Sunday, August 28, 2005

Buckin' the Odds, the Leos stay undefeated

A guy named Buck, proved to be worth his weight in gold Saturday night as the BC Lions relied on third string Quarterback Buck Pierce to engineer a two touchdown late fourth quarter drive to secure undefeated status for another week.

Pierce was pressed into service when Casey Printers found himself sidelined with recurring shoulder problems in the third quarter. Pierce took a bit of time to get used to the Taylor Field surroundings but looked rather comfortable as the fourth quarter began to wind down and the Lions began to wind up.

Spurred on by a Saskatchewan defensive collapse and some untimely (and rider fans and players suggest unbelievable) calls, the Lions charged back down the field twice in the waning moments of the game to take the lead 19-15 and remain the CFL's only undefeated squad this year.

The Riders looked to be in control of this one only to let the Lions back into the game, Saskatchewan seemed unable to control Pierce's attack and he frequently found the right receiver, at the right time with just the right amount of yardage to keep a drive alive.

It was a sloppy looking game for the first thirty minutes as neither side seemed able to get untracked and generate anything resembling offense. As the third quarter got underway Nealon Greene managed to turn on the jets a bit and get the Riders on the board and into the lead as the third quarter was winding down . After that Pierce took charge of the Lions offense and looked impressive as he led the Lions onto the attack.

The strength of the Lions the last two years has been a rather successful and entertaining tandem of Quarterbacks, now it's a trio of Leos that Wally Buono can call upon to conduct his offense. Not a bad situation for a head coach to have as he takes his undefeated squad into the last eight weeks of the season.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Winless No More!

They aren't quite ready to celebrate a Grey Cup parade around downtown Hamilton, but at least a monkey is off their backs. The Ti Cats leave week number nine with a W in the column, the first win of the 2005 campaign, a 41-39 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Blombers.

Danny McManus was back at the controls of the Ti Cat offense and finally found the range and the sure hands of D J Flick, the combination tore apart the Bomber deep backs as the Cats finally found a way not to beat themselves on the field, though it was close.

As time was winding down the Bombers were still very much in the hunt for their first road win of the year, with two minutes left in the game the Bombers were still within a field goal of taking away a W from victory starved Ivor Wynne faithful. Kevin Glenn had control of the play for the final minutes but an untimely interception snuffed out a final gasp drive for field goal position and gave the Cats the win.

For Winnipeg it's a minor setback on the comeback, the Bombers had been on a bit of a roll the last few weeks after overcoming their own shaky start and a quest for a wild card berth was not out of the question, with the loss there's a bit of breathing room for Calgary, Saskatchewan and the eastern crossover contenders.

As for Hamilton the win will be a welcome relief to the steady drum of the faithful that things have got to change drastically, immediately. And while no one is boldly predicting a Grey Cup run now, the team may be able to battle its way back to respectability and if a playoff spot should fall into their lap then the season will have been salvaged.

For now though they should savor their first win of the year and make plans to add to the math as the Labour Day showdown with Toronto beckons.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Marshall's Misery

Prior to Saturday night's battle of the bottom feeders, it was said that one team was going to at least begin to turn its season around by the end of the game. If that's true then the Bombers are on turn around watch, while the Ti Cats may be on suicide watch.

For Hamilton fans it was another long night as the Blue Bombers thumped the Steeltown lads 44-14. Hamilton never seemed to get things in gear at Canad Inn stadium, as Marcus Brady started but could not finish, let alone stem the tide of Bomber scoring.

Brady's day was cut short by an ankle injury late in the first half, Head Coach Greg Marshall, inserted newly arrived Khari Jones into the game with hopes of Ti Cat revival. Jones who is still working on his timing and learning the Ti Cat playbook returned to the scene of many of his past glories, but on this night history would not be repeating itself.

Saturday was all Blue, as Charles Roberts and Keith Stokes accounted for the bulk of the Blue Bomber scoring. Roberts rushing for 99 yards and three touchdowns, while Stokes hauled in five Kevin Glenn passes, for 139 yards and one touchdown. Stokes yardage increased with 256 all purpose yards amassed by the time the final gun had gone off.

Jim Daley was a looking a little more relaxed as the Bombers dominated the game from start to finish and seemed to shake off some of the unfortunate mistakes from past games. The win improves their record to 2-6 which is still a fair ways short of the third place Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, but it's at least an indication that all is not quite lost this year.

