As some of you may remember from a column I wrote last summer for The Outlook’s sports pages, I consider myself to be a pretty big fan of the Canadian Football League. With its wide open passing attacks and multitude of rules that make it different from American football, like the rouge and lack of fair catches on punts, the CFL presents viewers with a unique product that is just as, if not more so, exciting than the NFL or NCAA.
The 2019 CFL season enters Week 3 this weekend, and if the first two weekends have been any indication, this will be one fun and thrilling season.
The season opened June 13 in Hamilton, when the Saskatchewan Roughriders visited the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton came out on top, 23-17, kicking off an exciting opening week. Although they were defeated, 32-25, by the Edmonton Eskimos, the Montreal Alouettes showed off their new uniform design, the team’s first since 2000 and includes the silhouette of a flying bird in the shape of the letter “M” on the helmet.
Week 1 also featured a rematch of the 2018 Grey Cup between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Calgary Stampeders. Ottawa quarterback Dominique Davis had a rough regular season debut, throwing four interceptions but redeemed himself with a little over a minute left, rushing into the end zone for the go-ahead score. On the following Calgary drive, Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell hurled a bomb toward the end zone, but Ottawa’s defense came down with the pick and sealed the Redblacks’ first victory in Calgary in franchise history.
The biggest victory of the season came when Hamilton visited the Toronto Argonauts in Week 2. After holding the Tiger-Cats to a field goal in the first quarter, the Argos defense seemed overmatched for the rest of the game as Hamilton found its stride and left Toronto with a 64-14 victory. The Tiger-Cats rolled up 600 yards of offense with three Hamilton players all gaining at least 100 yards each. Running back Sean Thomas-Erlington pounded out 109 yards on the ground and caught three passes for 56 yards while receivers Bralon Addison and Brandon Banks gained 107 and 105 yards, respectively. Banks was also involved in the game’s most exciting moment when the Argos missed a field goal, which he grabbed in the end zone and took it 113 yards to the house.
Ottawa followed up its big defensive stop to end week one with a barn-burning offensive showdown with Saskatchewan, beating the Roughriders 44-41 in the Redblacks’ home opener. Davis rebounded from a rough first game to complete 30 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
Side note: While I don’t hate the Redblacks nickname, I wish, when the team was reborn in 2014, they could have adopted Ottawa’s original team name again, just so we could see the Roughriders (Saskatchewan) could take on the Rough Riders (Ottawa).
Even with all of the excitement already seen this CFL season, there are still a lot of potential thrillers on the horizon. Toronto will be facing off against Montreal in the first Touchdown Atlantic game since 2013. Scheduled to be played in Moncton, New Brunswick, the Touchdown Atlantic series has proven valuable as the league has been gauging the potential for an expansion team in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia within the next couple of years. The Labour Day Classic is one of the biggest points of the season, as all of the major rivalries (Toronto-Hamilton, Edmonton-Calgary and Saskatchewan-Winnipeg) take the field that weekend.
And, of course, the season will reach its ultimate climax in November as Calgary hosts the 107th Grey Cup.
So, while you wait for Alabama or Auburn to kick off, check out what’s going on north of the border. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.