the game and running up his total for the next challenger some day.

The capacity crowd saluted Pringle for his achievement and then got down to some work of their own. The home fans were involved from the opening kick off and made noise all night long, the atmosphere in BC Place on Saturday was like the good old days of Roy, Doug, Merv, Lui and the boys back when football was high on the Vancouver sports radar. It’s been a long rebuilding process for Bob Ackles, Wally Buono and owner David Braley but with crowds coming back and the media suddenly re-discovering the Lions, football is back in BC.

After a long rest in the sports wilderness the Lions are once again the talk of the city and with the entertainment they’re putting on the field, it may not be much longer before the partitions are removed at BC Place and 29,000 turns into 60,000. With a few more wins in the next couple of weeks against Calgary, the Lions could very well be looking at jam packed upper and lower bowls to wind down the season. For David Braley that would make for a great reward for his patience and determination in re-building the Lion brand in BC.

While frustrating for the Eskimos the game has given them renewed confidence in their team and its ability to challenge the big teams in the league. The defending Grey Cup champs never gave up and fought to the very end, a true sign of a champion. With no more games against BC in the regular season, Campbell and his coach Tom Higgins must be thinking that Vancouver will make for a nice place to visit one week before Grey Cup Sunday. For the Esks, the Grey Cup this year runs through BC Place, Saturday showed the BC fans that they had best get their tickets early. If the Esks and Lions meet again one thing is certain, the action will be frantic and the outcome up for grabs until the very end. And the CFL couldn’t ask for any better advertisement for its game than that!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Big Blue back in the hunt

An improbable comeback went a long way to telling fans of the Blue Bombers that the season isn’t over yet. Trailing 20-3 in the second quarter, the Bombers turned the game around as they began the long trek back to the playoffs, with a thrilling 44-34 victory over what had to be a shocked Toronto Argonaut team.

Charles Roberts was a major story for the Blue and Gold, carrying the ball 30 times for 154 yards and more importantly 3 touchdowns. As the Bombers won their third game in a row and pulled to within two points of second place Edmonton in the Western division. Kevin Glenn, who had a nightmare of a first half of the game, came on strong in the second half by the time the game was over Glenn would have completed 23 of 32 passes for 329 yards and may have solidified his hold on the starter’s position in the Peg. Khari Jones is still a couple of weeks away from returning, but with Glenn leading the team to its third win in a row and putting up the kind of passing yards he has, it would be a brave coach Daley that rushes Jones back into the line-up.

Penalties once again played a major part in the game, a trend that is becoming common of late as the zebras throw flags at the slightest provocation. Daley observed that his players took too many dumb penalties, but blessed with a victory in the win column he wasn’t overly critical of the officials. However, over in Argo land one of the newest Argos, Andre Rison wasn’t keeping things bottled up. Rison who has been shall we say outspoken through his career let loose on the refs calling the display the worst officiating he had ever seen. On the plus side Rison lobbied for a larger paycheque and better training, so perhaps he’ll be cut some slack in the Argos next game Saturday in Edmonton.

With the loss the Argos don’t put any distance between themselves and the Tiger Cats who are surging of late, with first place out of the question now the Argos need to get back on the winning track or they may find their playoff plans run through Ivor Wynne Stadium, a situation they might wish to avoid if they have any plans for a shot at the Grey Cup this year.

For Winnipeg it’s on to Montreal and a Saturday night match up with the Alouettes, the animosity between these two teams goes back to Winnipeg’s days in the Eastern division and some hard fought play off match ups. Hungry for another victory and eyeing a shot at second place they should go into Montreal focused on having a big game and perhaps catching a less than challenged Als team asleep on the field.

As the season winds down, each game takes on pivotal importance; a loss here to a key team could spell disaster. With the Blue on a winning streak and suddenly full of confidence, Saturday night should be a whale of a football game.

Rens stay alive, Paopao stays employed

It was close, but in the end Sandro Sciortino exorcised a ghost with his last minute field goal giving the Renegades a 26-24 victory over the Calgary Stampeders. Sciortino set a team record for longest field goal a 53 yard boot, that may have just not only taken him off the hot seat but helped give his coach some breathing room as well.

The kicker who last week found himself mocked by the Ottawa crowd when he missed a chip shot, came up big when he was needed most. Sciortino has struggled quite a bit this year, but Paopao has been quite loyal and in deed defensive towards his kicker. Friday night his confidence and loyalty was repaid. With the Renegades playoff hopes fading fast a loss to Calgary would more than likely sealed their fate this year.

And while the Renegades can thank Sciortino for their victory they may wish to pat the defence on the back as well. Despite giving up 353 yard on the night, it was the three times the Rens held off the Stamps in the red zone that made a difference. The ability to shut down Calgary on the goal line made all the difference in this game, sending Matt Dunigan to the dressing room wondering what it will take to score. Dunnigan could only stand by in frustration as time and time again the Stamps would get close only to come up short.

