Facing the big dogs

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Saskatchewan and Toronto seek victories on the road in their respective division finals

Colin Buchinski
Contributor

The CFL playoffs are underway! Here is the Carillon’s review of the division semifinals and look ahead at the division finals.

Toronto Argonauts at Montreal Alouettes (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., TSN; Toronto defeated Hamilton 16-13 in East semifinal)

In the CFL’s East Division, the Tiger-Cats battled the Argonauts for a berth in the East final against the Alouettes. In many circles, the Ti-Cats were the heavily favoured in this game.

Both teams had the same record, but the Ti-Cats were seen as a more complete team. The Ti-Cats had also not lost to the Argonauts this year, further adding to speculation they would win. The Argonauts however, had other ideas. They defeated the Tiger Cats on the road in a defensive struggle.

The biggest play of the game was a Matt Black fumble recovery off a Thigpen punt return. It set the Argonauts up to take the lead in the game and they never looked back. Turnovers were a very big story in this game. Hamilton fumbled the ball three times and Kevin Glenn threw two interceptions, including one in the final minute, handing the Argonauts the win and a trip to Montreal this week.

In the East final, Montreal will be a heavy favourite to win and once again participate in the Grey Cup.

This season, the Alouettes and Argonauts met three times. They exchanged blowout wins and the Alouettes won a very close game late in the season which included an absurd kicking match to end the game. The stats show it’s anyone’s game and the Argonauts know that. Anthony Calvillo, on the other hand, is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and he always ups his game come playoff time. The Toronto defence has proved to be very good this season, but will have a hard time stopping the Alouettes’ high-powered offence. On the other side of the ball, if the Alouettes contain running back Cory Boyd, they will easily win this game.

The Alouettes are clearly the better team and will likely meet either the Riders or Stamps at Grey Cup 2010 in Commonwealth.

Saskatchewan Roughriders at Calgary Stampeders (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., TSN; Saskatchewan defeated British Columbia 41-38 in West semifinal)

Last Sunday night, the number of heart attacks in Saskatchewan rose significantly. The Riders hosted the British Columbia Lions in the 2010 West semifinal at Mosaic Stadium.

It was a fantastic game that won’t soon be forgotten.

In the first half, the Riders were vastly outplayed by Wally Buono’s Lions. Darian Durant was off with his passes and the Riders couldn’t get anything going on offence. On the other side of the ball, the defence played superbly, keeping the Roughriders in a game. The Green and White regrouped at halftime, hoping to come out stronger in the second half and send the Lions packing. They did just that, quickly erasing a 19-6 deficit to come back and take control of the game.

Durant played much better in the second half and only got stronger as time passed. His touchdown pass to Weston Dressler was a thing of beauty and will surely find itself on the highlight reel. At the stadium, it was a very rabid playoff atmosphere and the
fans surely played a huge factor in keeping the Lions at bay on offence. Travis Lulay’s Lions committed several time-count infractions and at times looked very confused. Despite this, Lulay looked great for a quarterback in his first CFL playoff appearance. With the Riders leading 27-20 late in the fourth, Lulay drove the field and tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock.

What made this game special was overtime. The CFL format is very exciting and entertaining for the fans, and in my opinion presents the fairest outcome for all. Both teams scored touchdowns and two-point conversions after the first possession and nothing was solved. In double-overtime, Paul McCallum connected with a field goal from 37 yards out, but Durant and the Riders offence were too much for the Lions defence to handle.

Durant hooked up with Jason Clermont on a 24-yard touchdown pass and run play for the game-winning touchdown. Mosaic Stadium quickly turned into a circus. The Riders won the game and will advance to the CFL’s West final for the second year in a row.

In Calgary, it is very possible that there will be a sea of green. The Stamps have home-field advantage. However, the Riders will highly benefit from being Canada’s Team, having a fan base spread all across the country.

If the Riders want to win this game, they will have to keep Joffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish in check. The two running backs have run all over the Riders all year long and were a huge factor in the Stampeders winning the season series and taking first place in the West.

Darian Durant will need to be good for 60 minutes of football. He can’t afford to come out flat like he did against the B.C. Lions. Henry Burris is a lot more skilled and experienced than a guy like Lulay and it will be a lot tougher for the Rider defence to keep him at bay for so long.

With the Riders win on Sunday, they appear to be back on their game and if they bring the effort we saw in the second half into Calgary, they will absolutely have a chance to shut the Stampeders out of their second Alberta Grey Cup in a row.

The Carillon's CFL All-Star Team

Quarterback – Anthony Calvillo, Montreal Alouettes

Running back – Cory Boyd, Toronto Argonauts

Running back – Freid Reid, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Receiver – Andy Fantuz, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Receiver
– Terrence Edwards, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Receiver
– Arland Bruce III, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Receiver – Jamel Richardson, Montreal Alouettes

Offensive Tackle
– Rob Murphy, Toronto Argonauts

Offensive Guard – Brendon LaBatte, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Centre – Marwan Hage, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Offensive Guard – Dmitri Tsoumpas, Calgary Stampeders

Offensive Tackle
– Ben Archibald, Calgary Stampeders

Defensive End – Phillip Hunt, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Defensive Tackle – Doug Brown, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Defensive Tackle – Kevin Huntley, Toronto Argonauts

Defensive End – John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes

Outside Linebacker – Juwan Simpson, Calgary Stampeders

Middle Linebacker – Barrin Simpson, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Outside Linebacker – Kevin Eiben, Toronto Argonauts

Cornerback – Brandon Browner, Calgary Stampeders

Defensive Halfback – Chris Thompson, Edmonton Eskimos

Safety
– James Patrick, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Defensive Halfback
– Ryan Phillips, British Columbia Lions

Cornerback
– Dwight Anderson, Calgary Stampeders

Kicker – Paul McCallum, British Columbia Lions

Punter
– Burke Dales, Calgary Stampeders

Returner
– Chad Owens, Toronto Argonauts


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