Canadian Football League

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Canadian Football League Award Finalists

Damon Allen says he's living proof good things do come to those who wait.
The Toronto Argonauts quarterback was named the East Division nominee for the CFL's outstanding player award Wednesday. Four times Allen, the CFL's career passing leader, had been voted as a team representative for the honour but this marks the first time in his illustrious 21-year career that the six-foot, 190-pound Allen has been named a finalist for the league's top individual prize.
"It's never too late, that has always been my motto," Allen said. "When it does come, it's always the perfect time.
"But it is truly a team award because you need great personnel and these guys here have made me look good. With that in mind I do accept this nomination for my teammates."
This is quickly becoming year of firsts for Allen.
The 42-year-old grandfather threw for 5,082 yards this season - the first 5,000-yard effort of his career - in leading the defending Grey Cup-champion Argos to first in the East Division. It's also the first time since 1997 that Toronto has captured top spot in the conference.
The West Division nominee is Corey Holmes, the Saskatchewan Roughriders dynamo who is arguably the CFL's most versatile player with his ability to effectively play running back and receiver in addition to being one of the league's top kick returners.
The five-foot-eight, 189-pound Holmes led the CFL in all-purpose yards this season with 3,455 yards. He finished ninth in rushing with 899 yards (with a sparkling 6.5-yard average per carry) and was second in both punt returns (835 yards, two touchdowns) and kickoff returns (1,157 yards, one touchdown).
Not surprisingly, Holmes was also nominated for the John Agro award as the league's top special-teams player, along with Toronto punter-kicker Noel Prefontaine, who was second in the CFL in punting (45.2-yard average) and third in scoring (160 points).
But even the always classy Holmes said Allen has his vote for the outstanding player award.
"He's playing like he's 22 years old and he has my vote to win," Holmes said. "It's just a great honour for me to be in the same category and same sentence with this guy.
"Throughout this league he has been consistent . . . his career is just skyrocketing as he gets older and that's the way I feel I want to approach the game as I get older."
Allen and Prefontaine were among four Argos to earn East Division nominations. The others were linebackers Michael Fletcher (defensive player) and Kevin Eiben (Canadian). Fletcher had 87 tackles this season, second on the team to Eiben, of Delta, B.C., who had 113 to finish tied for first overall with Calgary's George White.
Scott Flory (top lineman) and defensive back Matthieu Proulx (rookie), both of the Montreal Alouettes, were the other East nominees.
The West Division features two repeat nominees in Calgary linebacker John Grace (defensive player) and Saskatchewan's Gene Makowsky (lineman). Grace was a finalist to Montreal's Anwar Stewart last year while Makowsky claimed the top lineman honour.
Defensive end Brent Johnson of the B.C. Lions, a native of Kingston, Ont., who had a CFL-high 16 sacks, is the West's top Canadian candidate while Winnipeg defensive end Gavin Walls, who had 12 sacks, earned the top rookie nomination.
Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada. The award winners will be named Nov. 24 in Vancouver.
Allen has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, saying he could see himself playing another two years. Allen needs just 1,232 more yards to surpass former NFL-CFL star Warren Moon (70,553 yards) as pro football's most prolific passer ever.
"I think I'm in my prime now," he said.
Fletcher is the first Argo to be a finalist for top defensive player since Zac Henderson in 1982. And the last Toronto player to win the award was Granville Liggins in 1976.
"Wow, I didn't know that. I was just five years old," Fletcher said when told of Henderson's nomination 23 years ago. "There have been a lot of terrific defensive players to wear the double blue since then.
"John (Grace) is a great player in his own right and I wouldn't be disappointed if he won the award because he had a terrific year and has had a great career since coming here."
Flory paid tribute to his teammates along Montreal's offensive line upon receiving his nomination.
"It's a nice award, but it truly is an O-line award," Flory said. "It's a reflection of the guys I play with.
"These guys are all outstanding players and to have three former winners (Uzooma Okeke, Dave Mudge and Bryan Chiu) on the line is amazing."
Proulx was surprised by his nomination.
"Honestly, I didn't expect it," he said. "I was happy to be rookie of the year here for the Alouettes, but I know that there's good rookies on other teams too. This is just a bonus."
The six-foot-three, 300-pound Makowsky anchored an offensive line that surrendered a league-low 23 sacks and helped the Roughriders average a league-best 135 yards rushing per game.

Hamilton fires three Canadian Football League Coaches

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats cut ties with offensive co-ordinator Jamie Barresi, receivers coach Paul LaPolice and offensive line coach Mark Murray on Tuesday, announcing that the three would not have their contracts renewed.
The moves were not unexpected after the Ticats stumbled to a 5-13 this season, with an inconsistent offence in part to blame.
The offensive co-ordinator's job could be filled by former Ottawa Renegades coach Joe Paopao, who didn't have his contract renewed. There's been speculation that he will join the club in the off-season.
Barresi and LaPolice were in their second seasons with the Ticats, while Murray finished his sixth season in Hamilton.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bombers looking for new Canadian Football League Head Coach

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fired head coach Jim Daley on Tuesday.