There is a real problem with the Red and White when they get within scoring distance, for whatever reason they just can’t punch the ball across when they have the chances, too many opportunities are passing them by and that more than anything accounts for their woeful record in the Western Division.

With the win Ottawa boosts their record to 5-8 and keeps the team in the hunt for the final playoff position in the East. It also must guarantee the tenure of Coach Joe Paopao for the rest of the season, though any talk of replacing him at this point of the season seems rather pointless. With only six weeks to go in the season, trying to retool the team with new management would appear more of a symbol of surrender.

With a game coming up against Saskatchewan on Sunday the Rens have a chance to put together some wins and get back on the path they set for themselves at the start of the season. That of a Grey Cup berth in front of the home town fans, the road is going to be a lot harder than they might have hoped, but perhaps the confidence gained from Friday night will carry them through the rest of the year.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Clinching a post season spot by showing Post season form

One week after Labour Day and two months before the playoffs start, the Montreal Alouettes booked their spot in the Post seasons festivities. The Alouettes completely dominated a beat up Hamilton Tiger Cat squad, 47-18 securing a playoff spot after only week thirteen of the CFL schedule.

Anthony Calvillo once again had a highlight reel day, completing 24 of 36 passes for 332 yards, the eighth time this year he had passed for over 300 yards. And he did most of it without his primary receiver Ben Cahoon, who was forced from the game early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Autry Denson picked up the slack scoring three touchdowns in the rout as the Alouettes controlled all aspects of the game.

Hamilton’s offence couldn’t get things going in this one, with Danny McManus having a sub par afternoon, the Tiger Cats only getting points when the game was far beyond reach. The normally tenacious Tiger Cat defence had a tough time of it handling Calvillo and his various weapons, as the Alouette quarterback kept things moving along nicely for most of the game, before surrendering the ball to back up Ted White who was given a good portion of the fourth quarter to work on his game.

Ti cat Head Coach Greg Marshall admitted that his team did not look good today, realizing that a team in a rebuilding mode is going to have problems handling a squad of the caliber of Montreal. He now turns his attention to preparations for Saskatchewan next Sunday at Ivor Wynne. For the Als it’s a week off to rest up the few injuries they have, keep sharp with repetitions in practice and then prepare for the trip Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers on Sept 25th.

The Als have won 11 of their first 12 this year which is a team record, they recorded their 52nd straight sell out at Molson Stadium and are now only three wins away from clinching first place overall in the Eastern Division. And the Als have their eyes on going 17 and 1 this year as the goal to motivate them for the rest of the season. Judging by the way they’ve been playing of late, a wise person would not put any money against them achieving that milestone either.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Roberts Blasts by Riders in Banjo Bowl

Charles Roberts carried the ball 22 times for 159 yards, leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 27-24 squeaker over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Sunday afternoon. Roberts carried one ball in for a touchdown and got six more points on a TD reception and if not for a fumble, recovered by Bomber Milt Stegall, Roberts would have scored all of the Blue’s offensive points, Troy Westwood added the field goal and a single off a missed attempt, while Jonathon Ryan picked up two points on punts.

Billed as the Banjo Bowl, after a tongue in cheek comment about Saskatchewan fans by Bomber Westwood, the game drew the largest crowd of the season to Canad Inn stadium. Over 27,000 sat to the very end as the Riders launched a last minute drive that came up just short. A drive engineered by Rider QB Henry Burris who came up two yards short on a third and fifteen play.

Kevin Glenn got the start for the Bombers once again, as Khari Jones continues to recover from shoulder problems, Glenn had an average day of it throwing 28 passes with 15 completions for 256 yards, giving up one interception along the way. But it was the running of Roberts that put this one into the win column for the Bombers.

Records show that whenever Roberts gets over 100 yards in a game the Blue are on the winning side every time, the 4th year Bomber has won 16 games with the Blue when crashes the 100 yard barrier. And perhaps that is the essence of the Bombers struggles this year, they haven’t been able to give him the ball enough to make a difference. Normally trailing in games or getting off to a horrendous start, they far too often have had to play the long ball in a desperate bid to get back into a game. When they can launch Roberts early and keep pushing him through the holes the result is much more to the liking of the Bombers and their fans!

With the win the Blue now hold down uncontested custody of third place with a 5-7 record, Saskatchewan suffering its third straight loss (and second in a row to the Bombers) are now in fourth with a 4 – 8 record. The Riders will regroup and take on the Hamilton tiger Cats next Sunday in Hamilton, while the Bombers are home again, this time to Toronto on Saturday. While the Bombers game will be aired on the CBC on Saturday, the Riders once again will be shuffled off of the media "A" list, as there is no television coverage planned for the Ticats-Riders game. Yet another questionable move by the CFL head office as they seem to want to avoid taking on the NFL on Sunday broadcasts.

In an unusual strategy of media exposure by the CFL, the Bomber-Rider game was shown only on the Sporstnet West network, those lucky Sportsnet subscribers who live in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. For those in the rest of the country who could not find the clicker to the television, it was yet another riveting broadcast of those basement dwelling Toronto Blue Jays. (31 games out of the pennant race and playoff hunt, for those that stopped watching after the May Long weekend!).

