Sunday, November 27, 2005

Redemption Day for Ricky Ray!

In one of the most memorable days in Grey Cup History, one statistic tells it all, Ricky Ray played a complete game when it counted. The Edmonton Eskimo quarterback, who had been pulled in two previous playoff games this year, went the distance and led his Edmonton Eskimos to Canada’s Holy Grail of Football. In a thrilling finale to the CFL season, Ray’s Eskimos prevailed over the Montreal Alouettes 38-35 in a game that went deep into the CFL’s unique overtime format.

Ray took charge of his Eskimo offence and put points on the board in overtime to claim the victory. While the first half was a rather humdrum affair, the second half more than made up for it. With end to end excitement and big plays galore, both Ray and the Alouettes Anthony Calvillo traded offensive weapons in their bid to claim the Cup.

Ray was named the games MVP and was most deserving of the honour, having put aside the controversy generated the last two weeks. He went to work and methodically put his game plan into effect. Short hitch passes, long bombs, crushing runs he used the majority of his line up to move the Eskimos down the field, even taking the ball in himself to answer Montreal scores almost point by point.

By the end of Ray’s work day he had a remarkable 359 yards in passing, completing 35 of 45 passes. In fact his stats would have been even more impressive, if a few of his first half passes had been caught by the normally sure handed Eskimo receivers. The Eskimos day was aided by a spectacular record breaking 96 yard, kick off return by Tony Tompkins, (and something he actually predicted on Saturday) picking up important points when it looked like Montreal was planning a replay of last weeks Eastern final comeback.

From the second half kick off on, the viewer was on the edge of their seat wondering which of the gunslingers would be the last to lay down their arms. In the end, it was double shot by Calvillo that proved to be costly. In a mental error, Calvillo rethrew a ball that he caught off of a rebound; a violation of the rule book providing a costly penalty that seemed to put the Als on their heels for good. Calvillo's move resulted in a few Als fans painting him as the goat of the game, but in reality it was only with Calvillo's stable hand on the offense that the Als were close.

From that point in Overtime though, it was time for the Edmonton defence to shut down the Alouettes offence, which it did quite successfully in the last gasp moments of the overtime.

Once again the CFL delivered on its usual spectacular finish to the regular season. It would be hard to think of a more exciting finish to a championship game, than that provided by Ray, Calvillo and their team mates on Sunday afternoon.

For Ray it marks a final exclamation point on any questions of his ability to put away the big win. His stats tell the story of this one, passing yardage, ball control and points on the board. All will go a long way to making Sunday the day that the Eskimos finally became Ray’s team, his MVP trophy a testimony to his place in the CFL history books and in the every growing library of Eskimo lore.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's yellow and black with Maas as the Quarterback

The word is leaking out, Jason Maas is about to roll out of the pocket and take the ball all the way to Hamilton. League officials who insisted on anonymity say that after Sunday's Grey Cup game, Maas will be traded to the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

This is not exactly a huge surprise, people have been waiting for the other cleat to drop ever since the Cats and Eskies made the deal to send Troy Davis to Edmonton. The name of Maas immediately was placed into the rumour mill and all the pieces seemed to fit, the only blip on the road to Hamilton was Maas' late game heroics in the Western Semi Final game and one week later in the Western final.

As they complete the deal, the Eskimos are apparently going to welcome Danny McManus back into the green and gold fold, as well as another former Eskie offensive lineman Tim Bakker.

Maas will make for a welcome addition to a Tiger Cat team that took a few steps backwards in 2005, expected to challenge for the CFL east, the Cats found themselves out of the running early on in the season and out of the playoffs by the time the season ended.

Putting Maas into Black and Gold in 2006 would give the Tiger Cat fans a sign that the last year was a blip on the road back to respectability. The CFL will instantly become a much closer division should Maas be moved after Sunday.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

And The Winners Were!

The CFL handed out it's prized possessions on Thursday night as the league celebrated excellence with a gala presentation at Vancouver's Performing Arts Centre. The Rogers CFL Players Awards recognized outstanding performances from a memorable 2005.

