By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
The View Up North — CFL Playoffs
REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN — It only took a decade for Kerry Joseph to become an overnight sensation.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders moved one step closer to Toronto’s Sky Dome and the Grey Cup with a 26-24 victory over the Calgary Stampeders, to begin the Canadian Football League’s Western Conference Playoffs.
Joseph, pivot for the Roughriders, put on one hell of a show, passing for 391 yards and running for 109 yards on 14 carries as he outlasted Stamps’ quarterback Henry Burris, whose bomb to receiver Ken-Yon Rambo gave a home crowd of over 29,000 some nervous moments late in the game.
An ensuing onside kick was recovered by Calgary, but a procedure penalty wiped out the effort; the Stampeders rep as the most penalty-prone team in the league came back to bite them in the ass when they least needed it to.
But the real story was Joseph, and his not-so-strange trip to stardom.
Originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals after making the team as an undrafted free agent quarterback out of McNeese State University, the 6-foot-2, 210 pound Joseph languished on their practice roster, only to end up in NFL Europe’s (nee World League) London Monarchs the following year.
Joseph was moved to tailback the following season after being signed by Washington, and went back to NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire in the spring of 1998, switching to defense as a safety.
Eventually signed by the Seattle Seahawks, Joseph would spend the next four seasons on defense and special teams as a return man. Free safety Merton Hanks, who was winding down a distinguished career in Seattle, said Joseph’s talent was being wasted in a 2001 interview.
“He (Joseph) picked up all the intricacies of the defensive setup right away,” said Hanks. “But being a quarterback, I’m not surprised. The real surprise is why he isn’t playing and starting as a quarterback somewhere.”
After being released from Seattle in 2002, Joseph was signed by the CFL Ottawa Renegades in 2003, where he would finally hit his stride as a player. Once taking over as the starting quarterback, Joseph would become only the fifth quarterback in CFL history to throw a TD pass in 15 consecutive games.
In 2005, Joseph put together his best season to date: throwing for 4,446 yards, 25 touchdown passes and rushing for 1,006 yards and nine ground scores. Joseph joined Tracy Ham, Michael Vick and the indomitable Damon Allen as the only pivots to ever run to daylight beyond the 1000 yard barrier.
After the Renegades folded, Saskatchewan picked up Joseph in the league Dispersal Draft, and he would go on to solidify his position as one of the best offensive forces in the league.
The win over Calgary represented the ‘Riders first home playoff win in 19 years, and now they will travel to Vancouver for a Western final with the B.C. Lions.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers used two key defensive stands and a last second field goal by Troy Westwood to elevate the ‘Bombers to a 24-22 victory over the Montreal Alouettes at Canada Inns Stadium.
Quarterback Kevin Glenn (19-of-31, 161, 1 TD, 1 INT) drove Winnipeg to its winning score after ‘Bombers linebacker Barrin Simpson led a defensive surge that stopped Montreal pivot Marcus Brady on a third-and-inches plunge with 1:35 remaining in the game.
From the Alouette 44, Glenn moved Winnipeg downfield for Westwood, who had been experiencing a very up and down season as punter/placekicker.
Kicking into some wicked swirling winds, Westwood missed on a previous field goal attempt that appeared to head straight between the uprights, only to swing wide right by at least five yards once the updraft snagged it.
But Glenn drove the Bombers to the Montreal 13, where Westwood, kicking at barely above 60% accuracy, split the poles from 20 yards out.
Earlier in the game, Montreal was stopped at the goal line on a third down plunge as Simpson and company stopped tailback Jarrod Payton.
But Brady (17-of-28, 299, 1TD, 1 INT) and the Alouettes played tough, leading for most of the game.
The loss of Montreal starting quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who left the team to be with his ailing spouse, was a blow to the team; but Brady, who starred at Cal State-Northridge, was up to the task in his first playoff start.
Winnipeg wide receiver Milt Stegall, the CFL’s all-time touchdown scoring leader, caught a 19 yard pass from Glenn for the major and an early lead. Stegall, who has never been on a winning Grey Cup team will now head to Toronto and the Sky Dome and face the Argonauts in the Eastern final.
Field Generals in Effect!
Unlike the NFL, there are no Black quarterback issues here. The Final Four for Toronto guarantee a Soul Bowl for the 95th Grey Cup.
After an early season injury to starter Damon Allen, Michael Bishop looks poised and ready to seize his moment as Toronto’s main man. Meanwhile, out west, ex-Denver Broncos quarterback Jarious Jackson took advantage of his situation by being prepared and has the B.C. Lions missing nary a beat on offense.
Injuries to starter Dave Dickenson and second stringer Buck Pierce by mid-season left the team in Jackson’s hands, and he responded admirably, showing off a cannon arm and elusiveness in the pocket.
Jackson helped the Lions to hold off the Green Riders and win the conference.
With the NFL seemingly in a retro-mindset, it may take another emergence of a Black North (of the border) star to once again silence the doubters about the ability of Black men to lead — in all things.
Three Minute Warning
A lot of the good, bad and ugly here. The ‘good’ is quarterback Casey Printers, who, in my humble opinion, got screwed by the Kansas City Chiefs, will return to help bring the Hamilton Tiger-Cats back to prominence. Printers, from Florida A&M, was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2004 before opting for the NFL and K.C.’s practice squad.
More good news for the Steel City Kitties
Former Ti-Cat Grey Cup hero Chuck Ealey will be in Toronto during Cup Week to sign autographs as Hamilton’s representative. Ealey, from the University of Toledo, is the only undefeated American collegiate quarterback, and a special website, (www.InductChuck.com) was designed to bring to light the need to get Ealey and some of his contemporaries into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The ‘bad’ is the exchange between Winnipeg receiver Milt Stegall and a CBC reporter, Mike Beauregard, who questioned the team’s shaky offensive performance down the stretch of the regular season.
Athletes get asked dumb questions, petty questions and the same questions often –it comes with the territory. The problem is not enough press people have ever played at a level that should make them mindful of what the sport they cover entails and what is needed to be successful.
Until this is done, many will continue look like assholes and sound like assholes; ask better questions, and you will get better answers. For the pros, you have to be just that — professional — and if it means feeding them a steady diet of clichÃ©s until you are around those that do understand, so be it.
The ‘ugly’ is buzz over the possibility of Michael Vick coming to play in the CFL if or when his legal troubles end. From one particular blog, some vitriolic colic was spewing from irate Torontonians. It seemed for every one that was cool with Vick paying his debt to society and playing, five were screaming on him as if he was evil incarnate.
All I can say about that is this: in a country where a serial killer is given more respect through a media ban than a football player who is paying for his stupidity a thousandfold by being crucified by the media everywhere, it reminds me the word “tolerance” isn’t as benevolent as it implies.
In the West, look for the Green Riders of the Western Plains to upset the B.C. Lions, 33-31; In the East, I believe it’s Michael Bishop’s time as the Argos get home cookin’ for the Cup: Toronto 38, Winnipeg 35.
Country mouse meets city mouse as it’s Saskatchewan and Toronto for the Grey Cup!