Why the CFL would cede the first week of the NFL season to the Big Money league is uncertain and certainly an error from the league office. After the huge crowds and ratings of the Labour Day weekend games one would have thought that the league would be anxious to keep its profile high, especially on the launch weekend of the NFL. Instead Sportsnet was given the western rematch of two tough rivals only to keep it as a little prairie secret, while over in Montreal only RDS the French sports channel had the broadcast for the Hamilton-Montreal game. Only the most dedicated sports fan in English Canada has purchased the digital package that gets you RDS.

While losing out on the Als game probably wouldn’t have been a disappointment to a BC sports fan (one suspects we would know how that game was going to end) not airing the Riders/Bombers in this market seems dumb! Beside the fact that these are teams in the same division as the Lions, they also have exported thousands of followers over the years to the temperate climes of coastal BC. You think there might have been an audience on Sportsnet Pacific for this game? You think that maybe the audience cume for the CFL would be larger than the horrid Blue Jays? If you answered yes to both these questions, send your resume off to Sportsnet in Toronto, they could use a programmer!

Outscored by 118 points (so far)

When British Columbia joined Confederation, it was on the condition that a railway be built to unite East and West. When the Ottawa Renegades re joined the CFL, they should have had their own condition put in place; Never have to play the BC Lions in the regular season.

The Renegades have played the Lions six times since rejoining the league three years ago; Six times they have been on the short end of the score, trailing the Lions by a combined 118 point margin.

The latest addition to that record came in front of over 22,000 fans at Frank Clair Stadium as the BC Lions dominated the Rens 31-13. The Lions struck early and carried on with the attack for the better part of the game, as Casey Printers once again set the standard for QB’s, throwing three touchdown passes and tossing for 363 yards completing 25 of 22 passes. Scoring on their opening set of downs of the game, the Lions powerhouse offence continued to show why the Lions are first in the West.

The Renegades answered the opening salvo nicely, as Joseph’s marched his team down the field to score on their first possession as well. But that was pretty well the extent of keeping the pace. By the half time gun the Lions were leading 24-8, by three quarter time that lead had increased to 31-13, which is where the scoring ended. The fourth quarter yielded no points for either team. The Lions content to control the ball and eat up the remaining time on the way to their eight win of the season, now sitting with an 8-3 record they are holding a tight grip on first place in the CFL West.

The Ottawa fans were vocal in their disappointment with the Renegades play, boos cascaded from the Upper deck of the Southsiders and stretched the width of the North Side stands as the Rens failed to put points on the board and whenever the Renegades would turn over the ball. Place kicker Sandro Sciortino continued to carry on his erratic path, missing a sure fire field goal attempt from the 17 yard line in the second quarter, his shank off course was received with a chorus of boos that would ring in his years as the teams headed for the dressing rooms.

The loss doesn’t help the Rens cause of making the CFL playoffs in their third year of operation. The idea of hosting this years Grey Cup may now mainly be a matter of helping out in the kitchen making nachos and keeping the beer cold, if things continue on this way they certainly won’t be involved in any on field activities. At this point in the season the Rens don’t look particularly threatening to their compatriots in the East Division, with Hamilton in action on Sunday the Rens may find themselves falling further behind in the race for the third and final playoff position.

The Renegades prepare for Calgary next, a must win game on Friday night, against a team that has been struggling all year. The problem for the Rens is that Calgary’s one strength is a defense that has performed admirably over the last 11 weeks. Saddled with an offence that can’t seem to score points, the Calgary defense has been the one bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season. They will give Kerry Joseph and the Rens offence all that they can handle Friday night. Renegades owner has basically declared that if the Rens lose that game Friday, the team will be torn apart and rebuilt.

The Leos head for home and a big match up against the Edmonton Eskimos, with Edmonton still entertaining thoughts of a charge for first place, Saturday night will provide the Lions a chance to send the message that first place belongs in the far west this season. Currently two points ahead of the Esks and with a game in hand, a victory will put them in the driver’s seat in the West.

A high profile game and a chance to watch Mike Pringle make CFL history should result in a huge crowd at BC Place, keeping the forward momentum of the franchise moving along right as planned. The Renegades could only dream of such a path at this time!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Destiny Delayed!

Yard by yard Mike Pringle dug in for the chance to seize George Reeds record, hit by hit the Calgary Stampeders defence made his job harder and harder.

In an otherwise brutal football game (for a Calgary fans standpoint anyway) the story of Pringle was all that mattered after the second quarter. The Edmonton Eskimos ran all over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night at Commonwealth stadium. With over 50,000 on hand expecting to witness history, the Esks controlled the flow of the game and the scoreboard for all four quarters.