Over at the Hamilton dressing room one wonders what must be going through the mind of Greg Marshall, last years coach of the year is suffering a team meltdown of epic proportions. Considered a favourite to contend with Montreal and Toronto this year, the Cats have been frustrated all season long, with nary a win for the season thus far, the playoffs may be but a rumour by Labour Day. Indeed it's very much almost next year country for the Cats who have seen some changes in the front office in the last week, many a player must be wondering if there will be more changes on the field as well.

The Cats are staying in Winnipeg to prepare for next weeks match up in Vancouver against the Lions. Two teams going in completely different directions the Leos are undefeated, the Cats winless. One suspects that if a wager was to be made on the outcome of the next game, the Lions will still be perfect where the Cats will be petrified. Greg Marshall's annus horribilis is about to get even more discouraging.

Half a game of Damon not enough

Michael Bishop gave it his best shot, but in the end the Argos needed the wily veteran Damon Allen back on the field to try and mount a come back against an aggressive Montreal Alouettes squad Friday night. The Als took advantage of Allen's on field absence to direct defensive schemes at Bishop that bogged down the Argo offence and gave Anthony Calvillo some excellent field position to launch his attacks. Calvillo took advantage of the solid defensive play to put up a 14-0 lead at half time.

Bishop received the start Friday night as Allen nursed injuries on the bench, but with the Argos stagnating and the Alouettes starting to run away with the game, Pinball Clemons had no choice but to put Allen into the game to start the second half.

Allen threw his wonky ankle into the action and managed to put a few points on the board, but after sixty minutes the Als had taken an 18-10 decision over the Argos and moved into a tie for second place in the east with Toronto, both squads trail the surprising Ottawa Renegades in the CFL East.

While Bishop may have taken the rap for the poor performance, the Argo defence stepped up and admitted that they did not have one of their finer hours. Letting the Als dominate the play for the better part of the game, gave Calvillo and company the time to put the points on the board and shut down Allen when he entered the play.

The Montreal win tightens up the CFL east quite a bit, with only Hamilton staggering around in search of a win let alone a playoff spot. With Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa all seemingly firing quite nicely at the moment, the long season may get even longer in Hamilton. For Montreal the win is reminder for the rest of the league that the Als troubles of early in the season may not have been as dire as many suggested. They're back in the hunt and a Don Matthews team with a scent of the Grey Cup is a scary thing to be dealing with.

Leos Liking first

Wally Buono's boys continue on along their winning ways, with Dave Dickenson back in the play the Lions picked up where they left off last week and rattled off another CFL win in the CFL 2005 season. With week seven done, the Leos remain the only undefeated team in the CFL with a 7-0 record far and away the most effective of CFL squads this year.

Friday night's game started out as a blow out as the Lions rolled on down the field and scored seemingly at will as Dickenson mixed his plays masterfully, leaving the Stamps defence looking confused and overwhelmed.

By half time the Calgary faithful had started to express their displeasure with the Stamps, as the defence struggled and the offense declined to get untracked. Henry Burris had a horrid start to the game with dropped passes, missed assignments and turnovers causing much misery on the Calgary offensive corps. The mental lapses early on set the stage for a frustrating night for the Stamps.

But with the half time rest the Stamps managed to cobble together an effective rebuttal to the 31-10 lead, it was an impressive reply for the Stamps, but in the end not enough and the score flattered the Stamps as the Lions did appear to dominate the affair for most of the game. The score of 39-31 flattering the Calgarians, as they game did not appear to be as close as this score indicates.

Once he got untracked, Burris did begin to generate some offense and help his shaken teammates regain some of their confidence. But Dave Dickenson controlled the play to his liking and the Lions offence repsonded in kind to his steady and effective pace.

As they sit atop the CFL West and the CFL as a whole going 8-0 is a strong possibility, the Hamilton Tiger Cats are the next opponent at BC Place. Still winless and injury riddled the Tabbies are at possibly their lowest ebb of the last few years. With so much expected of them at the start of the season, this has truly been the season from hell. It may get a little bit hotter over the next seven days as Greg Marshall tries to put together a game plan to take on the high riding Lions.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Renegades Rendez-vous

First place in the East at week seven. Very few in Ottawa and around the CFL probably thought that the Renegades would hold bragging rights on August 12th, but there it is right on the top of your CFL statistic package. The Renegades with a record of 5-3, hold down the first spot in the CFL east, thanks to an exciting 22-17 victory over a struggling Saskatchewan Roughrider squad. They're uncontested hold on the top spot will be tested tonight as the Argos and Als do battle in Toronto.

