Canadian Football League

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Gades get thumped in Canadian Football League opener

The Ottawa Renegades wore ''FC'' stickers on their helmets last night, a tribute to legendary Rough Riders coach Frank Clair, who passed away this spring.
Surely, Frank would have appreciated the gesture.
And just as surely, he wouldn't have appreciated this game.
The Renegades were thumped 41-16 by the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL season opener for both teams, snapping Ottawa's streak of two consecutive victories in curtain-lifters (both on the road).
It also extended the drought for Ottawa's professional football teams to now 23 years without a win at Commonwealth Stadium.
Edmonton's rookie head coach Danny Maciocia, who earned his first CFL coaching victory, picked Ricky Ray to start at quarterback over Jason Maas, but kept his decision secret until kick-off.
Brilliant move, brilliant performance.
Ray spent last year with the New York Jets of the National Football League, but showed little rust before a crowd of 36,912, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more.
Conversely, Ottawa pivot Kerry Joseph struggled, missing several easy throws by wide margins. In his defence, the Renegades offensive line was awful, permitting seven sacks through three quarters, and giving him scant time to see the field, let alone throw.
After taking another vicious shot early in the fourth quarter, a frustrated Joseph tossed his helmet after reaching the sideline and walked down away from the bench area for some alone time.
It was a fitting moment. This was a solo battle.
The Renegades meek line was the biggest culprit in a pathetic offensive showing. Ottawa did not have a first-down in the third quarter and had just 84 total yards at halftime.
In the second half, Edmonton put the contest away with a 10-point third period. Ray connected with Jason Tucker on a 21-yard touchdown, finishing a drive that was seemingly over twice if not for Renegade penalties. Later in the half, Sean Fleming booted 10 and 26-yard field goals, and Ray scored on a one-yard sneak.
Defensively, the Renegades showed some positive signs. They generated a pass rush, missed few tackles, and shut down Edmonton's running game. But that was hardly good enough.
The Eskimos took a 19-9 lead into halftime, a margin that bulged in the final minutes of the second quarter on a controversial touchdown.
Ray hit Tucker for a 19-yard score with 1:28 remaining.It was a damning call against the Renegades, but the visitors did a decent job damning themselves by allowing four sacks, squandering scoring opportunities, and taking an illegal participation penalty on a Pat Fleming punt that pinned the Eskimos deep in their own territory.
The foul represented a 29-yard fluctuation in Edmonton's favour. On the ensuing possession, Ray passed to Derrell Mitchell for a 36-yard gain and capped the drive with a one-yard sneak for a touchdown.
Ottawa's other glaring miscue came when Jason Armstead fumbled his first punt-return, leading to a 10-yard Fleming field goal early in the first period.
Armstead made amends later, returning a punt 87 yards for a TD.
Armstead scored a 54-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a sensational catch-and-run.
The Renegades' other points came on singles -- one on a punt, one on a missed field goal.
Matt Kellett missed 42- and 33-yard field goals at a time when Ottawa was winning the field position battle.
Cutting Him Off at the Pass

Friday, June 24, 2005

Canadian Football Coach releases CD

Montreal Alouettes head coach Don Matthews is the star of a new CD and video featuring his favourite rallying chant.
Matthews will launch a tune called What Time Is It? on Monday at the Montreal Casino. The CD was made by Whimsical Music, producers of novelty songs. It is based on a segment of a speech the veteran coach gave at the Alouettes' 2002 Grey Cup parade, when he repeatedly asked his players, "What time is it?" They answered with things such as "time to get busy."
The Alouettes opened the 2005 season with a 31-21 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Wednesday, Matthews's 66th birthday. It was the 214th regular-season win of his career, extending his league record. He also has 12 playoff victories and five Grey Cups.
Matthews said this week he has no plans to retire. "The fun times are the games," he said. "The reason I stay in the game is that I live for the games."