Once again it was the Calgary offence that had its troubles putting points on the board, giving up the ball on key plays to assist the Eskimos in pounding out 44 points by the end of the game. Marcus Crandell would have been wise to have been watching the TSN broadcast at the end of the second quarter, while panning across the Edmonton sideline the microphones picked up the Edmonton defence suggesting that Crandell not try side of the field patrolled by Malcolm Frank. It would have been the kind of advice that the Calgary coaches may have wished they had provided, the Edmonton cornerback controlled his side of the field nicely denying many Stampeder attempts and running back an interception for a touchdown, the fourth of his six picks this season he’s returned for a TD.

More mistakes from the Calgary offence and some brutal plays by the special teams dealt the Stamps the killing blow, as they gave up too many points related to turnovers. By the half the Eskies were firmly in control with a 21-3 lead, from there they would eventually build on that to a 44-12 final.

But while the crowd was happy with another win, they were there to see some history and on this Friday they would be denied their chance to say “I was there when…..” The Calgary defence which is the only bright spot on an otherwise woeful looking team, seemed to take the assault on George Reeds rushing record personally. The Stamps stacked the line and held Mike Pringle to 114 yards, two shy from claiming the rushing record as his own. It was if the Stampeder defence had decided to say “not on our watch” much to the disappointment of the assembled thousands at the stadium.

Linebacker Joe Fleming time and time again was in the face of Pringle denying him his grasp on history on this Friday night. Fleming, who had three personal tackles on Pringle, took the teams stand as a moral victory. And for him and his defensive team mates it was truly an impressive stand. The final stages of the fourth quarter were the most bizarre of any CFL game in a long time. The Stamps desperate to keep the ball from Pringle’s hands would take many 3rd and short attempts, to keep drives alive and eat up the clock.

Yet to the very end Pringle had a chance to launch the big celebration, by the three minute warning he seemed to be on his way to setting the new record, only to wind up losing yardage on consecutive carries. Pringle received on final shot at the record with two seconds left on the clock. Needing but one yard he was stopped one yard behind the line of scrimmage. That final stand by Calgary leaves him two yards short for the record, and sends the CFL back to the travel agents to book a flight to Vancouver for George Reed.

The travelling record watch will move to BC Place next Saturday night, when the Eskimos take on the Lions. Mercifully for all concerned on the Eskimo team, the record should fall with the first set of downs next week, giving an old number 34 the chance to pass the torch to the latest number 34 to set the CFL abuzz.

TSN’s Friday Night Football could showcase a Record making night

With 50,000 fans in the stands and hundreds of thousands more watching on the tube, Friday night truly may be a big night for the CFL. The Eskimos take on the Calgary Stampeders, in a rematch of last Monday’s Labour Day game at McMahon stadium. And while last Monday’s score of 25-7 in favour of the Eskies won’t cause many new fans to fight for the control of the clicker, the chance to watch Mike Pringle chase down George Reeds record surely will.

Pringle, who has quietly made his presence known in the CFL over the years, is on the verge of putting his name into the record books. Pringle is a mere 116 yards away from breaking George Reeds long time record of 16,116 yards, and if Jason Maas is smart about things, putting the ball in Pringles hands could pay of twice in this game, Should Pringle score two touchdowns he will also tie Reeds record for touchdowns at 135, making for a night of great celebration in Edmonton.

The former Saskatchewan great will be in the crowd watching ready to hail the new record holder should things fall into place at Commonwealth Friday night. One of the icons of Canadian football, Reeds record may fall, but he’ll forever be remembered for his powerful stride, running over tacklers rather than around them. Part of the great years on the prairies were Reed, Lancaster and a guy named Hugh Campbell, amongst others. The style of the boys from Regina, attracted many CFL fans to the cause of the Green Riders, the birth of Rider Pride in place across Canada can be traced to those great years of the sixties.

Campbell who is now President of the Eskies, has fond memories of Reed and marvelled at his style and the power he could summon on the field. Interestingly enough he says the fellow that is about to move into the record books is of a similar build and style, a worthy challenger to the rushing crown.

Friday night will be a great night for those in attendance at Commonwealth, Eskie fans are some of the best in the league and appreciate talent, having seen so much of it over the years. But more importantly for Pringle is going to be the presence of one special fan, his Mother has made the trip to Edmonton for the game, should he roll up the yardage and find the end zone Friday, Mrs. Pringle is going to see just how important her son has been to the Canadian Football League. And that may be worth more than any listing in a record book.

