By Jason Langvee
Week 14 in the CFL brought a lot of anticipation for some very key match-ups, with big playoff implications on the line. In the week’s first game Winnipeg hosted the league-leading Stamps, where the Bombers looked to snap a late-season slump. In Saturday’s first game, the Edmonton Eskimos hosted the BC Lions, where BC too looked to add a valuable win to their losing-record. Saturday’s afternoon game pitted the Toronto Argonauts against the Ottawa REDBLACKS in a game where fans looked to see just how these two productive offences would match up. Finally, Sunday saw the Montreal Alouettes travel to Saskatchewan to try and show what the elusive Eastern Crossover might look like in 2015. Throughout all of that, we got to experience some big plays by some bigger men; one of whom would ultimately take the title for week 14’s RIVALUS featured player.
In the league’s first game this week, Calgary travelled to Winnipeg looking to carry over some significant momentum from weeks past. The Bombers were hoping for a stout defensive performance against Bo Levi Mitchell and his seemingly-endless supply of receivers. In a close game, it was ultimately the Stampeders that took home another victory. Mitchell looked as good as he has in 2015 on Friday; completing 27/35 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown. Calgary’s offence was firing on all cylinders, which can be illustrated by a huge night from Marquay McDaniel who caught 9 balls for a league-leading 159 yards in week 14. Jon Cornish also returned to form rushing for 94 yards against the Bombers. Were it not for a missed field goal, this summary might have had a different sentiment entirely regarding Winnipeg’s performance, but alas, Calgary seemed to have this game in their hands for most of the contest. Final score: 25-23 Stamps win.
On Saturday, another western team struggling to find their identity: the BC Lions, travelled to Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. In his first start for the Lions, Jonathan Jennings looked quite proficient overall as BC’s incumbent quarterback (in the wake of another setback for Travis Lulay). Jennings threw 18 completions for a total of 281 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The rookie quarterback made good use of his time, because it wasn’t long before Edmonton’s defence started making their own impact on the game’s landscape. Standing at 6’6”, 245-lbs, Willie Jefferson made his presence known by voraciously and incessantly applying pressure to the BC offensive backfield. Jefferson ended the outing with 2 tackles, 2 sacks as well as a key forced fumble that would put points on the board for the Eskimos. Mike Reilly had a solid performance himself (23/31, 209 yds, 2TD’s, 1INT) thanks to performances like his rookie receiver; Derel Walker, who closed the match with 121 receiving yards and an immensely important contested touchdown catch. Edmonton weathered an early storm from BC, and ultimately took this game by a score of 29-23.
In the week’s 3rd game, Ottawa hosted Toronto in a game where most of us expected some big highlights (thanks to some immensely dialed-in offences). Of course this is the CFL; big plays are inherently part of the game, and yet, this match-up still exceeded expectations. In terms of statistics, both quarterbacks had relatively mundane nights (relative to their very good 2015 averages). Henry Burris completed 27 passes for 313 yards and 2 TD’s. On the other side, Trevor Harris closed the game with 24 completions for 282 yards (along with a 2:2 TD:INT ratio). Both QB’s made use of their athletic receiving corps quite effectively, but what really turned the tables in this game was the play by veteran slotback/punt-returner; Chad Owens. Thus far in 2015, Owens has been kept relatively quiet. Indeed, in the game’s preamble; TSN analyst Matt Dunigan noted that 2012’s MOP needed a big game if the Boatmen were to have a shot at the W. On cue, Owens fielded a long punt from REDBLACK Brett Maher (on a re-kick, no less) for a major score on special teams. In this close game, the victory on special teams meant everything for the Argonauts, and they were able to hold on to the lead to win the game by a score of 35-26.
The last game of week 14 saw the Montreal Alouettes travel to Saskatchewan to take on the hungry, hungry Roughriders as they attempted to battle back from a 1-11 record. Don’t forget that with only 4 wins on their records, BC and Winnipeg still find themselves uncomfortably close to the last-placed Saskatchewan team in the league’s western division. The Roughriders clearly knew how important this game was because with the first throw of the game, Kevin Glenn spotted Rob Bagg for 6-points. Glenn would close the game completing only 14 passes for 212 yards. Jerome Messam was a major confound for the Montreal Alouettes’ defence, as the big back consistently found himself in open field, eventually finishing with 111 rushing yards and a TD. With a performance like that in the books, it would take something more, something special to take week 14’s title as the RIVALUS Featured Player. Macho Harris was that special player.
Whatever film the Saskatchewan Roughriders used to prepare for Montreal this week needs to be kept and stored safely. The Roughriders defensive scheming seemed to take all available (and typically quite dangerous) Alouettes receivers out of contention on the majority of Montreal’s possessions. Macho Harris, who lined up at varying positions throughout the game, used his aggression as well as his football IQ to become the league’s most effective ball-hawk of the week. On 3 separate occasions, Harris jumped Montreal’s offensive routes to beat whomever he needed to come down with the ball. On one of those occasions, Harris had the forethought to find his defensive compatriots as blockers so that he could return the pick all the way to Montreal’s house for 6 points. The Roughriders took this game by a score of 33-21. Macho Harris owned every last bit of his performance at Mosaic on Sunday, and for that reason he is the RIVALUS Featured Player for week 14 in the CFL.
Congratulations Macho, your preparation and your aggression were both rewarded in your team’s win on Sunday!