The Rens who continue to amaze and entertain game in and game out, can thank their steady defense for the victory, the Renegade secondary kept both Saskatchewan QB's Nealon Green and Marcus Crandell frustrated all night long, as turnovers and interceptions were the battle orders for the team in black.

Kerry Joseph took charge on offense once again, scoring two touchdowns on his own and throwing for another as the Renegades did an excellent job of ball control. From the very first scrimmage they seemed to be a team with an eye on the standings, as Joseph led them down the field and in for a touchdown on their first possession. A drive that put the 20,000 plus crowd into a festive mood for the rest of the game, the largest crowd of the year had hardly sat in their seats when the Rens were putting seven points on the board.

It rocked the Riders for a while, who went three and out on the following set of downs, unable to generate any offense early on in the game. Nealon Green was relieved of his duties at half time and looked like a guy not too happy about the decision. Marcus Crandell took over for quarter three and had mild success as the game progressed, but the punishing play of the Ottawa defensive line and the stingy attitude of the secondary kept the Riders off balance for the night.

As the fourth quarter was winding down the Riders had taken a lead, but the calm and collected ways of Joesph led the Rens back down the field to take the lead for good. The last minute of play in true CFL tradition had its excitement as Saskatchewan took the ball down the field and then launched a few missiles in the direction of the Ottawa endzone, but in the end a spectacular defensive play by Greg Moss salted away another Ottawa victory.

It's uncharted territory these days for the Rens, Joe Paopao's squad enjoying life at the top of the CFL pack in the east and building confidence with each game. As Joseph put it after the game, "It's a huge win for us, but we can play better." Words to give Rens fans a bit of a swagger as they support their team these days.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Wright obituary well done at Post

The National Post did a pretty impressive job of detailing the career and horrible death of Chris Wright. The former CFLer was murdered in Atlanta last week, an apparent victim of a robbery or car jacking.

The story has been covered by many media outlets in the last few days, but the article by Joe O'Connor seems to have captured the guys life quite nicely. The Post pieced together his time in college football, his introduction to the CFL via the Baltimore Stallions and the end of his career to a blown knee in the BC training camp in 2002.

Wrights career highlight was of course a mad gallop down the field in the 1995 Grey Cup a punt return that helped the Stallions take the Grey Cup off of Canadian soil for the first and only time.

A CFL All star he was denied the rookie of the year award in 95, but played his anger out on the field in that remarkable game against the Stamps.

His time in the CFL was rather short, injuries of course can shorten anyone's career but leave the fans wanting but never getting to see more.

Wright returned to Georgia where he was putting his post football life into order and looking forwards rather than backwards and old glories. The posts obit is one of the better efforts you will see, it gives us a great sketch of a life lived and tragically cut short far too early.

Race for the Bottom

While many CFL observers ponder the week 7 schedule and highlight the BC at Calgary match up as possibly a pivotal game, one needs to look a little further east for the game that may define the season.

Hamilton travels to Winnipeg on Saturday night as the two struggling franchises meet to decide who possibly is the worst in the league this year. Neither Winnipeg nor Hamilton has been able to put together a strong performance so far this year, though there have been flashes of former Ti Cat glories for Greg Marshall, the Ti Cat coach has had to stand on the sidelines and watch his squad come up short time and time again.

Winnipeg hasn't been able to find very much so far this year to be positive about, though Saturday's performance by third string QB gives the Blue something to at least look forward to. Jim Daley's frustration level must be skyrocketing as his team finds new and inventive ways to let other teams take charge of the game and take the win.

Both teams pass the one third post of the season, with the very real possibility of being nowhere near the playoffs come November, which is why Saturday's game may be the most important of the year for both teams.

Saturday's game will also have the extra drama of the return of Khari Jones, possibly in the role of starting QB for Hamilton. Marcus Brady has struggled of late and the questionable status of Danny McManus has Jones on the speed reading program for the Ti Cat playbook.

So forget about the drama in Cowtown, the rejuvenated form of the Renegades,or the rivalry of Montreal and Toronto on Friday night. The real action is at CanadInn stadium. However, expect the unexpected with these two teams. The way the season has gone, a 0-0 tie, created by an OT missed kick could sum up the season for these two teams.