Pringle will have his work cut out for him though; the Stampeder defence is a unit that has been one of the few shining lights in Calgary this year and will no doubt play with pride once again. And while we certainly don’t wish bad luck on them, here’s hoping that Pringle has the game of his life Friday night. Records have to fall sometime, it’s always rewarding when they go to someone deserving of the accolades.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Quotables of September

What they said thru September, the list of the "Final Snaps"

1-Sep-04 "He and his family are embarassed by the incident"
2-Sep-04 "We want the opportunity to defend our title"
3-Sep-04 "We're going to try for 50,000"
4-Sep-04 "I may call my daughter, who took a course in sign language"
5-Sep-04 "People say we've been carefree with our practices"
6-Sep-04 "Arland Bruce is a major coup for us"
7-Sep-04 "It feels good to just have a win"
8-Sep-04 "and that was still the most fun I've had playing all year"
9-Sep-04 "Obviously I'm a little discouraged with the way things turned out"
10-Sep-04 "a family atmosphere was Bob Young's promise, not mine"
11-Sep-04 "Dave will be the man when he returns"
12-Sep-04 "There goes Westwood again, that's all I thought about"
13-Sep-04 "I need two yards now."
14-Sep-04 "Maybe Mr. Shivers doesn't know what he's talking about"
15-Sep-04 "He's (Robert's) a tough kid, He's a special player"
16-Sep-04 "I'm not here to take anybody's job"
17-Sep-04 "Am I playing? Does Batman fight crime?"
18-Sep-04 "Deep behind enemy lines"
19-Sep-04 "We feel we can compete with any club in this league, including Montreal "
19-Sep-04 "I’ll concede them first, but I won't concede them the Grey Cup"
20-Sep-04 "We've got a few days off to decide what we're going to be"
21-Sep-04 "Winning is definitely priority one, and it's not happening in Calgary"
22-Sep-04 "It's really not about what my agent wants, it's about what I want"
23-Sep-04 "I have faith we can turn this around"
24-Sep-04 "We'll stay with our long term plans"
25-Sep-04 "We finally got a spark there at the end"
26-Sep-04 "I would have loved to have stayed, but you can't control these things"
27-Sep-04 "I expect Jones to come here and lead this football team"
28-Sep-04 "It's all about winning and entertaining and right now we have neither"
29-Sep-04 "he's made good promise from last week, but we want to make sure"
30-Sep-04 "We just kept hurting ourselves again and again"

September remembered

We track the entries in our "Opening Kickoff" feature, providing an acrhive for the developments as they happened day by day in September.

1-Sep-04 Stamps summon the ghost of Allen Pitts
1-Sep-04 Dunnigan flys the maple leaf
1-Sep-04 Paopao stands by his men
2-Sep-04 Keeping his mouth shut
2-Sep-04 Rare CFL trade has two Renegades heading for Edmonton
2-Sep-04 The Masked Marvel apparently was busy
3-Sep-04 Andre's Rison
3-Sep-04 Bomber woes move off the sports page and onto the Front pages
3-Sep-04 It's go time for Glenn
4-Sep-04 Argos looking at 49ers cut
4-Sep-04 Riders can't wait to say hello
4-Sep-04 Anger management in Edmonton
5-Sep-04 Argos win the bidding war
5-Sep-04 A need for TD's
5-Sep-04 Time for the Rens to write some checks
6-Sep-04 Shivers needs to look at his own team first
6-Sep-04 Gaining fans in Stampeder country
6-Sep-04 Praising the talent that was Pitts
7-Sep-04 Pringle has a fan in Matt
7-Sep-04 Ricky Ray not racing to the CFL
7-Sep-04 Renegades standing by their foot for now
8-Sep-04 Remembering the good old days, while watching the current bad ones
8-Sep-04 The Offence took the day off
8-Sep-04 Big Blue get pumped up
9-Sep-04 Still talking about that Labour Day Classic
9-Sep-04 Clearing the air at McMahon Stadium
9-Sep-04 Ranek still running for a record
10-Sep-04 Staubach to Dunnigan once again
10-Sep-04 Mama's in the House
10-Sep-04 Bombers pick up a Volunteer
11-Sep-04 6 feet from the record books
11-Sep-04 Calgary fans losing patience
11-Sep-04 Tamaurice's meet and greet
12-Sep-04 Sad day in Calgary
12-Sep-04 More injury woes for the Renegades
12-Sep-04 Taking it to the Stamps again
13-Sep-04 Joe Fleming on the market?
13-Sep-04 Rens need to win four of six
13-Sep-04 Lumsden enters McMaster's record book
14-Sep-04 Maxie's Back
14-Sep-04 Piling up the injuries in Ottawa
14-Sep-04 Mustang Stampede turns U of T Black and Blue
15-Sep-04 You can never have too many pivots
15-Sep-04 The most important game in 2 1/2 years
15-Sep-04 Camp Dunigan is open again
16-Sep-04 Trying to put a best foot forward
16-Sep-04 A flood of NFLers arrive in Edmonton
16-Sep-04 Allen begins the road back to the lineup
17-Sep-04 CFLers and NFLers at different ends of the pay envelopes
17-Sep-04 McGrigg's back on patrol
17-Sep-04 Taking their time with Bashir
18-Sep-04 Two yards or two points
18-Sep-04 Westwood's Yap, has argos pumped
18-Sep-04 Takes a lickin', but keeps on ticking
19-Sep-04 Pringle enters the record book
19-Sep-04 Tumblimg turnstile numbers
19-Sep-04 Getting Daley a deal
19-Sep-04 Three hat Matt looks for a change
19-Sep-04 Adrift in a sea of double blue
19-Sep-04 From goat to hero
20-Sep-04 Argo airlift continues
20-Sep-04 Confident Blue ready for Als
20-Sep-04 Auditions for 2005 season now on in Calgary
21-Sep-04 Turning the turnstiles in the tough towns
21-Sep-04 Mighty Casey stays on the field
21-Sep-04 An end to the Joe witch hunt
22-Sep-04 Benching the Big money
22-Sep-04 Returner's a keeper
22-Sep-04 Andre was louder, now he's lighter
23-Sep-04 Rumbles in Renegadeland
23-Sep-04 Dickenson to sit one more week
23-Sep-04 2,000 dollars a carry
24-Sep-04 The reviews are in
24-Sep-04 Back from the Dead
24-Sep-04 Not yet the talk of the town
25-Sep-04 No need to worry
25-Sep-04 Building Blocks
25-Sep-04 On the cusp of a blockbuster trade
26-Sep-04 Doing the math in Ottawa
26-Sep-04 The missing name in the trade!
26-Sep-04 The yawns are out in Edmonton
27-Sep-04 Khari to wait!
27-Sep-04 Printers suggests preparation
27-Sep-04 Rens in trouble all around
28-Sep-04 Matt Dunigan's ragged road
28-Sep-04 Paopao pops a gasket
28-Sep-04 Hugh examines a clunker
29-Sep-04 The biggest hits are on the coach
29-Sep-04 Refs on the carpet
29-Sep-04 Shifting sands at skydome
30-Sep-04 Argos field of dreams put on hold
30-Sep-04 We'll always have Halifax
30-Sep-04 Earning their stripes in Steeltown