The move wasn't a total surprise after the Bombers finished the season last in the West Division with a 5-13 record.

Daley and general manager Brendan Taman had both been on the hot seat most of the season in Winnipeg, but many Bombers fans felt the team had to change coaches in order to change its fortunes.

Daley became the Bombers interim head coach last season, succeeding the fired Dave Ritchie. After compiling a 5-6 record, Daley was made the club's full-time head coach in the off-season.

Daley, 51, has been a coach for 28 years, the last 13 in the CFL. He posted a 10-19 record with the Bombers.

The Bombers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2003, struggled on both sides of the ball this season.

Defensively, the club allowed 8,249 total yards, an average of 458.3 per game, to break the CFL mark of 446.4 yards set in '91 by Saskatchewan. The Bombers were especially woeful against the pass, surrendering 6,335 yards - 352 per game - to smash the previous record of 341.2 yards set in '93 by B.C.

Winnipeg's offence was ranked eighth in total yards (331 per game) as well as in passing (246 per game). This despite a stellar campaign from slotback Milt Stegall, who had a CFL-high 17 touchdowns receiving to boost his career total to 126. That broke the CFL career mark of 117 held previously by former Calgary Stampeder Allen Pitts.

But Stegall is seriously considering retirement, which would be a huge blow to a franchise that needs to be much better in 2006 because it is hosting the Grey Cup.

Another offensive bright spot was running back Charles Roberts, who rushed for a CFL-high 1,624 yards.

However, it looks like the Bombers will have to do without punter Jon Ryan, who set a CFL record with a 50.6-yard punting average. Ryan, a Regina native, becomes a free agent in the off-season and has garnered plenty of NFL interest.

Prior to joining the Bombers, Daley served as the defensive co-ordinator with the Calgary Stampeders from 2000 to 2003. He earned a Grey Cup ring with the Stampeders in 2001.

Daley was the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1996 to '98, leading the club to the '97 Grey Cup against the Toronto Argonauts. Before becoming head coach, he was the Riders defensive co-ordinator in 1994 and '95.

Daley broke into the CFL as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1991.

Before that, he served as the head coach of the Ottawa Gee-Gees (1985 to 1990) and was twice named the OUA's top coach. He also coached at Carleton University.

Daley coached the Ottawa Sooners junior squad from 1982 to '84, leading the team to the Canadian Bowl title in 1984. He was the Ontario Football Conference's coach of the year in 1983 and '84.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gades name new Canadian Football League head coach

John Jenkins was named head coach of the Ottawa Renegades on Monday.
Jenkins became the second head coach in the team's four-year history.
Executive vice president of football operations, Forrest Gregg, emphasized the range of experience Jenkins brings with him over the course of 30 years in both coaching and player personnel.
"We believe that at this point in our history, we need somebody who can take us to the next level, first to the playoffs and then to the Grey Cup," said Gregg.
Jenkins has been an offensive coordinator with five different CFL teams, which included the 1997 Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts. He also was the head coach at the University of Houston.
"I have always had a great respect for the great CFL traditions and championship teams that have been here in the past," said Jenkins. "I also understand that the fans of Ottawa are starved for a winning team and I am here today to commit that I will dedicate myself completely to returning that championship tradition to the nation's capital."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Stamps clinch home Canadian Football League playoff date

