Canadian Football League

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Als below .500 at Canadian Football League season half-way point

Ricky Ray and Jason Tucker proved to be too much for the Montreal Alouettes.
Montreal Alouettes Mike Vilimek, top, takles Eskimos Kwame Cavil during first quarter CFL action in Edmonton on Friday. Ray had his second straight 400-yard passing game and favourite target Tucker had nine catches for 217 receiving yards and one touchdown in the Edmonton Eskimos 36-26 win over Montreal Friday night.
"They've got a feel for one another," said Edmonton coach Danny Maciocia.
The Eskimos ran away with the game after a 19-19 tie was broken in the third quarter after Ray found Tucker for gains of 45 and 20 yards to set up Ron McClendon's two-yard scoring run.
An 82-yard loft to Tucker on Edmonton's first series of the second quarter set up Ray's four-yard scoring run on the next play. Ray finished 28-of-39 for 438 yards.
"He runs such good routes and knows how to work defenders," said Ray of Tucker, who also caught seven passes from Ray for 132 yards and two touchdowns in being named the 2003 Grey Cup MVP. "He's going to do the right thing and get to the right spot."
After Edmonton defenders A.J. Gass and Cedric Scott stuffed the Alouettes twice on third-short in the first quarter, the Eskimos also caught Anthony Calvillo for a safety before Ray found Tucker for a 22-yard score at 13:24 to make it 9-7.
"I just go out there and do my job," said Tucker. "I take pride in what I do."
Edmonton (6-3) entered the half-way point of the season by erasing a two-game losing streak while the Alouettes (4-5) dropped their second straight game following last week's 40-37 home loss to Calgary.
Alouettes coach Don Matthews said heads may roll off his struggling club.
"The team has to get better," Matthews said. "I don't know about drastic but certainly we need to play better football than what we're playing."
Ray rubbed salt in the wound with a five-yard strike to slotback Kwame Cavil in the fourth quarter, whom the Eskimos acquired July 21 in a trade with Montreal. To make matters worse, ex-Alouette William Loftus - playing for the injured ex-Alouette Kelly Wiltshire - picked off quarterback Anthony Calvillo midway through the fourth quarter to snuff out a crucial drive. Alouettes backup quarterback Ted White finished the game.
"We were waiting for this game for a long time,"' said Edmonton offensive co-ordinator R.D. Lancaster.
Edmonton, a woeful eighth in CFL rushing entering the game, had a 20-yard run from McClendon to set up Kavil's the touchdown, and he finished with 69 yards on nine carries despite having his bell rung on a three-man gang tackle in the second quarter, and losing the ball on a fumble in the fourth.
"They didn't know whether we were running or passing the ball,' said McClendon. "Tonight I felt like I was on a different team out there."
Alouettes special teams player Matthieu Proulx charged in untouched to block Sean Fleming's punt in the first quarter which lineman Rob Brown recovered and ran to the one to set up Mike Vilimek's one-yard run. Brown also pasted Ray in the end zone for the game's second safety in the third quarter.
Tucker turned spoiler later it the third quarter, tipping a Ray pass right into the arms of Alouettes defensive back Almondo Curry, who ran the ball to Edmonton's 21.
Four plays later Eric Lapointe caught a three-yard pass from Calvillo to make it 16-14.
Edmonton led 19-14 at the half after import kicker Hayden Epstein made good on a 34-yard field goal The Eskimos demoted 14-season veteran Sean Fleming to only handle punting duties after making just 11 of 19 field goal attempts this season.
Epstein, 25, a seventh-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002, was also good from 22 yards in the fourth quarter.
Calvillo was 28-of-42 for 323 yards while Kerry Watkins had eight catches for 130 yards and Dave Stala finished with 10 receptions for 116 yards for the Alouettes.
Montreal slotback Terry Vaughn had six catches for 63 yards in his first return to Edmonton since an off-season trade ended six straight 1,000-yard seasons with he Eskimos.
"We just didn't make the plays to stay with them," said Vaughn. "It just adds up and you can't do that playing on the road."
Free agent running back Michael Jenkins was signed by Edmonton Thursday after being released from Montreal after two games on the Als practice roster, but didn't dress.
NOTES: The Eskimos sported dark green pants for the first time this season ... the game raised $17,000 dollars and produced 9000 kilograms of food in the Purolater Tackle Hunger Program ... Wiltshire was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury following a hard collision with Vaughn in the third quarter. "it was a big jolt, but obviously he got the worst of it," said Vaughn. "I try to be the hammer not the nail."

