Friday, November 16, 2012

Twelve Men Review Semi-Finals edition November 11,2012

The CFL whittled down it's playoff list a little further on Remembrance Day and for the most part, the two teams expected to advance did so, Toronto without much in the way of opposition or difficulty, Calgary, well not quite so.

The Argos topped the Eskimos with more than a few exclamation points to their Eastern semi final, while out west the finale to the TSN semi final doubleheader offered up another one of those legendary CFL finishes we've been spoiled by over the years.

The reviews of the semis are as follows

Edmonton at Toronto

The Eskimos qualified for post season play through the CFL's cross over provisions, a better record than the two bottom feeders of the east sent the Eskimos through, however after their day in Toronto, perhaps it might have been best if they had just stayed home.

The Argos were dominant in all factors of play, a punishing defensive effort left the Eskimos confused and unable to move the ball with any real authority, an effort that left Edmonton fans only to ruminate on the events of the year that left many shaking their heads.

Chief among that head shaking the trade of Ricky Ray to the Argonauts in the off season, a trade which  hit home in so many ways on Sunday, Ray clearly in charge, hitting his stride at the Toronto quarterback, showing exactly why the Argos made the trade for him.

Leadership and skill paced the Argos to their 42-25 thumping of the Eskimos much of it orchestrated by Ray at the Argos controls, for every first down, completed pass or touchdown scored one could sense the blood pressure of the Eskimo fan rising to near danger levels.

Mention the name Eric Tillman and we suspect Edmonton EMS was on red alert.

The Argos owned the game plain and simple, there's really not much to review of the Eskimo game plan,  leaving Kavis Reed to review much for his off season, if, of course with the shift in management once again at the top he'll have an off season in Edmonton colours.

The game was such a disaster for Edmonton that the only sliver of good news for them is that Matt Nichols, who suffered one of the most gruesome looking injuries in recent football history was actually able to return to Edmonton.  His ankle dislocation a vision not for the squeamish, the recovery time unknown, but for the most part on his report things are positive. The glimpse of potential he provided prior to his injury the one positive for the Eskimos in a season of woe.

The Eskimo fans are among the most passionate in the league, the team regularly leads in attendance, the knowledge of their backers among the best in the CFL.  They have been their when times were very good and for the moment, it seems they'll have to deal with things when they're really, really bad.

As for the Argos, they move on to Montreal now, the Eastern Final their last obstacle to a home town appearance in the 100th Grey Cup.  Two weeks ago you might not have given them much of a chance against Anthony Calvillo and the Alouettes, however with as complete a game as they played in the semi-final comes confidence, something that will serve them well on Sunday afternoon at McGill Stadium.

Our full coverage of the Eastern semi-final can be found here.

Saskatchewan at Calgary

If the Stamps were watching the eastern semi final prior to their own kick off on Sunday, they no doubt were wishing that the Eskimos had moved through the West, for as woeful as Edmonton was on Sunday, the visiting Riders gave the Stamps all they could handle.

In fact, the Riders only flaw in a late game surge that saw them silence the Calgary side of McMahon Stadium (the place is always a 50/50 split when the Riders are in town) was that they left just a wee bit too much time on the clock after they took a late game lead.

The sign of a championship team however is how you deal with adversity and for the Stamps, while the fans sat in silence in the stands the team on the field went back to work. Shaking off the shock of the Riders improbable comeback and marching down the field for their own, Drew Tate finding Romby Bryant on a 68 yard touchdown pass, the dagger in the heart for Rider Nation in just 22 short seconds.

It is the thing of that defines the CFL, the no lead is safe mantra of the league come to life, a marketing tool that should reinforce for CFL fans as to the magic that can come from a CFL field on a weekly basis.

The final play of course will be the talking point of the semi final, but really, this was an entire game of gems. A heavyweight fight, with two teams punching back and forth, hard hitting and thrilling, featuring exciting offensive plays combined with a defensive war that took no prisoners.

The Stamps led by Drew Tate, looked to have finally taken control of the game with a 12 point lead in the third quarter, only to watch Darian Durant launch the Rider comeback, a remarkable reversal of momentum that should finally gain him some respect from RiderNation.

There was no quit in Durant, no quit in the Riders and no surrender for the Stamps.

As exciting a CFL game as we've seen in a while, offering up the tempting prospect of more to come in the Western final when the Stamps travel west to play the Lions.

They make that transit however with a few changes in the lineup, it was announced late in the week that Drew Tate was out for the final, an injury once again putting him to the sidelines in a hard luck season that offered him much promise and delivered a burden of misery.

Still, the Stamps who seem to relish adversity will march on, it's back to Kevin Glenn, who only led the team into playoff contention through the year, no doubt eager to put a cap on his season with a shocker of an upset over the Grey Cup champs.

If history is any indication and you happen to miss the first half, don't worry, the teams no doubt are only getting warmed up.

Our coverage of the Western Semi Final can be found here.

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