Alouettes open Canadian Football League season with another win

Nothing has defined the recent years of the Montreal Alouettes like their ability to start a season at full speed while the rest of the Canadian Football League's teams are still trying to find their way.
Last night, the Als made it nine opening-game wins in as many years as they overcame a slow start to defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-21 before their 55th consecutive sellout crowd at Percival Molson Stadium.
The Tiger-Cats, who had played their final preseason game only five days earlier, survived the first half by forcing the Als to play on a long field and by chipping away on offence with a mix of rushing and high-percentage passes.
But when the Als began adding to an 11-7 halftime lead during the second half, the Ticats couldn't answer back until it was too late.

The Als led 28-7 when Hamilton's Craig Yeast returned a punt 72 yards on the final play of the third quarter. When the Als added a field goal to make the score 31-14, their lead looked more than safe.
But a 75-yard interception for a touchdown by Hamilton corner Jason Goss with just under seven minutes remaining narrowed the lead to 10 points and gave the Cats life.
With less than three minutes to play, quarterback Danny McManus was picked off for the second time in the game, this time by Montreal linebacker Tim Strickland, and the Als breathed a sigh of relief.
With receivers Terry Vaughn and Kwame Cavil sitting out with injuries, the Montreal offence struggled early on as quarterback Anthony Calvillo tried to find his rhythm with the cast of Ben Cahoon, Dave Stala, Tim Gilligan and Kerry Watkins.
The Ticats put up most of the offence during the opening quarter, punting for a single point at the end of their opening drive, then adding a 35-yard Jamie Boreham field goal to make the score 4-0 Hamilton at the end of a quarter.
The Hamilton lead lasted until early in the second quarter, when the Als put together their first decent drive of the game. After advancing the ball via the legs of running back Eric Lapointe, Calvillo hit Cahoon and Watkins with consecutive passes, which moved the ball to the Hamilton three-yard line.
The completion to Cahoon was number 1,970 for Calvillo as an Alouette, moving him into first place ahead of Sam Etcheverry on Montreal's career completion list.
From there, running back Mike Vilimek, who had only five career carries and no touchdowns in three seasons with Ottawa, ran the ball in to make the score 7-4.
The Ticats tied the game on their next possession. McManus, who recently turned 40, hit D.J. Flick for a 33-yard pass down to the Montreal 12. Boreham came on for his second field goal to make it 7-7.
During that drive, McManus passed Ron Lancaster's 50,535 yards to move into second place behind Damon Allen on the CFL's career passing yardage list.
The Als marched the ball deep into Hamilton territory twice more during the first half but couldn't convert touchdowns on either. On the first, kicker Damon Duval missed from 21 yards out and Montreal had to settle for a single. Then, after a McManus interception with less than two minutes until halftime, the Als couldn't beat the clock and had to settle for a short field goal that made the score 11-7.
Duval's second field goal of the night, from 18 yards, gave Montreal a 14-7 lead midway through the third quarter before the roof began to cave in on the Ticats.
The Alouettes honoured CFL career rushing leader Mike Pringle before last night's game, allowing him to put on a uniform and run out of the tunnel one last time. Pringle, who played with Montreal from 1996 until 2002, retired this past off-season.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rookie Canadian Football League Kickers

They were around for so long you half expected archeologists to find their images scratched on cave walls. When Montreal Alouettes' general manager Jim Popp watched Lui Passaglia, Bob Cameron and Terry Baker at play he jokingly dubbed them "the dinosaurs."
Well, that Jurassic period of Canadian Football League kicking has come to an end. Tonight in Montreal, the 2005 regular season begins and it marks the dawn of a new era, a time of opportunity and uncertainty.
Four teams will start the year with unproved kickers. One, the Calgary Stampeders, will feature a pair of rookies, one punting, one place kicking. Montreal will go a step further and use a rookie import for both jobs. As for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, they're resting their hopes at the feet of Jamie Boreham, a risky proposition considering his erratic efforts of a year ago. Then there's the terminally tormented Ottawa Renegades, who have devoured kickers at a velociraptor-like rate.
The Renegades have lost kickers to the National Football League (Lawrence Tynes, Shaun Suisham), to illness (Sandro Sciortino) and were once advised that they should sign Lynsey Bennett, a former Miss Canada winner who kicked at Ottawa's Glebe Collegiate Institute. The Renegades place-kicker is Matt Kellett, who couldn't establish himself in previous CFL stopovers and still has double vision despite corrective eye surgery.

