Football hit the postseason with semi-final action from coast to coast, and it did so with plenty of drama and excitement.
Going from left to right the CanWest favourites entering the weekend, Saskatchewan and Calgary, played to quite different results as the Alberta Golden Bears played the role of spoiler to the highly ranked, and highly touted, Saskatchewan Huskies. Trailing by 27 points in the third quarter the Bears scored 28 unanswered points - 21 of which came in the final quarter - en route to a surprise 31-30 comeback win. The Bears were led by Quarterback Julian Marchand who passed for 309 yards on 25-of-41 attempts and 3 touchdowns, to go along with 3 interceptions. Alberta overcame 5 turnovers for the victory. Ryley Richardson was the main receiving threat for Alberta as he made 5 receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
For the Huskies Laurence Nixon passed for 280 yards (19-for-33) and 2 touchdowns, Rory Kolhert caught for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns and Dathan Thomas rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown himself but it was not enough on this day. Huskies DB Mitch Friesen also had a big day with 2 interceptions in the loss.
In the other game the Calgary Dinos, hosting the Regina Rams, built up a significant 22 point lead in the fourth quarter that Regina fought hard to overcome, but in the end fell just short. The Dinos return to the Hardy Bowl with a 40-33 victory. While Regina's Marc Mueller turned in another impressive outing (28-for-38 336 yards 2 TD's), Calgary's Erik Glavic was also up to the task going 18-for-27 for 360 yards and 4 touchdowns to 2 Interceptions. Both run games also fared well on the day with the Dino's Matt Walter (162 yards) outgaining the Rams' Adrian Charles (127 yards, 2 TD's).
It will be a Battle of Alberta for the conference crown as Alberta travels south to face the Dinos in Calgary next weekend in the Hardy Cup.
The OUA semi-finals were two close contests that very nearly could have gone either way. The top seeded Ottawa Gee-Gees hosted the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in the nations capital, and in a back-and-forth game were able to defend home turf with a 32-31 win in the end. Ottawa's Brad Sinopoli had a strong outing passing for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception, while rushing for a team leading 49 yards on the day as well. The Gees-Gees Defence posted 6 sacks of the Laurier quarterbacks with Bjay Wilan tallying 4 sacks on his own.
Laurier's Shane Kelly started out the day well but left with a concussion late in the second quarter and was replaced by Evan Pawliuk for the rest of the game. Kelly passed for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns before leaving the game. Pawliuk passed for 175 yards and a touchdown to also go along with a team leading 28 yards rushing for the Hawks.
The Western Mustangs battled the McMaster Marauders in London in another match up that was a fight to the end . Both teams managed to rack up a lot of yardage on Offence against two strong Defences, with Western prevailing 34-28. MAC posting 515 yards Offence to Western's 447 yards. Both teams distributed yardage quite evenly between the passing game and running game, and among a group of players on each team. In a battle of two quarterbacks of the future in the CIS MAC's Kyle Quinlan won the battle on this day, although Donnie Marshall won the war. Quinlan's 242 yards passing, 1 TD, 50 yards rushing bested Marshall's 212 yards passing 1 TD 3 INT's, and 32 yards rushing.
Like any very evenly matched battle it was a Special Teams performance that played the x-factor. Western's Andrew Thibaudeau to put the Mustangs on the board when they were trailing 10-0 in the first quarter with a 104 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Mustangs, who had built up a 14 point lead in the second half, held on for the win despite a late charge by MAC to bring the game within a score.
Ottawa welcomes Western this weekend for the Yates Cup final and the OUA championship.
In Quebec the Sherbrooke Vert et Or carried their run of strong performances through to the postseason and defeated the Montreal Carabins 33-26 in Montreal. Despite being outgained 407 yards to 289 yards on Offence Sherbrooke was able to find themselves ahead of the battle for field position thanks to help from the Special teams., and ahead by 25 points halfway through the fourth quarter Sherbrooke managed 123 yards off of punt and kickoff returns. J.P. Shoiry passed for 213 yards and touchdown Sherbrooke, and Simon Charbonneau Campeau led the V&O with 78 yards receiving.
Alexandre Nadeau-Piuze put in a strong outing for the Carabins in the loss, passing for 360 yards and 2 touchdowns to 1 interception. But Sherbrooke also managed to sack him 5 times on the day as well.
In the other semi-final it was business as usual for the Laval Rouge et Or as they once again dominated their opposition, this week the Bishop's Gaiters. Laval won 56-1 and held Bishop's to 157 Total Yards Offence, which is actually an improvement since their last regular season meeting (71 yards Offence). Laval tallied 580 yards, 327 of which came through the air. Bruno Prud'homme went 23-for-29 with 3 touchdowns before Oliver Turcotte relieved him.
Laval now welcomes Sherbrooke to PEPS for their first trip to the Dunsmore Cup in the history of the program.
The lone semi-final game in the AUS was a spectacular race to the finish, going four Overtime periods before the Acadia Axemen edged out the Mount Allison Mounties 22-14. In the first home playoff game for the Mounties in 12 years field conditions in Sackville, N.B. hampered both teams. The Mounties lead for much of the second half until Acadia tied the game with 3:55 left in the fourth thanks to an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Graves to A.J. Durling for his second touchdown of the day. After three scoreless periods Acadia used a fake field goal to keep a drive alive, Graves then connected with Scott Kelly, the leading receiver of the game with 112 yards receiving, for the game winning touchdown. The Axemen were successful on a two-point conversion and the Mounties could not respond. Graves had a strong day despite the conditions, passing for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception in the win.
Acadia will now play the Saint Mary's Huskies this weekend for the Jewett Tropy in the Loney Bowl.