The joke is over. The Calgary Stampeders capped a season of recovery Sunday by dumping the Edmonton Eskimos 43-23 and clinching second place in the CFL West.
"This is only the first half - we've got to get the victory next week," said quarterback Henry Burris, who threw for three touchdowns and 311 yards while running in another major on his own.
Calgary's win leaves the Stampeders and the Eskimos with identical 11-7 records, but Edmonton slipped to third place in the CFL West after losing twice to their southern Alberta rivals. A rematch at McMahon Stadium happens next Sunday.
The winner will play the B.C. Lions.
"It's great to get the home field advantage, but next week it won't matter," said Burris, whose off-season signing was viewed as the key to the Stampeder rebuilding effort. "We'll start all over and we've got to win that half."
Calgary led 15-9 at halftime, but cracked the game open in the third quarter on cornerback Jermaine Chatman's 67-yard interception return after picking off a Ricky Ray pass.
Ray had spent the first half making short quick passes to sidelines and Chatman told the coaching staff at halftime he wasn't going to let that continue.
"He went to the well one too many times," said Chatman on the field after the game.
The win caps the Stampeders' amazing road to respectability after three years of missing the playoffs and becoming the laughing stock of the CFL.
Heading into the playoffs, the Stampeders are red hot. They've won seven of their last eight games and finish the regular season with a 5-4 record at home.
That's a far cry from the 15 wins the Stamps had over the last three seasons. That remarkable turnaround under head coach Tom Higgins should make him a strong contender for the CFL's coach of the year.
"We can be champions, but we have to take it one game at a time," said Higgins, who parted with the Eskimos after Edmonton was ousted from the playoffs by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season.
Higgins refused to crow over the team which cast him off after 11 seasons.
"I'm very proud of all those guys there," said Higgins. "I know their backgrounds, I know their wives, their girlfriends, their children. It is one classy group of athletes there, but at the end of the season someone has to be sad. And if I have to choose one, I'd rather be the one smiling."
The loss stunned the Edmonton Eskimos, who will not have a playoff game at Commonwealth Stadium for the first time since 1999.
Ray gave up three interceptions as he went 24 for 40 in passing, racking up 228 yards. He failed to throw a touchdown for the fifth straight game, but he did run in one major.
Edmonton kicker Sean Fleming struggled, missing two field goal attempts in the second quarter. Coming into the game, the 14-year Eskimo was good on 16 of his last 19 attempts.
Jason Maas, who relieved Ray late in the final quarter, went three for three and passed to Jason Tucker for a touchdown.
Edmonton also had a touchdown from Troy Davis on the first drive of the tame.
Eskimos coach Danny Maciocia was disappointed with his team's performance Sunday, noting that there many players who will have to step up their game for next weekend's rematch. He didn't single out Ray for criticism despite three interceptions, noting that the entire team will have to regroup.
"We have an intense week ahead of us," said Maciocia.
On Sunday, Burris connected with Brett Ralph, Martay Jenkins and Nik Lewis for touchdowns. Joffrey Reynolds and Nik Lewis ran in two more.
Lewis, last year's rookie of the year, carried the ball eight times for 145 yards. Seven of those carries were for first downs. He finished just shy of the league pass receiving title, an honour gained by Edmonton's Tucker, but shrugged that off.
"The first year you think about that, but right now it's winning the game," said Lewis, whose mother came from Texas for the game. "Putting up victories gets us somewhere I've never been before and that's the Grey Cup."
The Stamps got offensive help from unlikely places, such as Jenkins' major, which came on a 50-yard pass from Burris and ignited the announced crowd of 31,017.
"It felt good to just be able to display my speed to the world," said Jenkins.
Notes: Fans had a chance to say goodbye to retiring Jamie Crysdale, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the summer. An emotional Crysdale predicted fans may not have seen the last him, predicting the Stamps would make it to the Grey Cup: "I might just have a chance to play one more time."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Battle for top spot in Canadian Football League West still not done

The great collapse continued for the B.C. Lions when they lost 13-12 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night, the sixth loss in seven games since an 11-0 start to the Canadian Football League schedule.
Saskatchewan managed its only lead when Nealon Greene threw 13 yards to Jason French for a touchdown at 13:21 of the fourth quarter. The two-point convert attempt came up short.
The Lions, 12-6, can still finish first in the West Division, but need the Calgary Stampeders to beat the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday in Calgary. Edmonton has an 11-6 record and beat B.C. in two of three games this season.
Saskatchewan, 9-9, finishes fourth in the West, but gets a playoff game on the cross-over in the East Division against the second-place Montreal Alouettes on Nov. 13.

The Lions held the lead at halftime with Casey Printers at quarterback. He was replaced by Dave Dickenson in the third quarter and the rusty Dickenson was sacked four times.
Printers returned in the fourth, but couldn't produce a final scoring drive needed to clinch the division title and home field in the West final on Nov. 20.
The Roughriders trailed 12-3 after three quarters, but got a field goal and single before Greene put together a 10-play, 60-yard drive for the win.
The first half bogged down into a series of field goal attempts. Mark McLoughlin hit on all three of his attempts for the Lions, while Paul McCallum was good on his lone try as B.C. led 11-3 by intermission.
Printers started for the Lions, although Dickenson was declared healthy earlier in the week. He suffered a concussion the last time the teams met Oct. 1.
The Lions scored first following a 39-yard punt return by Aaron Lockett. Printers took B.C. to the Saskatchewan five before the drive stalled and McLoughlin kicked at 16 yard field goal at 4:42 of the first quarter.
McCallum conceded a safety on the next series when the snap in punt formation was high, with McCallum retreating into the end zone at 6:34.
Another 39-yard punt return by Lockett allowed McLoughlin to boot a 45-yard field goal at 11:01 and B.C. led 8-0.
Greene got the start for the first time since Aug. 27. He combined with Corey Holmes for a 26-yard pass and run that set up a 33-yard field goal by McCallum at 13:38, cutting the B.C. lead to five points.
McLoughlin kicked a 42-yard field goal at 1:16 of the second quarter to give the Lions an 11-3 lead they nursed to halftime.
Rontarious Robinson intercepted Printers late in the half at the Saskatchewan 18 when Printers tried to throw deep to Geroy Simon.
B.C. defensive end Brent Johnson had three quarterback sacks in the opening half and another early in the second to run his production to a league high 16. Johnson also recovered a Greene fumble in the third quarter.
The Lions added another point in the third on a single by McLoughlin when he was wide with a field goal attempt from the 41 at 7:38.
Saskatchewan was without No. 1 middle linebacker Trevis Smith. He was placed on the disabled list after charged with aggravated sexual in Surrey, B.C., last week.
Non-import Mike McCullough replaced Smith in the middle of the Saskatchewan defence without any evidence of a drop-off.