Hamilton at Winnipeg
Week Nine's opening act showed promise to be the more memorable of the two weekend games, but as events would provide on Saturday, it was to be but the pre-meal nibblers, to Saturday's main course.
But man, what an appetizer it was.
The Hamilton Tiger Cats marched into Swaggerville and served some notice that if the Bombers want to keep that title they will have to play the full sixty and fight to the end to carry it off.
Friday night Football's marquee attraction brought everything to the table and left little behind to be disappointed in, though Hamilton fans probably will have some regrets over missed opportunities that could very well have allowed their squad to take those two points from the Bombers and knock down the Blue a few pegs on the Swagger meter.
However, in front of a more than sold out CanadInn Stadium (temporary seats were opened up to boost attendance over the 30,000 mark on Friday) the Bombers fought their way back from a deficit to snatch away that potential Tiger Cat upset and in the process secure first place with a bit of space heading into Labour Day's battle with their long time rivals the Roughriders.
If ever there was a good session in the run up to that always entertaining Labour Day contest, Friday night provided it as the Bombers battled back from a 27-20 deficit in the fourth quarter, with Buck Pierce seemingly playing off the energy of the sold out stadium to lead the Bombers on down the field, bringing the Blue even with the TiCats with less than eight minutes to play.
With the Bomber defence stepping up in the late stages once again, Pierce would get the ball back with less than six minutes to go and position the Bombers for a 21 yard field goal attempt, which Justin Palardy made successful to provide the winning margin of 30-27 on the night and securing the Bombers their fifth straight victory and undisputed hold on first in the CFL east.
For the Cats who played a strong game, the frustration of letting a 17-3 lead get away from them post half time could detract from the strong message that they sent the Swaggerville gang, but as they say you do your talking on the field and then count the points up at the end of the game and when sixty minutes was up it was Swaggerville 30, Steeltown 27 and the Bombers would be adding to the mythical nature of this season and the march to destiny that they seem to be embarked upon this year.
Still, there is much football to be played in the second half of the CFL schedule before November's playoffs begin, victory in August could soon be forgotten when the weather changes and the football becomes desperate.
Yet you have a feeling that the Bombers believe this year, in their mission and themselves, backing up all the talk with their work ethic on the field.
There may yet be another match up between Hamilton and Winnipeg for a much larger prize and a much anticipated one it may very well be, considering all the pre game hype that was generated in the run up to Friday night's game.
If that's how an Eastern Final should shake out by November, we could do a lot worse, as Friday night's showdown was as almost as good as it can get in the CFL, though we imagine we are in store for much of the same through the next three months.
Winnipeg Free Press-- Swagger 30, Hammer 27
Winnipeg Sun-- Blue blood, sweat, cheers
Hamilton Spectator-- Rookie mistakes costly in 'Peg
National Post-- Bombers edge visiting Ticats
Canada.com-- Swagger-lite Bombers slip past Tabbies
Montreal at Calgary
While we were still sitting back in amazement at the pace and fury of Friday night, the Stampeders and Alouettes served notice that the road to a Grey Cup in Vancouver isn't going to be a push over for anyone.
In what turned out to be a showcase review of why Henry Burris and Anthony Calvillo have both been among the tops of CFL quarterbacks for many years now, the two offences combined for hundreds and hundreds of yards of offence and 69 points on the score board, which like Friday night showed all why the CFL is such a great game.
The air duel between Burris and Calvillo dominated the game, as two of the CFL's top quarterbacks matched each other pass for pass, the only difference in the game, one pass too many from the Montreal quarterback that was picked off and set up the winning points for Calgary.
But before we arrived at the last minute twist, this was about as entertaining a CFL game as we've had all year, and could rank as one of the best of the last five years or so.
If featured a preview of what Stampeders hope may come in the future, a Burris to Johnny Forzani combination that provided for two Stamps touchdowns, though to be fair to the Als, they clearly missed the absence of defensive back Mark Estelle who was injured in the first half and never returned, creating a hole in the Als defence which Burris exploited in the final thirty minutes.
For Montreal's offence the most successful of tandems was the Calvillo to Richardson combination which also provided for fourteen points.
And while a score of 38-31 might suggest that there were defensive lapses, that wasn't really the case, the defence still made its plays and made some hard hits, it was just the ingenuity of the offensive schemes combined with the experience of the two quarterbacks that provided for the offensive explosion on Saturday.
In the end, as it always seems to be in such closely fought battles, a turnover here or a mistake there determined the outcome, the Calvillo interception late in the game, something that we rarely seem when he's in his two minute zone made for the difference in the thriller, a game many suggest could be a preview of November's Grey Cup, though we imagine there's a team in Winnipeg that might offer up a differing opinion on that potential final match up.
Calgary Herald-- Forzani's career game propels Stamps to win over Als
Calgary Sun-- Stamps get halftime message
Globe and Mail-- Surging Stamps rally past Alouettes
Canada.com-- Montreal Alouettes' defeat in Calgary: "We let it get away"
National Post-- Alouettes suffer rare second half letdown