"Other than quarterback, you can make a compelling argument that the kicker is the most important position on the field," former Renegades GM Eric Tillman, now a Sportsnet commentator, said. "You absolutely have to have a good one to be successful in the CFL."
Unfortunately for Calgary, Montreal, Hamilton and Ottawa, they absolutely don't know what they've got -- game-breakers or heart-breakers. One CFL source looked at the names of the people who will be hoofing the ball and remarked: "There are still a few reliable guys -- Noel Prefontaine, Sean Fleming, Paul McCallum, Troy Westwood [now 38]. But we're in a vacuum right now when it comes to young Canadian kickers."
Again, you can thank the dinosaurs for that.
When Bernie Ruoff got hurt, Paul Osbaldiston moved in and took care of the Ticats' kicking for 17 years. Baker kicked for 16 years with four teams. Cameron did 23 years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Passaglia did 25 with the B.C. Lions. Those men, and others such as Dave Ridgway, Dave Cutler and Hank Ilesic, turned aside countless challengers who never got a chance to show what they could do. By sticking with the vets, the CFL likely squashed a generation of aspiring kickers.
"When the older kickers all retired at the same time there weren't many Canadians with experience" Popp said. "American kickers come from the NFL, NFL Europe, colleges. There are more choices."
Mike McCarthy, a former CFL GM who now scouts for the San Diego Chargers, believes there could be as many as three Americans kicking in Canada at some point this season because if winning is the priority, and it always is in the pro ranks, then having the best player transcends nationality and tradition.
"Canadian kids don't get to kick as much as U.S. kids," McCarthy said. "Take a look at U.S. 1-A [university] players. They're now kicking in 12 games a season. If they're on a good team they have a conference championship, maybe a Bowl game then spring football. Even in high school, they're playing 14, 15 games depending on what state they're in."
Passaglia, the Lions' director of community relations, wonders if CFL teams want another player declared a designated import so that an American can be used at the kicking position. When Ottawa had Tynes, it named him as its second DI. Most teams use their second DI for a return specialist or special teams player. It's not likely the CFL Players' Association would be keen on surrendering another Canadian job on a ratio that currently sits at 19 Canadians, 18 Americans and three quarterbacks of any nationality.
Ironically, whatever the future holds depends on how the young kickers do this season. If they succeed, all's well. If they fail then the worrying begins and more coaches will look to an American solution.
"It'll be interesting to see what the league does if there aren't enough Canadian kickers to go around," Passaglia said. "My feeling is you have to be patient. A lot of us didn't make a huge impact right away but the coaches stuck with us. Now we've got four or five guys bringing new blood to the position and we'll have to watch how they do."
Added McCarthy: "When Lui, Osbaldiston and Ridgway played, kids tried to be like them. I don't know if that's there now. The best kicker we've got is Mike Vanderjagt and he's down south."
So, too, are fellow Canadians Mitch Berger, Steve Christie and Suisham, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Suisham may end up with the Renegades later this season, but by then who knows what Ottawa will have endured.
The season begins. Hopes soar. The question is: Will it be shanked or will it soar through the uprights?
2005 CFL kickers
Toronto Argonauts: Noel Prefontaine, punter and place-kicker.
Montreal Alouettes: Damon Duval, punter/place-kicker.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Jamie Boreham, punter/place-kicker.
Ottawa Renegades: Pat Fleming punter, Matt Kellett place-kicker.
B.C. Lions: Duncan O'Mahony, punter/place-kicker.
Edmonton Eskimos: Sean Fleming, punter/place-kicker.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Paul McCallum, punter/place-kicker.
Calgary Stampeders: Burke Dales punter, Sandro DeAngelis kicker.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Jon Ryan punter, Troy Westwood place-kicker

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Montreal plans to expand Canadian Football League Stadium