Monday, September 06, 2004

The Thriller at the Wynner!

Labour Day in Hamilton is steeped in great moments of CFL history, even the years that featured some rather horrid Ti Cat and Argo teams always seemed to bring out the best in both teams.

Labour Day 2004 though provided one of those games for the ages, a 60 plus minute testimony to smash mouth football that featured everything a football fan could ever ask for. Fights, expulsions, injuries, star debuts and record setting performances and even Overtime; Ivor Wynne stadium saw it all in one thoroughly entertaining game.

The Argos and the Ti Cats took to battle as though two armies were fighting inch by inch for valuable turf in a final battle. This was a knockdown, drag them out fight that lasted until the last man was standing, and in this case both teams would pull themselves up from sure defeat and rally back, taking it to the final play of the game, a goal line dash for a tying touchdown that snatched victory from the jaws of the rabid fans of Ivor Wynne.

For the second game in a row the Tiger Cats sold out the stadium and responded to the adulation of their fans with a gutsy and hard fought game, one that highlighted the running skills of Troy Davis. Davis rewrote the Ti Cat record book this Labour Day with 233 rushing yards, routinely turning carries of three yards into major scrambles for eight or nine yards. In addition to his valuable runs, Davis put six points on the board with a four yard drive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to set up the overtime, he then ran in another TD this time in the second overtime drive, which at the time seemed to be just enough to guarantee a Tiger Cat win.

But then Michael Bishop went to work for the Argonauts, engineering a drive that was aided by a pass interference penalty, culminated in three attempts from the one yard line, the final try the successful run to the right that sent both teams to the dressing room with a 30-30 tie.

Andre Rison’s debut as an Argo was successful as he made some key catches and showed a little bit of the form that made him an NFL legend, still not quite in midseason form, he was only supposed to ease into the line up on this day, but the Argo expulsions of the first quarter made him a regular contributor through the game. Arland Bruce the Third also returned to the CFL and provided some highlight material for his first game back.

The Hamilton defence played like Ti Cat defences of old, mean, unforgiving and brutally violent at times. Each play in the game, matched at times punch for punch, hit for hit by the Defenders of the double blue. The term Labour Day classic seems to get overused, sometimes more wishful thinking than actual fact, and for two of the games this weekend “classic” probably could have been removed from the graphics preceding the game. But Monday night in Hamilton, Classic was a perfect fit.

Stephen Brunt in Tuesday's edition of the Globe and Mail, captures perfectly the atmosphere and results of a game that fittingly featured intense Labour for a Labour Day Monday. And to think the two teams get together and do it all over again on October 21st! The Argos will take a week off now to nurse their wounds and rest their bones, the battered and bruised Ti Cats however get back to work quickly, as they travel to Montreal for a key game against the Alouettes on Sunday.

Over the years, the CFL has provided Canadians with some great football moments, Monday night in the trench warfare at Ivor Wynn Stadium; we added one more page to the memory book. May our little national treasure provide us with many, many more!

Stampeder defence puts in a full day of frustrating work

The Calgary Stampeders can thank their defence for keeping this years Labour Day Classic from getting totally out of hand. Despite a solid performance from the Stamps D crew, the Eskimos still managed to dominate the Calgarians, taking a win out of McMahon stadium with a 25-7 handling of Matt Dunnigans confused offensive squad.