The man of the night by far was Toronto Argonaut Quarterback, Damon Allen. The 21 year veteran of the CFL was a double winner on Thursday, taking home the Rogers fans choice award and the award for Most Valuable Player for 2005. It was Allen's first win of the MVP trophy in his storied career, an oversight that should have been corrected many years ago but finally was and to universal acclaim.

Another long serving Quarterback, Danny McManus of the Hamilton Tiger Cats picked up the Tom Pate Award, an award presented by the CFLPA to recognize community involvement. And judging by McManus' qualifications it might take a St. Theresa to wrest the trophy from his grasp. McManus has raised over 200,000 dollars for the McMaster Children's Foundation, a testimony to his dedication to the children of South Western Ontario.

Cory Holmes did not go home empty handed either. Up against Damon Allen for outstanding player even Holmes must have known that was not going to happen this year. But his work on special teams certainly qualified him for recognition. Holmes not only starred on the Saskatchewan Roughriders special teams but dominated in the running game this season as well. A versatile and talented back who can break a play with a change of direction. By the end of the night Holmes was on winners row with the John Agro trophy.

One of the few rays of hope in Winnipeg came from Defensive End Gavin Wells, who pulled more than his share of work in a horrid season for the Blue and Gold. Wells was in on 12 quarterback sacks in 2005. Not a bad beginning for a guy in his rookie year, good enough to win him the title of Rookie of the Year.

The top lineman of the year award went to Gene Makowsky, his second year in a row in collecting trophies from the CFL. Makowski's presence on the Saskatchewan Offensive Line provided a great amount of protection for Saskatchewans QB's and opened up those holes that allowed Cory Holmes to run the wide open prairie.

Top Defensive honours went to Calgary's John Grace, part of the fast tracked rebuilding program in the Stampede City. Grace is the anchor of the Stampeders linebacker department and was a major reason that Calgary's defence has come on so strong in the last year.

The Top Canadian this year is BC Lion Brent Johnson, the Leos linebacker had a record 16 sacks and came into his own in 2005.

The Commissioner's Award went to the local Vancouver group that organized this years Grey Cup Week events. Known locally as the waterboys, the group was formed by Bobby Ackles in 2003 to rebuild the base of football support that once was a mainstay in BC. Two short years later the Leos are one of the lynch pins of the CFL, a stable and model franchise that contends year in and year out.

For Commissioner Tom Wright the CFL Awards always present an opportunity to celebrate what is so right about the CFL. Thursday night proved once again that the league continues to showcase the kind of talent and citizenship which should help continue the leagues growth for years to come.

Enjoy your Turkey!

To the Twelve Men on the Field browsers from below the 49th and to the upper left hand side of the map as well, a Very Happy Thanksgiving Day.

American Thanksgiving is truly one of those amazing holidays where Americans travel some great distances to share turkey, football, parades and friends and family. Think Planes, Trains and Automobiles to understand the length that some Americans go to in order to be home for Thanksgiving.
If you have a friend in the USA perhaps send them a card to celebrate the big day, but don't expect a reply until the days of sloth die down.

May the family be well, the Turkey well done and the football entertaining.

The above item first appeared on my A Town Called Podunk blog, my general interest blog check it out for a wide variety of topics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Try and run the ball through this line!

Now if the BC Lions had put this defensive weapon to work last Sunday, then Bobby Ackles would be celebrating Grey Cup Week in a whole different way!

With a naval escort from Victoria and a Coyote ride to the Coach's press conference, one could say that the Grey Cup was in good hands.

HMCS Vancouver made the journey from CFB Esquimalt on Wednesday, proudly displaying Lord Grey's Drinking cup on the frigates helicopter deck as it passed under the Lions Gate Bridge and headed for Canada Place. Once there the crew of the Vancouver turned over to the Cup to the Army who stood on guard for Grey and got the trophy to the conference on time. The military will continue to be involved in Grey Cup week right up until the big game on Sunday.

Grey Cup festivities have begun to pick up in Vancouver, as the locals shake off the disappointment of the Leos not taking part in the final game of the 2005 Canadian Football season. The Alouettes and Eskimos are in town preparing their game plans to try and lay claim to the championship of Canadian football.