Roaring along

Unbeaten after six weeks, just the kind of statistic the BC Lions were hoping to have to show for themselves as the hot days of August arrive. Friday night's spectacular at BC Place had everything a football fan could ask for, loads of offence, stellar defensive plays and a surprise twist at starting QB.

The ongoing Quarterback situation in BC gained another chapter as Casey Printers took to the field for Dave Dickenson, Printers was forced into action as Dickenson's back began to suffer spasms early Friday morning. With barely any lead time, Printers took to the field and shook off the rust of inaction, finally getting into a groove about mid way through the second quarter.

The Lions rolled up a sizeable lead into the half time as the Eskimos seemed unable to change their game plane to account for a running QB as opposed to the drop back stylings of Dave Dickenson. Printers pushed his Leos to a 20 point lead at half time as the Eskimo squad neglected to show up for the first thirty minutes of football. Head coach Danny Maciocia was relieved at his teams re-appearance in the third quarter but cryptically referred observers to view some tape of the first half for answers to the Eskimo struggles, a not so subtle dig at CFL officiating one is to surmise.

But with a change of the defensive assignments in the third quarter the Eskimos began to climb back into the game, though a hole that size against an undefeated team is not going to be filled easily. By the end of the game it took a defensive play Dante Marsh in the last minute of play to salt away the victory as Ricky Ray launched a Hail Mary pass with time winding down, with Marsh taking the ball away the 25-19 victory was assured.

It was the most anticipated game of the young season as both the Lions and Esks had been playing fairly steady and winning ball prior to Friday. The largest crowd of the year in BC at over 35,000 were primed for the fireworks and despite the absence of Dickenson the game more than filled the bill, all be it broken up into two different games it seemed.

For Edmonton questions about composure will dog the bye week as the Esks ponder why their tempers get them into such penalty trouble. Over on the other side of the Rockies the Lions now once again have to talk about their QB situation as Wally Buono sits back to decide who should get the start on Friday against the Stamps at McMahon.

While the QB "controversy" is good for the Vancouver newspaper sports wars it's one of those problems many a coach wishes he had. Start the talented veteran or last years Player of the Year, you think Greg Marshall or Jim Daley wish they had that "problem" today?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Final Snaps of August

A list of the Final snap items for the month of August.

Aug 31 "He's my best buddy. All the time. I'm like MacKenzie King"
Aug 29 "As It is, there's three teams right in a fight for that playoff spot"
Aug 27 "They've got a feel for each other"
Aug 25 "At the end of the day, it's really what the people of Ottawa want"
Aug 20 "What can I do better? Can I slow myself down"
Aug 13 "I was kind of a historian, so I had heard of Calgary"
Aug 12 " He's a very passionate person with a bad haircut"
Aug 10 "He's not even on my radar this week"
Aug 7 "I feel it's destiny that I'm here right now"
Aug 3 "I think we're in a pretty good position at 5-1"
Aug 2 "We were the ones who came out and looked lethargic"

Opening Kickoffs for August

We track our opening kickoff features for the month of August.

Aug 31 A line he can't get through
Aug 31 Pictures for Printers
Aug 31 An eye on the game, and eye on the storm recovery
Aug 29 Brock's Back in Green and Gold
Aug 29 Rison on the Rideau?
Aug 29 The Lion sleeps this week
Aug 27 Andre hopes to be rising in another city soon
Aug 27 Room for improvement at the CBC
Aug 27 An Eskimo connection
Aug 25 Lumsden explores his options
Aug 25 CBC to stay silent on Saturday
Aug 25 Bashir's Back
Aug 20 8-0 and looking for more!
Aug 20 Silent movie night at the CBC
Aug 20 Pay Pao Pao promtly please and thank you!
Aug 13 Stamps succeeding in 2005
Aug 13 CFL alumni enshrined in US College Hall of Fame
Aug 13 Renegades secondary is second to none
Aug 12 Curious times in Hamilton
Aug 12 Bottom feeding bowl?
Aug 12 Noisemaking on the Rideau
Aug 10 Changes in Steel town
Aug 10 Brazzell in Blue
Aug 10 Rison's star about to rise?
Aug 7 Break Up the Renegades!
Aug 7 Burris Takes Control
Aug 7 Cahoon lost to the Als for six weeks
Aug 3 Look at the Details
Aug 3 Jones to take over?
Aug 3 Rens Banks ready to shine
Aug 2 The Bishop Makes a Save
Aug 2 Rens find themselves in a Strange position
Aug 2 Westwood for the Record Books