Try as hard as they did with some big plays on defence, the Stamps couldn’t find a way to make their offensive brothers get their act together. A telling moment in the game was in the third quarter, when the Stamps defence had once again turned aside an Eskie attack, sending the Offence out to get some points, only to have to head back out on the field after one play after an untimely turnover. The reaction of the Stamps defensive co-ordinator, Denny Crehan said it all, as he all but threw away his clipboard in disgust.

In short, the Stamps problems are all on the offence. This is a team that seems to be in terrible trouble at the moment, unsure of how to approach the game and incapable of sustaining drives or making the big plays. Dropped passes, no protection for the Quarterback, small gains on the run, and poor execution. It's as if all of the little things have been forgotten, leading to a confused attack that far too often leads to two downs and punt. It’s hard to reach the end zone if you can’t make ten yards.

This Labour Day game once again was played in front of a sold out McMahon stadium crowd, who were hoping for a barn burner and ended up at a barn painter! At least the faithful could hold out some hope until the third quarter. The Stamps should only have been trailing by 12 points going into the half, but a mis-timed pass from Tommy Jones was picked off by Malcolm Frank and returned 56 yards for a spirit crushing touchdown. It also spelled the end of Jones' time behind the centre in this game, as Marcus Crandell took the ball for the third quarter,

But for all their faults the Stamps didn’t give up at the half, they took advantage of another big play from their defence and punched in a touchdown early in the third quarter pulling to within twelve points of the Esks to start the third quarter, making that second quarter interception appear even more costly. However, the rally sputtered out shortly after that, the Esks picked up two more field goals, putting the game to rest at 25-7, never really in any danger of losing, they then went on to control the play and frustrate the Stamps and their fans even further.

Jason Maas played most of the game but gave way to Bart Hendricks in the third quarter after receiving a burner on his hand. With the game well under control there was no urgency to having the key component of the Esks attack remain in the game. As for the record watch, Mike Pringle did not score any touchdowns in this one and rushed for only 76 yards, thus George Reeds contributions to CFL lore will stand for at least one more week.

The Eskies take the two points and keep the pace of the division leading BC Lions, who take on Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. The Stamps and Esks, renew acquaintances on Friday night, this time in Edmonton. The Stamps retired Allen Pitt’s fabled number 18 at half time, perhaps they can see if he wants to tag along for the ride to Edmonton. If he’s not inclined to strap on the pads anymore, the least he could do is run a clinic for Stampeder receivers, they are a class of students who are in desperate need of schooling in the fine art of catching a football.

CFL alumni 3 for 3 in NFL roster cuts

With NFL training camps winding down, NFL franchises are starting to pare down their rosters as they prepare for next weeks start to the NFL season.

This year there were three high profile ex-CFLers out there trying to make the cut in the big American league, and this year the alumni were shut out. Interestingly enough all three high profile former CFLers tried out for the same team the New York Jets, all with the same eventual result.

Kenton Keith was the first to feel the blade of Herman Edwards as he was released by the Jets earlier and subsequently rejoined the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Matt Dominguez is another ex CFLer who found himself cleaning out his Jets locker this weekend; the former Rider is reportedly exploring his options, as there is a chance he may be recalled to the Jets roster.

But by far the most interesting NFL cut this year for CFL fans was made Sunday by the Jets, who released Ricky Ray from their roster. Ray became expendable when Quincy Carter was picked up from Dallas to serve as back up to Chad Pennington, leaving Ray as the odd man out.

He is still considered to be Eskimo property and if he is to return to the CFL he would have to return to Edmonton and fill out the terms of his last contract. However, with Jason Maas presently leading the Eskimos with some amazing stats it would be hard to believe that the Esks would be inclined to make a change heading into the stretch before the playoffs.

It makes for one of those scenarios where the rich only get richer, as the Esks can collect QB’s and then make a trade to shore up any weak spots before the playoffs. The only question is who would they send off and how fast that could come back to haunt them. But then that’s why President Hugh Campbell makes the big money.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away, NOW!

If the folks working the PA system at Taylor field need some new music, we respectfully submit the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, with their Big 90’s hit, Give it Away. You could have sworn you could hear it playing underneath the play of Henry Burris and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, as they turned the ball over at the most inopportune times. The miscues of the Riders allowed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to take charge of the Labour Day Classic, leave a sold out Taylor Field with two points and climb the standings to a tie with the Riders for the third and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

To be fair to the Riders, the entire loss can’t be pinned on them. The Bombers defence had one of their better games of late as they shut down the Rider attack at key times and made the big plays when needed. And former Rider QB Kevin Glenn served up a nice helping of “OH YEAH”, to the Taylor Field faithful as he tossed for 163 yards completing 14 of 27 passes, two of them for touchdowns on the way to a 17-4 victory in the much anticipated Labour Day weekend match up. Glenn’s touchdown passes went to Kamau Peterson and Milt Stegall. Hillbilly baiting kicker Troy Westwood converted both TD’s and added a field goal on the day and managed to stay out of trouble with Taylor Field fans.