BC Place was sold out a number of months ago for the Grey Cup finale and surprisngly few of the tickets purchased by Lions fans have been dumped on the open market. Perhaps BC's football fans have finally figured out that Montreal and Edmonton having participated in more than their share of Grey Cup games, these two teams might actually put on an entertaining affair this Sunday.

With a week full of activities this is possibly the closest Canada gets to a Mardi Gras and one can't let a little thing like the home team's absence get in the way of a good time.

As for the military escort, Ackles may wish to give Wally Buono the Coyote units home phone number. It could go a long way to solving any further controversies in the Lions Den in 2006!

(photo credits Canoe/DND)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Final Snaps of November

A collection of our Final snap quotes for November

Nov 29 "This one really hurts"
Nov 28 "That was wild"
Nov 25 "I remember early on in my career I was very superstitious"
Nov 24 "All's well that ends well"
Nov 23 "There's something a little bit special every time I play the Eskimos"
Nov 22 "I Wasn't planning on coming up here"

Opening kickoffs for November

A compilation of the Opening kickoffs for Npvember

Nov 29 Welcome Home
Nov 29 Waiting for Jason
Nov 29 The game is still the thing
Nov 28 A Fitting end
Nov 28 One pass too many
Nov 28 Day belonged to Ray
Nov 25 The three amigos
Nov 25 A final day for Lapointe's hobby
Nov 25 The state of the CFL
Nov 24 A Familiar Foe
Nov 24 A most outstanding player
Nov 24 Mitchell back for seconds
Nov 23 Eskies listed as Favourites
Nov 23 Stegall to return for 12th season
Nov 23 The Don and Danny Show
Nov 22 Higgins gets an extension
Nov 22 Lions QB's ponder their future
Nov 22 Austin in Demand

We're here for the party!

Stories from Vancouver as the week of celebration carries on.

Nov 25 The Commish gives out some dish
Nov 22 Toronto is not amused at missing the flight
Nov 22 Tickets Tickets take our tickets
Nov 22 Gizmo the Greatest

Montreal Mania

Following development with the Alouettes as they prepare to face the Eskimos in the Grey Cup.

Nov 25 Als defence adjusting to new role
Nov 25 Lapointe to start on Sunday
Nov 24 Als feel at home
Nov 24 Edwards long trek back
Nov 23 Something to prove
Nov 23 The Delivery guys
Nov 23 It's reunion time
Nov 23 History lessons
Nov 21 A confident Calvillo
Nov 21 Saving the best for last
Nov 21 Als confident as they head west
Nov 21 The back ups big day
Nov 21 Als D took charge

Everything Eskie

A compilation of all the news from the Eskimo camp as they prepare for the Grey Cup on Sunday.

Nov 25 Tompkin's talks up touchdowns
Nov 25 50 years later, same teams, same place
Nov 24 The Legend and the Kid
Nov 24 Memory lane
Nov 24 Maas tries to keep his mind on the game
Nov 24 Mitchell thrilled to be back in Grey Cup
Nov 23 A Number one fan
Nov 23 Don't go changing, to try to please me
Nov 23 The Bertrand decision
Nov 22 Just another game
Nov 22 Back where he belongs
Nov 22 Back on the scene
Nov 22 All for the good of the team
Nov 22 Sticking with Ricky
Nov 21 A week like no other
Nov 21 Now about that call coach
Nov 21 Eskies ruin that BC Party
Nov 21 The Maas Chronicles
Nov 21 The magical Maas
Nov 21 The Legend of Jason Maas
Nov 21 Ray watched with mixed emotions
Nov 21 Walking wounded
Nov 21 The O line held the line
Nov 21 Joe Montford with the sack
Nov 21 The Rookie
Nov 21 Esks run over Lions

Printers packs his bags

With the BC Lions quest for a Grey Cup at an end by Sunday night, could it be that the season long controversy over quarterbacking has come to an end as well.

