Friday, November 20, 2009

CFL Set for East and West Championships

This article was first published in the November 20th edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by www.mainstreetweeknews.com to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

CFL Set for East and West Championships

The CFL playoffs are underway and the Montreal Alouettes (15-3) and Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-7-1) are preparing to host the East and West Championship games on November 22nd as the road to the 97th Grey Cup continues. The Roughriders won the Western Division for the first time in 33 years and will host the defending Grey Cup Champions from Calgary. In the East, thanks to the CFL's crossover playoff format, the Alouettes will be defending the honour of the East in their game against the BC Lions.

On November 15th, while the Alouettes were resting up and dealing with any lingering injuries from their season, the second place Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-9) hosted the BC Lions (8-10) at Ivor-Wynne Stadium in the battle of the big cats. The game started slowly, with both teams exchanging several field goals before former Tiger-Cat QB, Casey Printers, took control of the game and led the Lions to a 34-27 overtime victory.

After spending the past two seasons in Hamilton and being released by the team due to his ineffective play, Printers looked right at home with the Lions offence in his second stint with BC. It appears that the 2004 Most Outstanding Player in the CFL will be the player to watch when the Lions arrive at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. In Hamilton, Printers completed 24 of his 35 passes for 360 yards, passing for one touchdown and running another into the end zone while throwing no interceptions.

The fact that Printers is heating up in time for the Eastern Championship game should worry Alouettes fans. While the Alouettes have not played a meaningful game in several weeks, Printers and the Lions are gaining confidence and looking to build on their first round win. Printers will test the Montreal defence; if he cannot beat you in the air with his passing game, the fleet of foot quarterback can escape the rush and scramble for some big yardage plays on the ground.

Meanwhile, in the West, the Calgary Stampeders (10-7-1) defeated the Edmonton Eskimos (9-9) by a score of 24-21 and earned their playoff date with the West Division winners in Regina. Once again, the field goal kickers were center stage as both teams relied on their kicking game for a 9-7 Calgary lead at halftime. Once the second half began, Henry Burris led the Calgary offence to victory with two touchdown passes. For the game, last season’s Grey Cup MVP completed 19 of his 32 passes for 264 yards through the air, with the two TD passes and no interceptions.

Looking ahead to the East and West Finals, the Roughriders will have a tough time against the defending champions. Not only did they finish the season with identical win/loss records, the Grey Cup is in Calgary this year and the Stampeders would love another Cup victory on their home turf. In Montreal, the Alouettes move across town from the friendly surroundings of Molson Stadium to the cavernous Olympic Stadium.

While it is easy to see why the Al’s head to the Big Oh-No during the playoffs, a larger crowd helps with the financial bottom line, it may be a home game but it is not their home turf. With a dangerous QB like Casey Printers running the offence for the Lions and the CFL’s all-time leader in coaching victories, Wally Buono at the helm, a Montreal loss would result in the BC Lions representing the East in the Grey Cup. How is that for a geographical conundrum? Have a great sports day everyone.

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