BASN PRESENTS – MAJOR SCORE! CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE 2016

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Updated: July 19, 2016

 

 

 

BASN PRESENTS MAJOR SCORE! CFL 2016 – 1

By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief

BASN

 

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) It was a fall day in 1971 when I saw one of the most important images of my life. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were driving against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and a young man wearing # 16 at the pivot for Hamilton engineered the game winning drive which catapulted the Ti-Cats to the Grey Cup Championship.

 

This quarterback, who went undefeated throughout his college career, picked right up from where he was a first team All-America (by Football News) in 1971, and won the Most Outstanding Player of the Championship Game.

 

His name is Chuck Ealey – still the only undisputed undefeated and unblemished quarterback in American collegiate football. Too Black for the National Football League, and too proud to settle for anything less than the opportunity to play the position he was supposed to play, Ealey, in his rookie season, attained greatness by looking bullshit square in the face and dealing with it, making Hamilton fans (as well as myself) very happy!

 

Forty – five years later, the image of a Black man in a leadership capacity at arguably the most important position in sports is still not lost on me.

 

Just as the bebop musicians went across the water to be appreciated due to the prejudice in their homeland, Canada accepted the premise that those players which fit the formula for success – intelligence, mobility, speed, a feel for the game and a strong arm would be best suited for their unique brand of football…

 

In later years names like Holloway, DeWalt, Allen, Crandall, Jones, Calvillo and others would make their mark among the best of the best in Canada’s game.

 

The makeup of 37 players (20 ‘immigrants’ and 17 non-imports – Canadian born or having emigrated and established as playing there before turning 16) has the team members in multiple roles; but everyone has to be able to run. With a playing field 13 and a half yards wider and 150 yards (110 yards of playing field and 20 yards each of end zones) the game is designed for high scoring – or intense defense due to the three down rule which stifles or sustains an offenses’ rhythm during attack.

 

 

The Teams – EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

 

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OTTAWA REDBLACKS

 

The former Black Riders of The East, no longer Renegades, seem to have finally reestablished themselves after several tries. Ageless pivot Henry Burris led the RedBlacks to last years Grey Cup, and although they came up on the short end of a 26-20 defeat to Edmonton, they have now solidified the fan interest needed to keep the franchise going forward.

 

Success in the CFL works within the framework of what the rosters will allow with regard to talent. When the 1994 British Columbia Lions defeated the Baltimore Stallions, they did it with some of the best Canadian talent assembled in becoming the only team to defeat an all American squad for the Grey Cup (Baltimore would follow the next year with their own victory, making them the only American team to gain Canada’s football championship).

 

This time Ottawa paid attention and did exactly the same thing. Wide Receiver Brad Sinopoli is home grown and played at the University of Ottawa. Sinopoli had a breakthrough year with 86 receptions for 1, 035 yards and three touchdowns, establishing himself as a bona fide chains mover.

 

Now that QB Trevor Harris has taken the baton from Burris,  the position has finally the stability it needs for the long haul. Currently leading the CFL in passing yards and touchdowns at the time of this writing, Harris has tossed six of those TD strikes to wideout Chris Williams, one of the craftiest “speed and space” players in the League.

 

While this same formula was utilized years ago to re-seed a returning Montreal Alouettes franchise back into the fold, the teams overall in the Eastern Conference seem to have needed more of a push than those in the Western Conference. The East should be even more competitive than last year now that all the teams within seem properly prepared to knock each other’s block off.

 

HAMILTON TIGER – CATS

 

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Affectionately called the ‘Steel City Kitties’ by this writer, Hamilton broke the new season in fine style with a victory over the Toronto Argonauts in the season opener. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s three touchdown passes led the way to a 42- 20 victory. Masoli threw for 318 yards and three majors as Toronto’s debut at BMO Field was spoiled.