Ti-Cats win first Canadian Football League game of the season

For the first time this season, Danny McManus and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had something to smile about after a game.
Winnipeg Blue Bomber Gilles Colon, right, is brought down by Hamilton Ti-Cats Rob Hitchcock and Antoine Sanders at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Friday. (CP/ John Rennison) McManus made a triumphant return as Hamilton's starter, passing for 440 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Ticats to their first win of the season, a wild 41-39 decision over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night.
"Just to get that first win is nice," said McManus. "The guys in the locker room, you can see they're pretty excited.
"Hopefully they remember this feeling and want to get some more of it. It was a long time in coming, almost too long."
The victory, before an enthusiastic Ivor Wynne Stadium gathering of 27,443, spoiled a milestone performance from Milt Stegall. The Bombers receiver had a pair of touchdown catches to give him 117 for his career, tying former Calgary slotback Allen Pitts's CFL record. Stegall finished with four catches for a game-high 144 yards.
"I guess it shows that us old guys are getting better with age," joked McManus. "We're like a fine wine."
The win also means Hamilton (1-8) now has some much-needed momentum heading into its Labour Day showdown with arch-rival Toronto (6-3).
"That's really what we needed," said Ticats head coach Greg Marshall. "The guys need to feel good about themselves.
"I've said many times this game is half mental and half believing you have the ability to make plays and win football games. This will go a long way towards getting ready to play the Argos."
McManus, making his first start since injuring his thumb July 30 versus Edmonton, shredded Winnipeg's defence with the long ball. McManus, 40, opened the game by hitting D.J. Flick on a 72-yard scoring strike and finished the first quarter 5-of-7 passing for 220 yards and two TDs in staking the Ticats to a 21-10 lead.
Hamilton's receiving corps has been criticized this season for dropping passes, but McManus used seven different receivers in the game. Flick led the way with four catches for 142 yards while Craig Yeast added six receptions for 136 yards.
Overall, McManus finished 20-of-29 passing despite enduring constant pain from his injured thumb.
"It hurt on every throw but the offensive line did a great job of keeping everybody away from me," said McManus.
After Winnipeg (3-7) pulled to within 41-39 on Charles Roberts's one-yard TD run at 8:07, Ticats cornerback Justin Airabin intercepted Kevin Glenn at the Hamilton 43-yard line with 1:10 remaining.
Hamilton was forced to punt, but Winnipeg was forced to start its final drive at its own 36-yard line with nine seconds remaining. After a questionable incompletion, Glenn was sacked by Tim Cheatwood to end the game.
"I thought both quarterbacks were outstanding but Danny McManus was the Danny McManus of old," said Bombers coach Jim Daley. "He did a lot of damage to us in the first half especially.
"This was a big loss for us and a real disappointing one. What it does is put a lot of pressure on the Saskatchewan series. A win tonight would've give us an edge."
Winnipeg remains tied with Saskatchewan (3-5) for fourth in the West Division, two points behind third-place Calgary (4-5). The Bombers and Riders play consecutive games starting Labour Day.
Hamilton came into the game last in the CFL in scoring (15.8 per game) and eighth in passing (233.4 yards per game). But with McManus leading the way, the Ticats offence rolled up 532 total yards.
The Bombers hadn't fared much better, standing eighth in total offence (295.8 yards) and ninth in passing (223.9). But Winnipeg had 533 total yards, thanks largely to Glenn, who was 22-of-37 passing for 416 yards and three TDs.
Flick, with two, Julian Radlein, Craig Yeast and Khari Jones had Hamilton's touchdowns. Jamie Boreham added five converts and two field goals.
Stegall, with two, Jamie Stoddard and Roberts scored Winnipeg's touchdowns. Troy Westwood booted three converts, three field goals and a single. The other points came on a safety.
Hamilton dominated the first half, with McManus throwing two TD strikes to stake the Ticats to a 31-18 lead late in the second quarter.
After connecting with Flick to start the quarter, McManus hit a wide-open Yeast on a 75-yard TD strike to end the first after a late Winnipeg field goal cut the Ticats' lead to 14-10.
Yeast's TD fired up Hamilton, especially Boreham, who levelled Winnipeg's Gilles Colon with a vicious shoulder tackle on the kickoff to start the second.
But Winnipeg rallied in the final minute of the half. The Bombers caught Ticats rookie Tad Kornegay for a safety off a missed Westwood field goal, then Glenn found a streaking Stegall on a 75-yard TD strike at 14:54. The two point convert was unsuccessful the late surge pulled the visitors to within 31-26 at the half.
Notes -Ticats slotback Mike Morreale had a terrific game. He made a stellar one-handed grab in the first half, dragged three Bombers defenders on another catch, then in the third made a great tip off a Bombers onside kick . . . Defensive tackle Doug Brown (foot) didn't dress for Winnipeg, breaking his streak of 81 straight games played. The Bombers were also minus kick-returner Keith Stokes. Receiver Darnell McDonald replaced Stokes on the roster.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Eskimos sign veteran Canadian Football League running back

