By Jason Langvee
With the 18th week of the CFL in the books, us fans can now breath and ask ourselves: “What just happened?” From the week’s first match between Montreal and Toronto in Hamilton, it was clear that all bets were off around this time of the season. The RIVALUS Featured Player this week helped his squad emerge from obscurity to show the league that when it comes to 2015, his team is still hungry. With the season’s end just around the corner, now is when we see the average teams get good, and hopefully; the good teams becoming great. In my mind, that was on display this week, now let’s talk about why.
Game 1 in the CFL this week had the Alouettes and the Argo’s take the field in Hamilton once again (thanks to the Tiger-Cats for their gracious hosting). In Kevin Glenn’s second match with Montreal, we saw what many expected to see from the get-go. After a lack-luster outing last week, Glenn closed week 18 completing 78% of his 35 pass attempts for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns. Helping his situation in spades were the Alouettes’ tailbacks; Tyrell Sutton, and Brandon Rutley, who seemed to out-will the Argo’s every time either of them got into the open field. Rutley closed the game with 124 offensive yards (rushing/receiving combined), while Sutton added another 68 all-purpose offensive yards. If all of that weren’t enough to best the Boatmen; John Bowman and Alan-Michael Cash spent the night pestering Toronto’s quarterbacks as the two combined for 5 sacks. One double-blue “Ray” of hope that came out of Friday’s tilt was the return of incumbent-starter; Ricky Ray who completed 11 passes as Trevor Harris’ late-game reliever. Montreal took this match and one step towards the post-season by a score of 34-2.
Saturday’s afternoon game took place in Winnipeg as the Blue Bombers looked to remain in the hunt for the post-season against the playoff-bound REDBLACKS. Matt Nichols and his Bombers offence looked to be moving the ball more efficiently than in week’s past, however, 2 touchdowns over 17 pass completions were not enough to outweigh the cost of the 2 interceptions Winnipeg conceded to Ottawa. On the other side of the ball, Henry Burris’ own 2 interceptions barely made a dent considering the performances the REDBLACKS enjoyed from: William Powell, Brad Sinopoli, Chris Williams and Greg Ellingson who all found a way to blow defensive coverages during Saturday’s game. Powell made use of his offensive line to rush for a total of 117 yards and a touchdown, meanwhile; Sinopoli, Williams and Ellingson combined for some 303 receiving yards. With efforts like those, it’s no wonder Ottawa would take this match 27-20.
The week’s final game is a difficult story to tell in a few sentences as both teams showed up, and looked good for stretches of the game. Early on, Brett Smith and his Roughriders offence, looked to be operating at a very high level of efficiency as the the young pivot completed 11/15 passes and a more notable 0 interceptions. Unfortunately for Saskatchewan though, Edmonton is too good to be pushed around for long. In a storybook comeback, Mike Reilly and his crop of offensive superheroes laced up in the game’s second half and took to the attack. In terms of final numbers, Reilly was able to jump from a below-average first half to a stellar game-total of 377 passing yards. Last week’s RIVALUS Featured Player also showed up to support his ailing team as Mr. Adarius Bowman led the CFL for another week by posting an astonishing 208 receiving yards in Regina. JC Sherritt led the voracious Eskimos defence with 9 tackles along with a fumble recovery and a forced fumble on the evening. Despite being down by 18 points in the first half, Edmonton would take this game by a score of 35-24.
We’ve talked about some big games and some big performances, but we haven’t talked about the biggest of week 18 just yet. That performance was found in Friday’s evening tilt between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their hosts; the BC Lions. Early on in this match, Hamilton’s high-flying offence seemed to be flexing their aerial muscles, with Jeff Matthews looking comfortable from his mantle as pocket-passer. It didn’t take long though, before BC’s defence tightened up their play and began to suffocate the Tabbies’ offence. Thanks to gritty performances from veterans; Adam Bighill and Ryan Phillips, the Leos were able to keep all of Hamilton’s weapons in check. On the other side of BC’s game though, is where something special continued to happen on Friday. Jonathon Jennings had yet another QB1-affirming performance as he completed 70% of his passes for 247 yards and a TD:INT ratio of 3:1. That’s impressive, but he didn’t do that alone. In fact, even when Jennings threw for 364 yards and 4 TD’s back in week 15, he did so on the heels of a 100-yard rushing performance from the CFL’s leading rusher. That man has missed the RIVALUS Featured Player nod for the last time.
Andrew Harris has shown this season that with a persistent and consistent work ethic, no struggle cannot be overcome. Harris was sidelined last season with what appeared to be a list of ailments the young running back had accrued as the Lions’ most important triple-threat (pass, run, catch) on the roster. This season, without the security of a veteran quarterback, Harris needed to bounce back quickly. To that end, Harris set his sights on the top. Currently, the Canadian-born tailback sits atop the CFL’s rushing category by more than 150 yards with a total of 987 in his 16 games played so far. In Friday’s match, Andrew rushed for 119 yards against what might be one of the strongest defences in the league. If that weren’t enough to persuade you of his worthiness, Harris also made his way into Hamilton’s endzone twice.
Andrew Harris put the BC Lions on his shoulders, just like he has done all season, and for that reason he is the RIVALUS Featured Player for week 18 in the CFL. Congratulations Andrew, you owned your performance, and got your team closer to the post-season because of it!