 

Ex-Argos receiver Chad Owens helped to plunge the knife in the heart of the Double Blue on a 30 yard TD pass from Masoli. Owens laid out fully for the snag and reveled in his new role as Argos’ Villain.  The ‘Cats reheated the long-standing rivalry between the two clubs.

 

Hamilton has arguably the league’s best quick – strike weapon in slotback/returner Brandon Banks. “Speedy B” already has a 120 yard punt return for touchdown in the books, and while he may not be the second coming of Gizmo Williams just yet, he is the league’s best playmaker by far. Defensively the Ti-Cats have the makings of a good pass rush with Simoni Lawrence and Drake Nevis among the league leaders in sacks.

 

Head Coach Kent Austin, always a great student of the game, has nurtured Masoli and finally produced a long-term answer at the most important position in Hamilton.

 

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

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After years of empty space in the Rogers Centre (save Grey Cup games) the Argonauts moved their home games to BMO Field, home of soccer club Toronto FC. The move, designed to generate sellouts seems to have worked judging from the opening day crown of 24, 812 – just a handful short of a full house; similar to what the Montreal Alouettes did in moving their home games to McGill University’s turf. For the past 27 years, the comparatively cavernous Rogers Centre destroyed any kind of home advantage the Double Blue could muster; but now that they are back out in the open air, perhaps the vibe will be similar to pre-Rogers Centre days at Exhibition Stadium, where the Argos ruled over all in the 1960s and ’70s.

 

CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge was especially pleased with the move. “It’s so exciting – it’s a new era for the Argos. “A brand new field, new ownership under MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Bell, new energy and new excitement and a beautiful place to play. And a place that they can call home for really the first time in a long time.”

 

The atmosphere at BMO Field was electric on a brilliant summer evening. In the opener against Hamilton, Ti-Cat supporters wasted little time being heard, chanting “Argos Suck” well before the opening kickoff,  but Argo fans countered by showering Hamilton players with boos when they came on to the field.

 

Just as a rivalry should be.

 

Argos coach Scott Milanovich is trusting the team’s fate to veteran pivot Ricky Ray, but the player I would keep my eye on will be defensive back Akwasi Owosu – Ansah, who will be the opposition’s ace receiver most of the time and I feel should be on an NFL roster. Keon Raymond and Corey Greenwood are also part of a defensive unit that is among the leaders in tackles.

 

If Toronto has it their way their last game of the season will be indoors, as they are the host city for the 104th edition of the Grey Cup.

 

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

 

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Les Alouettes have been put in a very tenuous situation. With the NHL Canadiens not making the playoffs – and the trade of PK Subban (you shoulda gave him the captain’s ‘C’) Montreal sports fans have had very little to cheer about. Because anything other than hockey has to succeed – quickly – in La Belle Province, longtime vet QB Kevin Glenn must get the Als off to a good start. The depth behind Glenn is intriguing with Rakeem Cato and rookie Vernon Adams, Jr. hoping to do a Gen. Russell Wilson – Canadian style north of the border.

 

The strength of Canadian college power Laval and other Quebecois schools has always been part of Montreal’s agenda in not just securing national talent but understanding their market and showcasing Quebecois talent like WR Sammy Giguere from Sherbrooke University. If the Als can fly high enough, the one most likely to turn up on the NFL’s radar will be WR Duran Carter. Although the injured S.J. Green I feel has better hands, Carter has the more influential eyes on him…

 

Defensively lineman John Bowman and corner Jovon Johnson lead the charge on defense.  I’m sure RDS (the French – language sports channel) will have several declarations of ‘Touche’, Alouette!’ And the possibility of a football version of Le Guerre Civil (Civil War) with The Redblacks now that they seem to be coming at each other at equal strength.