It was an emotional Casey Printers who addressed the media following the Lions elimination from the CFL playoffs, a frustrated quarterback who vented about how he gave it his all this season, but that this team was never really his. And while his tenure this season in the Lions den has been a roller coaster ride of emotion, he probably spoke more than a bit of truth that will need to be examined by the Lions management.

Printers was unfairly tossed into the Western Final with only three minutes to play, expected to pull off a last minute miracle to salvage a Lions season that was filled with high expectations but ended with a free fall of major proportions.

Many an arm chair coach and GM will be questioning Wally Buono’s hesitation in going to Printers earlier in the fourth quarter or even in the third. As Printers’ rightly pointed out, this has always been Dave Dickenson’s team and on Sunday Buono kept it that way til almost the very last minute.

At the start of the season the Lions were the envy of every franchise in the CFL, two capable exciting quarterbacks each possessing the skills to lead a well stocked offense on to victory. It was the dream of any GM to have such depth at the most vital position on a team, but by the end of the season that gift had become a curse. As the season went on and the Lions began to stumble the reticence to move Printers into the lineup seemed to split this team, players unsure who their QB would be, no one seemingly on the same page as Buono.

With the early exit one week before a Grey Cup Game hosted by the Lions management, the Lions will need to address the situation once and for all. Printers was saying all the right things that he wants to come back to BC, but underlying his words is a sense that he only wants to come back if he becomes the go to guy in the Lions den. However, if his agent is to be believed (and hyperbole was created to describe this guy) then Printers may very well be NFL bound by January. Printer’s agent says that Casey is scheduled in for up to 21 show and tell sessions with NFL franchises once the New Year beckons. Considering the kind of money that Printers wants (the same kind of cash as Ricky Ray) there’s every chance that he’ll end up holding a clipboard and biding his time below the 49th.

Then again, the Lions could swing a deal to send Printers off to a new CFL destination. There’s a need for a starting quarterback in Hamilton, Saskatchewan and (hot rumour of the week) Winnipeg and who knows what the Toronto needs will be, Damon Allen needs to make a decision now that his remarkable year has come up one game short from what could have been a story tale retirement story.

And with the circus in Ottawa one wonders if Kerry Joseph is even safe from the mercurial nature of the Gliebermen. That’s five of the nine teams in the league that would probably give their right arm for a quarterback with the potential of Printers.

Somehow, unless Wally Buono has a major change in his mindset, you get the idea that Printers will be wearing somebody else’s colours next year, whether they are NFL or CFL, they most likely won’t be BC Lions orange and white.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Lapointe carries the load

The Don is going back to the big game, and the CFL's most cantankerous coach can thank a young Quebeccer by the name of Eric Lapointe for his tickets to Vancouver. Lapointe who spends a fair amount of time on the special teams component of the Als, got a chance to run from the backfield during the Eastern final, and when given the chance took that ball and ran and ran and ran with it.

Placed into the game when starting running back Robert Edwards was injured, Lapointe provided an instructional video on how to be a power back. He bashed his way to over 100 yards in less than a half of football, knocking Argo linemen and Safety's alike to the side as he single handedly brought the Als back from the dead. Lapointe scored three touchdowns in his thirty minutes of fame, knocking the Argos back on their heels and silencing a huge Argo crowd of 44,000 who couldn't believe what they were seeing. Mistake after mistake, gave the Alouettes new life and they took advantage of everything the Argos offered up.

The Argos couldn't stop Lapointe and couldn't score on their own as they blew a first half lead eventually ending up on the short end of a 33-17 defeat. Montreal's defence finally got back on track in the second half shutting down the Argo attack and putting pressure on Argo QB Damon Allen for the remainder of the game.

On the offensive side of the game, when he wasn't dishing the ball off to Lapointe, Al's QB Anthony Calvillo was sitting in his pocket taking his time to find receiver after receiver. The Als offensive line rose to the occasion in this Eastern Final, making the room for Lapointe to bash through the line and giving Calvillo time to pick apart the Argonaut secondary.

The win marks the third time in four years that the Alouettes will head for a Grey Cup Sunday appearance and it wouldn't be a Montreal Grey Cup without their old nemesis the Edmonton Eskimos.