The Edmonton Eskimos are looking to a former 1,000-yard rusher to kick-start their running game. The CFL club announced Thursday it has agreed to contract terms with free-agent running back Michael Jenkins, who ran for more than 1,000 yards twice with the Toronto Argonauts.
The addition of Jenkins certainly fills a need for Edmonton. The Eskimos boast the CFL's most potent passing attack with quarterback Ricky Ray and receivers Jason Tucker and Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell but are eighth in the league in rushing, averaging just 61.5 yards per game.
In fact, the Eskimos have scored just five rushing touchdowns all season, four by Ray alone. Ron McClendon is the club's rushing leader with 162 yards, with Ray standing second with 142 yards. McClendon is currently on Edmonton's injured list.
Shoring up the running attack has been a priority for Edmonton since Mike Pringle, the CFL's career rushing leader, retired in the off-season.
The five-foot-eight, 208-pound Jenkins joins the Eskimos after being released from Montreal's practice roster earlier this month. The former University of Arkansas star signed with the Alouettes after missing the entire 2004 season due to an ankle injury.
Jenkins broke into the CFL with Toronto in 2000 when he rushed for 1,050 yards on 271 carries. In 2001, he recorded 1,484 rushing yards and 361 receiving yards for eight touchdowns.
After spending 2002 in the Houston Texans camp, he rejoined the Argos in 2003, recording 814 yards and six touchdowns.
Edmonton hosts Montreal at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night but Jenkins won't be in uniform to face his former team.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Argos first in Canadian Football League East