Burris’ numbers were a bit better on the stat sheet with total yards of196 yards and 20 for 27 on pass attempts, but turnovers made the difference and in the end, the only important stat is who gets the W, and this time W is for Winnipeg. With the win, the Bombers now hold an edge over the Riders should the two teams be tied for a playoff spot at the end of the season, making the on field mistakes possibly that much more costly in the long run.

Rider head coach Danny Barrett, did not point his finger directly at Burris following the game, instead suggesting it was a team problem that needed to be taken care of. But he did remind the young Saskatchewan QB that the Riders have put a lot of faith in him and expect him to step up and deliver when needed.

For Glenn the return to Taylor field could not have ended any better. Sent to Winnipeg at the start of the season when the Quarterback changing area in Regina got a little too crowded, he’s now getting a chance to shine in Winnipeg which has struggled all year. With Khari Jones injured the former Rider will be getting even more opportunity to perform. He can continue his mastery over his former team mates next Sunday, when the Riders head across the prairie to take on the Bombers in Winnipeg in a rematch.

Hey, Mr. DJ, play a tune for me! How the Riders decide to play will set the play list for Sunday, if they don’t get their act together quickly, Tom Petty’s Running down a Dream is going to make a wonderful theme for the season.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Alouettes special plays squad spells end of Renegades effort

For Joe Paopao and the Ottawa Renegades close is just not enough anymore, with the season past the half way point the Rens need wins, and need them fast. Ottawa is desperately trying to keep pace with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and Toronto Argonauts for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Friday night gave them a huge task; take on the always tough Montreal Alouettes, a team that has won all but one game this year. But for roughly 55 minutes or so they were more than up for the job at hand. As the Renegades played hard nosed football, getting the best out of a beat up offence with Quarterback Kerry Joseph taking his lumps in order to keep the Rens moving down the field.

Ottawa and Montreal traded leads for three quarters, with Ottawa finally surrendering the lead for good in the third quarter. The killer on this night was a blocked punt late in the fourth quarter, returned all the way for an insurance touchdown as the Alouettes put the finishing touches on a 25-16 victory over the Renegades at Frank Clair Stadium. The loss as unfair as it is for the hardworking Rens drops their record to 4 and 7 and keeps them mired in last place in the CFL East.

Montreal had all they could handle on this Friday night, but as long time CFL watchers know, a Don Matthews coached team is never really out of a game, whatever the score, whatever the time left. And this Friday was no exception, Anthony Calvillo kept the Als within striking distance for most of the game, answering Ottawa scoring drives point for point.

The Alouette defence came up big when it was needed most, putting the Renegades into a punting situation with less than eight minutes to go. The Alouettes blocked the Sandro Sciortino kick, Stephane Fortin chased it down the field and scooped it up and was off into the Renegades end zone. Game, set and match, Alouettes take the win and prepare for next weeks contest with Hamilton at Molson Stadium in Montreal.

For Ottawa the loss was a particularly bitter one, having played up to the level and at times surpassing the elite of the East. A hard fought effort going for naught, when it was needed most. Things don’t get any easier for the Renegades; next up on the schedule is a trip out to Vancouver to take on the Western Division leading BC Lions, how come off a bye week and with rumbles that Dave Dickenson is preparing to return to the Lion line up. Whether it’s on the field or on the schedule the Renegades can’t seem to catch a break this year.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Hitting the Books, Hitting the Field

The Canadian college football season got underway on Thursday night, as the new football hotbed of Quebec hosted the opening game of the CIS season. The Universite de Montreal Carabins shutout the McGill Redmen 26-0, as the two teams got things under way for the 2004 season. Almost 4800 fans took in the kick-off to action at the University de Montreal campus.

Football in Quebec has taken on a renaissance of late with the Alouettes selling out Molson stadium professionally each game. In Quebec City, the Rouge et Or of Laval routinely bring in 12,000 a game and the Quebec conference of CIS football has some of the most intense rivalries of any in the country.

For the CIS the path that starts this month will end in Hamilton in November with the championship game, the Desjardins Vanier Cup at Ivor Wynn Stadium, the first time it has been moved out of Toronto since the creation of the Vanier Cup in 1965. 27 teams are chasing the dream of a national championship, with the St. Mary’s Huskies rated as the number one team going into the 2004 campaign.

Last years champion Laval Rouge et Or may have something to say about those ratings by the time the final kick off takes place November 27th. They are presently rated as the number three team in the country trailing the Huskies and McMaster in the top three.

Opening week play continues through the Labour Day weekend in all conferences except the Atlantic, they don’t get the season underway until week two. College football in Canada has come a long way since the early days and now provides some pretty entertaining football, many of the folks on the field this year in the CIS will be seen in the CFL in the years to come. If you live near a CIS school, college ball can make for an enjoyable and cheap night out for the family. Check out a team near you.