Edmonton's defence is one of the most respected units in the CFL but they could get a work out next Sunday back at BC Place. If Edwards is ready they have to deal with a rusher who was number three in the CFL this year with 1,199 yards to his credit. If he can't suit up, then Lapointe gets the ball and as the Argos learned to their regret, once he gets up a head of steam he can't be stopped.

Many we're expecting a Toronto/BC showdown the last Sunday in November, turns out the consolation prize may be more entertaining than that main event would have been.

No More Mighty Lions roar, get your tickets at the door!

We can here the cry up Robson Street and down Granville right now, Tickets; Tickets get your tickets…….Please!

After a season which started full of promise, the BC Lions 2005 campaign came to a sudden and unexpected end. The Leos came out flat in the first half of their Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Eskimos, taking too many penalties and giving away too many footballs at key points of the game. That combined with yet another unscheduled relief performance by Eskie Jason Maas, led the Eskimos to a 28-23 victory over the Defending Western Champions. A loss that sent thousands of Leo’s fans home to vent, many of whom called up the post game shows to suggest some changes are needed in the Lions den.

The quarterback controversy that has dogged this team since the start of the season, played out probably its final act on Sunday afternoon at BC Place. As Wally Buono turned the ball over to Casey Printers late in the fourth quarter hoping the spark would lead to a last minute comeback and a chance to star in their own homefiled Grey Cup game. But in the end it wasn’t meant to be, some last second excitement only served to bring the fans up high, only to drop them down hard by the games completion.

The final minutes of play were as exciting as a CFL game can give you, but like many a CFL game calls by the officiating crew were a tad hard to follow. A drive by the Leos, was kept alive on a pass interference call as time ticked down, but another play which featured a pass route diversion by a hit was left as is, running out the clock and the Lions season. Consistency never seems to be gold standard in CFL officiating at times.

Regardless, the Lions have no one to blame but themselves for their predicament. They never seemed to get untracked until the mid part of the second quarter, falling behind by a score of 21- 3 and then coming back to tie the game at 21 before falling behind for good. Dickenson analyzed his game in the dressing afterwards and declared that the effort was not his best game, and how you want to perform in the big games and he didn’t get the job done.

An emotional Casey Printers proclaimed how he gave it all for this club this year and was quite frustrated at not being able to pull the Western Final out of the fire. The timing of his insertion into the game will be the thing of debate for much of the off season, at least until either he or Dickenson find themselves with a new home in 2006. The uncomfortable situation between the two determined quarterbacks seemed to sap this team of its energy as the season went along, culminating in last gasp grab for the home playoff date, only to lose that advantage by half time, leaving the team to scramble to keep things hopeful til the end.

For Vancouver itself, a Lion less Grey Cup might put a bit of a damper on many of the Grey Cup activities, as the normally fickle Lions fans lose their zeal to Party on the Pacific. A smart Edmonton football fan is already placing his or her ad in the Vancouver Sun or Province for Monday morning. The game already announced as a sell out may find some serious re-allocation of football colours in the stands by next Sunday.

The Orange and Black sweaters, flags and fingers will be making way for the Green and Gold of the Eskimos, with a smaller section of red white and Blue Alouette material.

It’s not the way it was supposed to be this Grey Cup Week, in Bob Ackles and Wally Buono’s world this was the week to climb that final mountain and claim the Grey Cup in their home city.

Instead, the Eskimos and Als will battle it out on the field, while the Lions clean it out in the dressing room!

Yes, I know what am I doing here.

With the Grey Cup only one week away now it's probably a little late of me to get back into the Twelve Men groove, but I figured I should at least make mention of the finals and try and recapture my readership with some Grey Cup material.

As expressed earlier, this poor little blog has suffered from my neglect and that's too bad, as I enjoy the CFL it's wild and wooly finishes and colorful characters. So I'll try to be a tad more consistent over the next week.

We'll look at the two finals first and then as the week progresses take a look at what's ahead for the Party on the Pacific.

Hope you stick around for the ride!