Bashir Levingston couldn't have picked a better time to score the Toronto Argonauts' first special-teams touchdowns of the year.
Toronto Argonauts Bashir Levingston, foreground, runs from his own end zone to score a touchdown in the second half.Levingston had a 109-yard punt return for a touchdown and also took a missed field goal 111 yards for a TD, both in the fourth quarter, to lead Toronto to a wild 25-16 win over the Calgary Stampeders on Wednesday night. The touchdowns were Toronto's first on special teams this season, a huge boost for a unit which had come under fire of late for its inability to score. The Argos came into this season having returned 10 kicks for touchdowns.
"I know I'm still the best (kick returner in CFL)," Levingston said. "I told you all I would lead in touchdowns when the year was over.
"I meant it, but we're just taking a little longer than I wanted. It was tough being patient. I had a couple that were close, but close doesn't mean anything."
Levingston is now tied with Montreal's Ezra Landry and Edmonton's Tony Tompkins for the CFL lead in special-teams touchdowns. It also was Levingston's 13th career punt return TD, leaving him just one behind current Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons.
"That's football at it's best," said Calgary head coach Tom Higgins. "He (Levingston) is a treat to watch.
"He's truly dynamic as a returner."
Levingston electrified the season-low Rogers Centre gathering of 24,637 by breaking three tackles and returning Burke Dales's punt for the touchdown at 6:23 of the third to put Toronto ahead 18-10.
Calgary pulled to within 18-16 at 12:39 on Henry Burris's 35-yard TD strike to Jeremaine Copeland. A Toronto offside call put the ball at the Argos' one-yard line, so the Stampeders went for the two-point convert. But Burris was stopped short on the sneak attempt.
Calgary's Sandro DeAngelis, who came into the game having made 20-of-22 field goals, missed two-of-three attempts Wednesday night. He tried a 54-yard field goal for the lead with 44 seconds remaining, but was just short.
After running around the end zone to kill time, Levingston found an opening down the left sideline and took off. He got a break block from Kevin Eiben, then picked up an escort downfield and ran untouched into the end zone.
"I was just playing with them for a minute trying to waste the clock," Levingston said. "When I took enough time off the clock, I looked to the left and Eiben gave me a great block and after that it was all she wrote."
The win was the second in four days for Toronto (6-3), which moved atop the East Division despite committing four turnovers. Calgary (4-5) remains third in the West.
"We kept thinking special teams would make a difference in a game soon," said Clemons. "We did spend a little extra time in the area of special teams trying to fine-tune things and get it together.
"The reality is a great player made a couple of great plays. I don't think we blocked it up as well as we have in some of the returns in the past. He (Levingston) just made a couple of spectacular plays."
Levingston's punt return tied Pernell Moore for the second-longest in Argos history. The longest is a 131-yard effort by Boyd Carter, who lateralled the ball to Dave Mann to complete the play in 1968.
Levingston's fireworks came after Argos receiver Robert Baker brought fans to their feet with a big play of his own.
Baker laid out Calgary's Trey Young on an interception return with a bone-jarring hit. Young fumbled and Baker recovered to keep Toronto's drive alive. It was culminated with Noel Prefontaine's 24-yard field goal at 5:16 that put the Argos ahead 11-10.
"I just did what I felt I had to do, which was get the ball back," said Baker, who finished with eight catches for 50 yards. "As for the hit, he left himself open, I don't know how he didn't see me."
Well, Young didn't.
"I thought we would've had Baker blocked," Young said. "I didn't see him.
"Someone should've taken him."
Toronto won despite committing five turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions). Argos quarterback Damon Allen finished 26-of-35 passing for 276 yards and a touchdown.
Burris completed 19-of-32 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown.
"It's frustrating," Burris said. "We've been trying to cut down on our turnovers and when they started giving it to us, we couldn't take advantage."
Tony Miles had Toronto's other touchdown. Prefontaine finished with three converts, a field goal and single.
Ken-Yon Rambo scored Calgary's other touchdown. DeAngelis added the convert and a field goal.
NOTES - Dave Costa replaced the injured Jerome Davis (groin) in Toronto's starting lineup . . . Calgary owned the rights to Argos backup Michael Bishop before dealing them to Toronto during the 2002 CFL draft . . . Fullback Sean Millington, who ended a 2 1/2-year retirement earlier this week, dressed for Toronto.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Canadian Football League turning to veterans

