By Jason Langvee
Another week down, and now we find ourselves another week closer to the 2015 Grey Cup Championship in Winnipeg. Well, some of us anyway. After the final snap on Sunday, this season’s playoff picture has finally become clear. In the West, Edmonton locked up the top-spot, as Calgary will now finish the season in 2nd and BC will clinch the 3rd spot. In the East, Toronto now sits with a playoff spot in 3rd, while Ottawa and Hamilton still look to decide who will sit atop the division (although Ottawa currently has the edge). In all 3 phases of the Canadian Football game, we saw moments of brilliance this past weekend. In those moments, there remained one man that exceeded brilliance and earned the right to be called the RIVALUS Featured Player of week 19. Here’s a breakdown of the week that brought us all of that and more:
Game one this week had the Toronto Argonauts in BC to take on the Lions. For the Leos, this game was a must-win with the threat of a Montreal cross-over still looming for the post-season. Fortunately for BC though, 2015 still looks bright. Rookie-pivot; Jonathon Jennings was asked to go toe-to-toe with one of (if not THE) best active veterans in Toronto’s Ricky Ray. In his 2015 debut as a starter, Ray posted a 68% completion rate for 227 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Conversely, Jennings completed 21/33 pass attempts for 259 yards, 2 TD’s and 1 INT. With both leaders playing at a high level, it was ultimately defensive production that decided this game. The BC Lions defence was the squad that most effectively answered that call as the Leos amassed 5 sacks throughout the contest. Alex Bazzie, Josh Johnson, Zach Minter and Khreem Smith all found their ways into Ricky Ray’s kitchen and because of that pressure, BC was able to lock up this game by a score of 27-25.
The week’s second game had the Saskatchewan Roughriders make their way to the scariest place in the CFL; McMahon Stadium. You might ask “Why so scary?” Well, with a 7-1 record at home this season, Saskatchewan had a lot to do if they were to hand Calgary their second home-loss of the season. To that end, Roughrider standouts; Weston Dressler and Tyler Crapigna both made their best efforts to earn Saskatchewan the W. Dressler caught 6 passes for a game-best 129 receiving yards, while Crapigna was perfect on the night making both of his field goal attempts. Alas, that wasn’t enough to stop Bo Levi Mitchell and his deep crop of offensive assets. Mitchell went 21/29 along with 3 touchdown passes (AND 0 interceptions), that found the hands of Joe West and Eric Rogers. In his first game against the Roughriders this season, former Roughriders-tailback; Jerome Messam re-emerged as a candidate for the league’s rushing title. Messam ran for 121 yards putting his 2015 total at 947 (only 50 shy of Andrew Harris’ league-lead). If all of that wasn’t enough to affirm Calgary as the victor of this match-up, Rene Parades’ 4/4 FG performance certainly clinched it. Calgary took this comprehensive team-victory by a score of 42-19.
Sunday afternoon’s first game came to us by way of a 2015 scheduling quirk, namely; the first meeting of the CFL’s eastern titans in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Ottawa REDBLACKS. This game had a few storylines prevalent throughout the duration. Most notable though, was the wind. In a game pitting Ottawa’s Burris with Hamilton’s Matthews, most stat-savvy fans looked forward to an afternoon of high-efficiency tosses and by extension; a large deal of receptions. With winds gusting upwards of 40km/h in the wind-tunnel that has become Tim Hortons Field, that was not the case. With both quarterbacks struggling to break 60% passing completion (a mark both have had no issue with thus far in 2015), it was once again the play of the respective teams remaining phases that would decide this match. That decision came emphatically via Ottawa’s defence. Against Hamilton, the REDBLACKS tallied 6 sacks on Sunday afternoon. Defensive contributors: Justin Capicciotti, Moton Hopkins, Shawn Lemon, David Hinds and Jonathan Williams (to name a few), all served to limit Hamilton’s offensive production to season-low levels. Thanks to those efforts, Ottawa took this low-scoring game by a score of 12-6.
The league’s final game in week 19 served as an illustrative example of the saying “Save the best for last.” In terms of the raw emotion leading up to the kickoff of this match, it would have been impossible to predict it as a bore. Coming into this contest, the Edmonton Eskimos needed a victory to clinch the western division title. Montreal on the other hand, needed the victory to stay alive in 2015. For the Alouettes, Kevin Glenn looked to continue his ascent as the most versatile pivot on Montreal’s depth charts. By game’s end he was able to complete 18 passes for a modest 236 yards, and a much-less-modest 3 touchdowns. Tyrell Sutton also had a solid performance; rushing for 135 yards and in doing so, putting himself within 80 yards of the league’s rushing leader (Andrew Harris). Defensively, the Al’s were no slouches either. John Bowman added another 2 sacks to his totals against Edmonton, which both put him atop the CFL’s sack leaders with 16 in 2015 (and 99 throughout his career). With all of that said though, Edmonton wanted this game. The Eskimos were not going to take “no” for an answer, and the man that serves as a model for his whole squad was the very same man that lead them to victory on Sunday.
Since his return from injury, Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos have posted a perfect record of 8-0. Thanks to the diverse threat of attack that Reilly offers, we have yet to see a defensive game plan that he and his offensive coordinators could not exploit. Case and point; Montreal’s defence loaded their defensive box on Sunday. On nearly every snap, the Al’s rushed 1 man more than Edmonton could block up front. In the face of that pressure though, Reilly began exploiting Montreal’s defensive backfield (which suffered as a result of their continuous blitzes). By finding his mismatched, big-bodied receivers on every contested play, Reilly was able to get guys like Derel Walker the ball on a frequent basis. By the end of the game, Reilly had only missed 6 of his 35 pass attempts for a total of 308 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Thanks to his compete-level, his preparation, and the intangibles that make him a nightmare to gameplan against, Mike Reilly is week 19’s RIVALUS Featured Player!
Congratulations Mike, your hard work and tenacity through early-season struggles have earned you the right to call your squad the Best in the West (for the regular season anyway).