The Complete Canadian Football League Playoffs Summary
By Jacob G.
After 23 weeks of Canadian Football, 86 games, ridiculous plays and moments, there was one winner: the explosive Edmonton Eskimos. The Eskis showed fans across Canada that there was another great team from Alberta, and the fact that they won nine games going into the Grey Cup gave them pretty great odds to win.
If you watch or listen to the news, you obviously know who won, but here’s how it all went down:
In the West Division, the Eskimos finished on top, with a 14-4 record, thanks to a league best 341-yards allowed on defense. The Calgary Stampeders finished second, also with a 14-4 record (Edmonton finished first, because they won the series 2-1 against the Stamps), with quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell throwing for over 4,500 yards, and the Trade Deadline acquisition of running back Jerome Messam. The B.C. Lions finished third as they just squeaked into the playoffs with a 7-11 record, with B.C.’s Adam Bighill leading the league with 117 tackles. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders missed the playoffs with the two worst records in the league.
In the East Division, the Ottawa Redblacks finished with a 12-6 record, thanks to a Most Outstanding Player year by quarterback Henry Burris, after the expansion team only won two games last year. The forty-year-old QB threw for a league-best 5,703 yards. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats finished second, after QB Zach Collaros got injured in Week 18, with a 10-8 record. Toronto also made the playoffs with a 10-8 record, (they lost the season series 2-0 to Hamilton). The Montreal Alouettes just missed the playoffs, as they were one win away from knocking off the Lions.
In the East Division Semi-Final, the Argonauts visited the Ti-Cats at Tim Hortons Field, with the winner getting a trip to the nation’s capital for the East Division Final. In the first quarter, Justin Medlock capped the game off with a 55-yard field goal, and then added a shorter one to make it 6-0, after the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Argos took the lead after a field goal and then a touchdown run by Brandon Whitaker. After the third quarter the score was 18-13 Argos, but in the fourth, the lead was switched yet again after Toronto gave up a safety and then a touchdown, to put them up by three. After Swayze Waters missed two field goals for the Argos, he made a 43-yarder. With the game tied at 22, Toronto’s defensive lineman Martin Wright hit Hamilton’s QB Jeremiah Masoli late, for a 15-yard penalty. With the game expiring, Medlock kicked the game winning field goal, for a 25-22 win.
In the West Division Semi-Final, the Lions went east to play the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium and the winner of that game would go north to play the league’s best Eskimos. In the first quarter, B.C’s first drive featured running back Andrew Harris rushing for 35 yards to set up a field goal. After B.C. got the ball back, Jonathon Jennings threw a pick six to Keon Raymond, and after one quarter it was 7-3 Stamps. In the second quarter it was all Horsemen as Eric Rogers, (who led the CFL in receiving yards), Anthony Parker, and RB Jerome Messam all scored touchdowns, and at halftime, it was 24-6 for the Stamps. The demanding lead was too much for the Lions, as the Stamps ended up winning 35-9.
Messam had 81 yards receiving and 66 yards rushing, including a highlight reel play where commentator Rod Black, said this about him, “Now you see him, now you don’t, now you miss him.” That’s what the Stamps were doing to the Lions all day long.
In the East Final, the Tiger Cats went to visit the Redblacks in Ottawa for a game, which would decide the team representing the East in the Grey Cup. In the opening quarter, Masoli had a fantastic opening drive, which led to a field goal, although Henry Burris had an even better drive as wide receiver Greg Ellingson had 67 yards on their first drive, which led to an Ottawa touchdown. After 3rd and outs (punts) from both teams, Masoli lateraled back to Luke Tasker, who threw a 39-yard pass down the field to veteran Andy Fantuz, which led to a touchdown. In the second quarter, it was the “40-year old teenager [doing] it again,” according to commentator Rod Black, as Burris gave his team a four-point lead. Hamilton battled back, as Masoli aired it out to a wide-open Tiquan Underwood. Ottawa made sure they were leading it going into the second half, as kicker Chris Milo nailed a 39-yarder to ease the fans. In the third quarter, Milo made two field goals, as great defense from Ottawa kept them up by six. In the final quarter, it looked like Luke Tasker had made a fantastic grab in the end zone to bring Hamilton within one, although an offside call limited it to just a field goal. After Milo booted another field goal, Tasker redeemed himself by making a sensational catch with defensive back Antoine Pruneau draped all over him to knot the game at 28. Ottawa had the ball back, and Hamilton defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon let he ball slip through his hands, which could’ve led to Hamilton winning the game.
