Best team in the CFL right now has a problem on its hands because the guy who was supposed to be the backup pivot has been strong as the starter, and the guy who was the starter and missed most of the season with an injury is back looking healthy. Kevin Glenn and Drew Tate – who starts? With Jon Cornish in the backfield and a good set of receivers, either can do the job as long as there is no animosity in the room. Coach John Hufnagel did not allow his folks to go through the motions in a nothing game (for them) against the Eskimos, and that says a lot for the first round of the playoffs. Boy, Stamps vs. Lions in the final would be something.
Travis Lulay was still having trouble warming up his throwing shoulder, but he still played. Worked out fine as the quarterback had about a quarter of work before two weeks off waiting for the West final. If they hadn’t played him, it would have been five weeks without any action for Lulay (up to the final), so the Lions took a chance. It’s been a strange finish to the year for the Leos, who crushed Edmonton, were stomped by Calgary and then had a walk-over against Saskatchewan. Might mean absolutely nothing come Nov. 18. Defence looked great after being embarrassed the week before. B.C. took some bangs in this one, but two weeks to heal should be enough.
Searching for a running back that can pick up 100 yards and take the pressure off QB Anthony Calvillo, the Larks came up with one in the person of Adrian McPherson. Too bad he’s the back-up pivot. The CFL’s best second-stringer was given his annual chance to run the club in the season finale and did pretty well for a guy with years of rust on him. Chris Jennings had 10 carries for 56 yards, and he could be the answer. Loved the fact that AC, told he wasn’t going to play no matter what, put on the uniform, and the tape, and the eye black anyway. Now it’s two weeks off to get some healthy receivers and rest all those old bones.
Sitting at 7-9 and facing 2012 oblivion, the Argos pulled together an impressive two-game winning streak. One featured the regulars on the road over the Riders, and the other a B Squad versus the clueless Cats. With Edmonton coming in, a healthy Ricky Ray and Chad Kackert will make up the backfield, Chad Owens will feature a much-improved separated thumb, and a defence that has finally found itself will provide the bulwark. The only concern is somebody in the organization has a big mouth and has been saying things to others in the league about GM Jim Barker and his future with the team, right when concentration should be on the post-season. Press picked it up, denials all around. Distraction created.
Here’s the nightmare scenario for Edmonton’s ownership – go to Toronto for the cross-over playoff and be beaten by former QB Ricky Ray, he of the controversial off-season trade between the clubs. So, just in case, they fire GM Eric Tillman now. Who starts at QB against the Double Blue? Is it Matt Nichols, who seems to be the future? Is it Kerry Joseph, who represents the past but has shown he can move the club? Speaking of the past, with RB Hugh Charles nursing a bad knee, Cory Boyd came back and ran with spirit (eight carrries for 66 yards in limited use). Fabulous Fred Stamps had another great game with 152 yards and a score.
Hard to judge this club after a hit-and-giggle against the Lions, but we can say the defence looked good against a B.C. attack without many of it’s big names as the game went on. The offence was lousy, but they did have the second- and third-string QBs in there, with the backup receivers. Of course, so did Toronto and look what they did. Problem is, never bought the idea that a team on a four-game losing streak can turn it on in the playoffs and give you their best when the momentum has moved to Calgary to enjoy the weather. Rider fans are grumpy right now, and they usually know what’s going on.
Tim Burke has had the interim tag taken off and will coach this club next season. Says here he deserves it, especially after his charges put in a strong effort in a meaningless game against Montreal. That doesn’t change the opinion that firing Paul LaPolice was dumb and only meant to save Joe Mack’s job as GM. He’s keeping that position, by the way. After messing up the defence for this year, Mack’s job will be to get it right for 2013. And he has to find a starting QB who can move the club and stay healthy at the same time. Buck Pierce can become the reliable backup. There are pieces here to build on.
The city is selling pieces of old Ivor Wynne Stadium to fans who want to preserve some history. Meanwhile, this team will be tearing down a defence that gave up 34 points, in a must-win contest, to an Argonaut club featuring its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks. Henry Burris did his job, taking advantage of the Toronto B squad for 40 points and they still had a chance late before the D allowed Zach Collaros to drive for the field goal that killed the season. Casey Creehan spent 2012 as DC yelling his head off and jumping up and down on the sidelines. Didn’t work. Maybe playing a year out of town as Ivor Wynne is rebuilt will help those great Hamilton fans forget how bitter this was.