 

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

 

 

 

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

 

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The defending Grey Cup Champion Eskimos are arguably the steadiest franchise in the West, and their Green Bay Packers’ color scheme is not coincidental. QB Mike Reilly is among the league leaders, and slotback Adarius Bowman may be the best in the West at his position; but what defines The Esks best is that they are the In-Laws of the CFL – you just can’t get rid of them! Statistics seem to ignore Edmonton more than other teams because their pedigree as a franchise always comes through. Whether they run away or close from behind, every team in the conference probably has more concern for them than any other opponent. Tailback John White leads the league in rushing touchdowns and as the season goes, watch how stats will not a principal reason for Edmonton being in the playoff mix…

 

 

 

 

 

 

CALGARY STAMPEDERS 

 

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The Stamps look to ride into the new season fairly intact and poised to resume their range war with Edmonton. QB Bo Levi Mitchell is surprisingly nimble and tailback Jerome Messam has gotten off to a good start on the league’s leader board as one of the top backs. Calgary’s stinginess on defense is paying dividends early, yielding the fewest points in the West led by defensive lineman Charleston Hughes. As we are only in the first quarter of the season’s drive, push will come to shove when the Stamps get it on Labour Day weekend in the Battle of Alberta.

 

 

 

 

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS

 

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When the Lions are strong, Beautiful British Colombia – can be the prettiest trap on earth. By far the most picturesque of League locales, when Vancouver is competitive, it brings an overall balance to the League from a coast – to – coast perspective. From all appearances, this pride of Lions looks like they may have some teeth as they gotten off to a good start.

 

Because of the proximity to the American border, the Lions scouts like to prowl close to home if the opportunity presents itself. Linebacker Adam Bighill from Eastern Washington is a great example, leading the League in tackles (29 as of this writing) with teammate Solomon Elimimian (21) not far behind…

 

On offence, Saginaw Valley QB Jonathan Jennings is a keeper and has shown moments of sheer brilliance in early CFL career. Makes all the throws, can run if he needs to, and if he doesn’t is likely looking for Alcorn State’s Emanuel Arceneaux as his chain – mover. Lions may well be the X- Factor in this year’s Cup chase if they can keep it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

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The Green Riders of The Western Plain look to rebound from a most regrettable season. Home of probably the most passionate fans in the CFL, the Green Riders will go only as far as Darian Durant’s strong arm can take them. Saddled with injuries years after he took them to back – to – back Grey Cups, Durant, when healthy is among the best in CFL regardless of position. With no wins yet approaching the quarter pole, the effort to avoid a swoon – injuries or no – intensifies. Wideout Naanan Rossevelt comes to the prairies looking to establish himself as an ace receiver, while Curtis Steele looks to improve on the ground game.

 

 

 

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS  Special teams were a huge reason the Blue Bombers were on the short end of a lot of scores, so Winnipeg acquired the services of one of the most reliable kickers in the league in former Ti-Cat/Carolina Panther Justin Medlock. Medlock paid immediate dividends in their lone victory with a career and team best 58 – yard field goal. Drew Willy has had his injury issues as well, but is looking good right now as he leads the conference in passing.

 

So why should you watch Canadian football? It’s faster, harder – hitting, and the skill levels to succeed – especially at quarterback are higher. More men on defense, wider field (need a strong arm to throw a 45 yard pass sideline for a seven yard gain) and may be calling audibles – in less than 20 seconds before the snap. This is where former Philadelphia Eagle and current San Francisco 49er head coach Chip Kelly came into the NFL with his bullshit, attempting to present his garbage – as original!

 

Kelly’s failure – as with most coaches lies in the fact that players make schemes, something every coach in the CFL understands.

 

Most important – in the CFL – the phrase “best man plays” is alive and well – and whether the game is a wide – open scoring affair or a tightly contested defensive struggle, you will never be bored!

 

 

BASN will keep you posted with a series of columns during the 2016 season, culminating in the 104th edition of The Grey Cup at SkyDome in Toronto!

 

We’ll see you from the 55 yard line at mid-season!

 

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michaelingram@blackathlete.com

 

Copyright (C) 2016 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.

 

 

 

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