First Sean Millington. Now, Hank Ilesic?
Metro, a free Toronto daily, reported Tuesday that the Ottawa Renegades invited the 45-year-old punter to a tryout in Toronto on Tuesday.
"We need a good punter, and if Hank can get the ball downfield even half as well as he used to, we'll sign him," an unidentified Renegades executive told Metro. "It's our information that he's in terrific shape and can still kick the heck out of the ball."
The six-foot-one Ilesic, who holds several CFL kicking records, is a muscular 250 pounds these days. He weighs 30 pounds more than he did when he initially ended his punting career with the Argos in 1993.
"I work out every day and I have less than seven per cent body fat on me now," said Ilesic, who started his CFL career in 1977 as a 17-year-old. "I should probably be coming back as a linebacker, not a punter."
The Renegades are looking for kicking help because Pat Fleming has a broken thumb.
"Coming back again would be nice," Ilesic said. "There's no doubt in my mind that I can help any team in the CFL. I'm not kicking as well as I used to kick — I'm kicking better."
Ilesic, who owns a successful marketing agency in suburban Mississauga, has been asked to help out CFL teams in the past.
Most recently, in 2001, the Edmonton Eskimos persuaded him to come out of retirement to replace the injured Sean Fleming.
On Monday, the 37-year-old Millington came out of retirement to rejoin the Toronto Argonauts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ti-Cats release veteran Canadian Football League DB

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have released import defensive back Dedric Mathis and import defensive end Jeremy Lawrence.
Mathis, playing in his fifth year with the Ticats, recorded 17 defensive tackles and recovered one fumble in eight games this season. Mathis played 151 career games in five seasons (2001-05) with Hamilton, making 168 total tackles and seven interceptions.
Lawrence had recorded six defensive tackles and two special teams tackles in his rookie season with the Ticats.

Former Canadian Football League player arrested

Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips, who was wanted by police for domestic violence, was arrested Sunday after allegedly running his car into three teenagers who argued with him during a pickup football game, police said. Police had been seeking Phillips — a former Nebraska Cornhuskers star and ex-member of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes — since earlier this month for allegedly attacking his girlfriend twice, once choking her into unconsciousness. The teenagers were taken to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Argos on top of Canadian Football League East

Damon Allen tossed three touchdown passes as the Toronto Argonauts won 22-18 Saturday, handing the Edmonton Eskimos their first home loss of the season.
Toronto Argonauts Chuck Winters (top) takes down Trevor Gaylor during third quarter CFL action in Edmonton against the Eskimos on Saturday. (CP/John Ulan) After a scoreless opening quarter, Allen found slotback Robert Baker, who ran untouched 90 yards down the sidelines for an touchdown on the Argonauts' first possession of the second quarter.
After Allen hit Arland Bruce for an 89-yard score down the left sidelines in the third quarter, the Eskimos fumbled the kickoff and Argos wide receiver Tony Miles scored 2:09 later off Allen's six-yard pass. Allen was limping noticeably on his bruised right ankle following the play.
Argos defensive lineman Robert England also had an interception and sacked Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray, who threw a pair of interceptions and dealt with a collapsing pocket throughout the night. But the 25-year-old pivot came to life in the fourth quarter with a two-yard scoring plunge and 18-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Gaylor.
Still, Edmonton (5-3) fell to 3-1 at home before 38,927 at Commonwealth Stadium. Toronto improved to 5-3.
The slow-moving first half was no gem. The second quarter featured a badly executed fake punt by the Argos Noel Prefontaine deep in their own end, a poorly thrown Ricky Ray pass on the following possession that fell into England's arms, and a missed 40-yard field goal from Sean Fleming with no time left for a 7-1 Argos lead at the half.
England also stuffed an Edmonton drive late in the third quarter following a seven-yard sack on Ray, who also threw an interception to Argos cornerback Jordan Younger midway through the fourth quarter that sent many of the home fans home.
The Eskimos opened the second-half with a 14-play, 66-yard drive that took 7:18 off
the clock but could only produce a 19-yard Fleming field goal.
Eskimos linebacker Steven Marsh had an open interception on Allen in the third quarter but couldn't hold onto the ball.
The national CBC television broadcast featured only crowd sounds and some detail from the local radio play-by-play crew due to the employee lockout.
Allen, a 42-year-old grandfather who has played 21 CFL seasons and is the defending Grey Cup MVP, entered the game as the Argos rushing leader with 33 carries for 178 yards.
Notes: Edmonton re-signed defensive back Donny Brady, 31, to a two-year contract extension this week. . . . Patrick Kabongo, a 325-pound converted offensive lineman, started at right guard after just three months in his new position. . . . Non-import kicker Hayden Epstein, a former Minnesota Viking and Jacksonville Jaguar, was added to Edmonton's practice roster this week. . . . Allen was also voted the 1993 Grey Cup MVP following Edmonton's 33-23 win over Winnipeg