With 1:25 remaining, the Ottawa 1200 commentator summed up the next play perfectly: “2nd and 25, high snap, Burris has it, Burris looks downfield, throws, and it is CAUGHT, INSIDE HAMILTON TERRITORY, AND THERE HE GOES, IT’S ELLINGSON, DOWN THE SIDELINES, INSIDE THE TEN, TOUCHDOWWWWWN, OTTAWAAAAAAA!” Hamilton couldn’t battle back, and Ottawa was pronounced the East Division champion.
In the West Final, the Stampeders were ready to play the CFL’s edition of the Battle of Alberta as they took on the Edmonton Eskimos, and the winner would go up against the Redlbacks in the game to decide Canada’s best football team. In the first quarter, Calgary’s punt returner fumbled the ball, which led to an Edmonton 8-0 lead. The Stamps cut the lead to two after two field goals from Rene Paredes. In the second quarter, each team scored two field goals, and Edmonton’s Adarius Bowman scored a touchdown, which gave Edmonton a 21-12 lead at halftime. In the third quarter, Eskis’ Kenny Stafford ran and dove into the end zone, and teams traded field goals once again. Later, an Edmonton linebacker recovered a fumble from Jerome Messam, which led to a touchdown by Derel Walker, and another one by quarterback Mike Reilly, who was named the CFL’s toughest player. Calgary would add 16 points in the fourth, but that wouldn’t be enough, as Edmonton’s 45 points were better than Calgary’s 31, to give them the West Division trophy.
The stage was set: the number one team in the East–Ottawa Redblacks –versus the number one team in the West, the Calgary Stampeders. Edmonton was returning to Canadian football’s biggest stage for the first time in 10 years, while Ottawa was returning for the first time since 1981. The 103rd Grey Cup was also the first time the CFL would use its brand new logo, which is the 4th in league history… With the ball looking as slick as ever, 36,634 fans packed into Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, with the temperature just below zero degrees.
In the first quarter, Henry Burris got off to an almost perfect start going 5 for 6 on his opening drive, connecting with Patrick Lavoie, making it 7-0 Ottawa. Right after Ottawa kicked off to Edmonton, their punt returner fumbled the ball and Ottawa recovered around Edmonton’s 40-yard line. Four plays after that, Ernest Jackson scored Ottawa’s second touchdown in 6:09, and Burris’ hot start put the underdogs up by 13.
That prompted colour commentator Glen Suitor to give his opinion of Ottawa’s underdog outlook: They shouldn’t be. This was an offence where their quarterback threw for almost 6,000 yards.”
Edmonton’s next drive led to a field goal, thanks to a pass interference call, and on Ottawa’s next possession, cornerback Patrick Watkins picked off Burris, returning it to their 50-yard line. Just a few plays later, Reilly threw to Adarius Bowman, who put the Eskis within just three. In the second quarter, with the score 16-11 in favour of the Redblacks, running back Akeem Shavers put the Eskimos up by one going into halftime. After Fall Out Boy did their thing at the Halftime Show, the teams re-entered the field. Just before the five-minute mark in the third quarter, it was Edmonton who committed pass interference, which lead to a Redblack field goal. The rest of the third and the first half of the fourth quarter showcased the defense of both teams, but then it was bad defense by defensive backs Abdul Kanneh and Brandon Sermons, and you guessed it: it was pass interference. Those two calls set up Edmonton for another touchdown thanks to a one-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Jordan Lynch. A two-point conversion gave Edmonton a six-point lead, with the score being 26-20. On 2nd and 5, with 1:59 remaining in the game, Henry Burris got sacked for a huge loss, and Ottawa decided to punt hoping to get the ball back later in the game. Edmonton’s offence was too good, as they got three key first downs to close out the game. With zeros on the clock, all Mike Reilly had to do was kneel down and the game would be over. Commentator Chris Cuthbert summed it up best: “And they are the city of champions again! Edmonton Eskimos, 2015 Grey Cup Champs.”
Down came the Gatorade on Edmonton coach, Chris Jones, and soon after the Grey Cup was delivered to Grey Cup MVP Mike Reilly by new commissioner Jeffrey Orridge.
Jones said this about the big win: “Right now all I want to concentrate on is enjoying this win[.] Then getting on the plane in the morning and having a parade Tuesday and enjoying it.”
The Edmonton Eskimos were the real deal this year in the Canadian Football League, as their record, spectacular offence and defense, momentum, skill, and two pass interference calls capped off this sensational season.
Coach Chris Jones Gets the Iconic Gatorade Shower
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