It’s finally come and gone! We are officially in the midst of a new CFL campaign, and already we have headlines to talk about. In the first week of competition, Montreal hosted Ottawa on Thursday night to kick off a new weekly night of CFL action. Friday saw a rematch of the 2014 Grey Cup with Hamilton playing in Calgary. Finally, Saturday brought us 2 matches; Toronto hosting Edmonton in Fort McMurray, and the Roughriders hosting the Blue Bombers to launch another season of rivalry. Of course through 4 games there were several standout performances, but only one would result in this week’s selection as the RIVALUS Featured Player for week 1. Here’s what went down:
In the week’s first game the newly revamped Ottawa REDBLACKS arrived in Montreal to take on the Alouettes. Consistent Ottawa pressure on the Alouettes’ offensive pocket saw not 1 but 2 quarterbacks leave the game for the Al’s as both Jonathan Crompton, and Dan LeFevour would leave the game due to pressure-induced injuries. The rookie Canadian quarterback; Brandon Bridge would take the remainder of Montreal’s snaps as the young-gun settle into a comfortable rhythm before sailing an errant pass that would be intercepted by veteran defender Jovon Johnson. With a reloaded offence, Ottawa moved the ball effectively which was enough to earn Ottawa the victory by a margin of 4 points at 20-16.
On Friday night, fans got to watch the annual Grey Cup rematch as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats took on the Calgary Stampeders. With the departure of shut-down corner Delvin Breaux, the Ticats had a potential hole in their defensive secondary heading into the new season. The addition of veteran back Johnny Sears Jr. seems to have alleviated any of those concerns though as the ball-hawk was able to contribute: 3 tackles, a sack, as well as 2 interceptions; one of which was returned for a defensive touchdown. In fact, Hamilton led in the first half despite the fact that they failed to register an offensive touchdown. Calgary was not intent on letting the Tabbies beat them at home though, as several players stood out for the Stamps. Jeff Fuller put on an offensive clinic as he caught 9 balls to the tune of 148 yards. On defence, Keon Raymond had a productive night tackling 8 ball-carriers, deflecting 1 pass, and returning an interception for a touchdown himself. It was the 2013 special teams player of the year though, that would leave his mark on the game as Rene Paredes easily converted on a 50-yard field goal to beat Hamilton 24-23 with no time remaining on the clock.
In the second of 2 games on Saturday, the first meeting of the CFL’s hottest rivals took place with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers taking on Saskatchewan at Mosaic. In what would eventually be seen as one of the worst starting weeks for CFL quarterbacks in recent history, Darian Durant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, which will see the Riders’ pivot out for the rest of the season. Without Durant in the huddle though, the Roughriders were still productive partly thanks to their success at running the football. Both Anthony Allen, and Jerome Messam had good outings as the 2 combined for 177 rushing yards. Ultimately though, it was Drew Willy and his own offensive unit that took this game. Willy completed 88% of his passes for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns. Paris Cotton had a stellar outing as he rushed for 108 yards over 13 touches. Nick Moore and Clarence Denmark combined for 188 yards in the air as the Bombers silenced the home crowd with a score of 30-26.
By process of elimination then, week 1’s RIVALUS Featured Player must have come from the matchup between the Edmonton Eskimos and their unlikely Albertan hosts; the Toronto Argonauts. Along the same storyline as in Montreal and in Saskatchewan, Saturday afternoon was not without loss for the Eskimos. Mike Reilly, the 2014 tough man of the Edmonton locker room, fell to a knee injury due to pocket pressure from the boatmen. Although Matt Nichols came into the game looking confident, the chemistry between he and the starting receivers appeared to be lacking. On the other side of this game, we saw Toronto’s incumbent starting quarterback on the sidelines in plain clothes as Ricky Ray was still recovering from his off-season shoulder surgery. With Ray out, it was the 4th year man; Trevor Harris’ turn to steer the Argos’ ship.
By the end of Saturday’s tilt in Fort McMurray, Trevor Harris had thrown for 347 yards to 8 different receivers. What’s more impressive though, is that those numbers came in a game where Harris completed 88.9% of his throws. More impressive still? This was only Harris’ second start in the CFL. To give credit where it’s due, Toronto’s offensive game plan was nothing short of outstanding. To underscore that fact, Brandon Whitaker was able to rush the ball 14 times for 117 yards in his first outing as an Argonaut. What was more impressive though, was the way Trevor Harris was able to seamlessly run the offense by: commanding the huddle, making his reads, and making veteran decisions under tremendous pressure. On several occasions Harris moved through his route progressions only to find that all of his targets had become would-be interceptions (thanks to the Eskimos defence). Not only did Harris protect the ball in those situations, on several occasions he either exposed a blown-assignment (Brandon Whitaker’s touchdown), made the veteran decision to throw the ball dead, or use his feet to extend a play himself. Harris was making decisions like a seasoned-professional, he was seeing the field like a true veteran, and he performed as consistently as anyone could have asked for. For those reasons Trevor Harris is week 1’s RIVALUS Featured Player.
Congratulations Trevor! We look forward to seeing the progress you make towards becoming an elite quarterback in the CFL!