The Montreal Alouettes are preparing for the future of professional football in Montreal. Today, Alouettes President and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Larry Smith presented Phase II of the Percival Molson Memorial Stadium expansion project, which includes a 5,000-seat expansion, as well as the addition of corporate loges and several other new elements to the historical building, erected in 1919.Among the planned renovations that will bring stadium capacity to over 25,000 seats is the construction of a second deck on the south side (over 3,000 new seats), the construction of new stands on the east side (over 1,500 new seats), the construction of a permanent section in the east end zone (a few hundred new seats), and the construction of 20 permanent corporate loges which will bring the total of corporate loges to 30.In addition to the expansion project, the organization is planning the construction of a new ticket office which will be completely integrated into the mountain. The addition of a wrought iron fence with brick columns running from the east entrance to the north secondary access will preserve the architectural integrity of the historic site, with the east entrance becoming the main stadium access. Also in the plans is the construction of a Builders' Wall recognizing the generous private contributors who have aided in the project."The feasibility study has been completed and we will now proceed with the presentation to all the organizations involved in this project," said Mr. Smith. "We are very excited with this project as it will insure the long-term survival of the Montreal Alouettes while providing a first-class facility to McGill University and to the City of Montreal for national and international events. All of the officials involved in this project have been very receptive to our plans and we're counting on their support."Among the organizations that have been consulted with on this project are the Government of Quebec, the Government of Canada, the City of Montreal, the borough of Ville-Marie, Heritage Montreal, Les Amis de la montagne and the Milton Park citizens' group.Two architectural firms have been working on the project, those of HOK Sport Venue and Event, and Werleman, Guy et McMahon Architectes. The City of Montreal and the Minister of Municipal Affairs also contributed the feasibility study.Phase II of the project is valued at $27 million, with the Alouettes fund-raising $4 million from the private sector and requesting a total of $23 million from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.The Alouettes hope to complete the solicitation period over the next few months in order to begin the ground work in 2006, with the objective having the expanded and renovated stadium ready in time for the 2007 season.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Edmonton cuts veteran Canadian Football League QB

- Khari Jones is the odd man out with the Edmonton Eskimos. The veteran quarterback, the CFL's outstanding player in 2001, was among the Eskimos' final cuts Saturday as they trimmed their roster to reach the 40-man limit.
Edmonton had a glut of talent at the quarterback position with Jones, incumbent Jason Maas and Ricky Ray, who returned to the Eskimos in the off-season after being released by the NFL's New York Jets. But even with Ray's status for the club's season opener Friday night against Ottawa unclear due to a hyper-extended knee, the Eskimos went with newcomer Jason Johnson as their third quarterback ahead of Jones.
If Ray can't play against Ottawa, Maas, who last year became just the second Eskimos player to pass for more than 5,000 yards, will get the start. So, essentially, considering Johnson would be making substantially less than Jones, the move to release the veteran does make economic sense.
The Eskimos also surprisingly released Patrick Kabongo, a Canadian defensive lineman who scouts say has a lot of promise at the pro level. Linebacker Jason Lamar was among four players placed on the injured list.
CFL teams made their final cuts Saturday by 3 p.m. EDT to reach the league-mandated 40-man roster. Three of those positions are reserved for quarterbacks who can be of any nationality. Of the remaining 37 positions, 19 must be filled by Canadians.
CFL teams can also keep up to five players on their practice roster.
The 2005 CFL season kicks off Wednesday night with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Montreal to face the Alouettes (7:30 p.m. EDT).
Jones isn't the only veteran looking for work.
Tackle John Feugill, a two-year starter with Toronto - including last year's Grey Cup victory in Ottawa - was among 10 players released. The six-foot-seven, 288-pound Feugill lost his job to newcomer Jerome Davis, a former defensive lineman converted to offence by the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
"Jerome is athletic and has the nasty disposition of a defensive player," said Greg Mohns, the Argos player-personnel director. "John is a very athletic player but he's more finesse than he is physical.
"Jerome is athletic and also has that mean streak."
Feugill was Toronto's nominee for the CFL's outstanding rookie award in 2003. He was one of two American tackles the Argos started on their offensive line last year. The other was Bernard Williams.
Toronto begins defence of its Grey Cup title Saturday at Rogers Centre against the B.C. Lions (7 p.m. EDT) in a rematch of last year's CFL championship game.
Also released was receiver Lal Knight, a former Argos starter who sat out all of last year after being released by the club in training camp 2003. The Argos also decided on a No. 3 quarterback, keeping youngster Charles Peterson ahead of former NFL player Scott Covington, who was also cut.