Canadian Football League goes silent

Television screens across the country showed snaps, pass completions and touchdown conversions Saturday night - but who was doing what and when was left for interpretation by the fans with elite concentration and a thorough knowledge of the game.
The lockout-ridden CBC managed to squeak out a television broadcast of the Toronto at Edmonton CFL game without its regular employees, but the format, which lacked the usual colour commentary and analysis, left a little to be desired.
With 5,000 CBC employees walking picket lines rather than sidelines, the national broadcaster was forced to rely on management to run cameras and microphones during its regularly scheduled broadcast of the game.
The CBC dubbed the format the "stadium experience from home" earlier this week because it relied on boosted crowd noise to make up for the atmosphere usually created by play-by-play commentary.
But the screams of beer guzzling Eskimos fans did little to replace the litany of play forecasting, clever team insights and sometimes unimaginable statistical comparisons that usually flood the airwaves during the downtime between plays.
Fans who tuned in to catch the usual pre-game show, instead were offered an animated children's movie.
Once the play got underway, viewers were greeted with the voice of stadium announcer Al Stafford, which was difficult at times to make out in the echo-prone, open air stadium.
Graphics of team lineups flashed across the screen in the usual fashion, but the analysis of who is hot and who is not at this stage in the season was conspicuously absent.
At one point, instructions over a radio telling a cameraman to get closer to the play could clearly be heard by television viewers.
The cameras were at times also a little shaky and the angles not what the dialled in super fan may be used to. However, for the most part, the broadcast did follow the play.
CBC spokesman Jason MacDonald said the network was pleased with the way Stafford's stadium announcements came across in lieu of the usual sportscasters.
"That went a long way to creating the ambience we were hoping it would create with the stadium sound," MacDonald said after the game.
"There were some technical glitches, but certainly things improved as the game went along," he said. "Overall it was a production fans could enjoy."
MacDonald said the CBC will likely have the ratings for the game by Monday.
Meanwhile, fans who logged on to the CFL website were asked to fill out a survey on what they thought of the CBC broadcast.
Questions ranged from whether the lack of play-by-play helped or hindered the production to whether people tuned into radio broadcasts to compliment what was shown on television.
The lockout and subsequent unusual CFL broadcast comes on the heels of several woes this year for CBC sports.
In February the network lost a bid for the right to cover the 2010 and 2012 Olympics. The cancelled NHL season was also a substantial blow, and trouble with curling broadcasts has also hurt the public broadcaster's generally beefy sports department.
MacDonald declined to speculate on whether any future CFL broadcasts during the lockout would follow the same scaled back format.
"Frankly what we are hoping, come this week, is that we can get back to the bargaining table and then it's not an issue."
But with the lockout stretching into its second week and neither camp showing signs of breaking the deadlock, hockey fans - rabid after a losing last year's season to the NHL lockout - are likely getting a little nervous.