Football: Conference Semifinal Saturday thread ... Laurier-Western, SMU-Acadia on one bracket, Montréal-Laval in the other; and Happy Eligibility Controversy Week!

Peak U Sports: a team playing with a receiver whose eligibility was openly questioned in the media wins a playoff game on a missed field-goal single in the last minute.

No, that's not a crisis of an organization's own making at all. Saint Mary's gritted out a 16-15 AUS semifinal win against St. Francis Xavier. While they pulled it out at the eleventh hour, somehow, in the 11th week of a 14-week season, whether receiver Archelaus Jack should have been playing games in September became A Thing.

Logically, Saint Mary's would not have gone ahead and played Jack if it did not believe the issue had been cleared and wasn't going to be a problem. The wide receiver had a game-high 72 yards, including the only touchdown of the game by either side, one day after CTV Atlantic got confirmation that Jack was on the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster as late as the second week of October 2016. There is supposed to be 365-day sit-out rule for any player who was on a CFL "taxi squad" after August. 15.

The fact that no one at the highest pay grade where the buck stops noticed a potential issue should be the real within-the-context-of-sports outrage. Either it's checked out by the end of August or it isn't. If it takes until Nov. 3 for a gatekeeper to, guh, "(start) its investigation Friday and is (strike) a committee to look into the allegation," then that's a broader problem. Hire an auditor to look after football eligibilty and do nothing else, please!

Anyway, semifinal — is there any word more thrilling to the human soul! It holds the promise of playing a trophy game the following week and the sheer horror of having a winter of our discontent descend far too soon. Even if one's team was stood to get stomped real good in the conference final, at least you had that extra week of football, eh?

Three of four conference finals will be rematches, including Montréal-Laval for the fifth consecutive season and UBC-Calgary for the third in succession. The Laurier-Western matchup is the first rematch Yates Cup since 2004.

  • The record for largest Yates Cup blowout is shared by Windsor, but that could change quickly. Western, going in reverse order, has scored 66, 63 and 51 points in its last three games, and won by margins of 54, 53 and 37.

    This is a 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers level of domination and I don't see Miami Hurricanes dynasty waiting in the wings.

    Laurier kept up its end of the bargain with setting up a Rematch! by winning a field goal-fest — my most hated of fests — against McMaster. Montages and oral histories of the last 8½ minutes of the 2016 Yates Cup for everyone.

    It is not quite the same this time. The meat in the reality sandwich is that Mustangs look even more imperious than they did 52 weeks ago. Laurier can still play some defence, but last year its offence was building toward a peak and this year's Golden Hawks offence has trended in an inauspicious direction since an injury to QB Michael Knevel pushed young Tristan Arndt into the breach.

    The last time the same two teams played in the Yates in successive seasons was 2003 and '04, Laurier and McMaster.

    I am being a little facetious about the record for largest margin of victory in a Yates Cup game. It won't be that bad, but if this was a game down south Western would probably be a 21- to 24-point favourite and no one would be afraid to state otherwise. I am not averring that Laurier has no chance, since some of those three-touchdown 'dogs win on the field.

    The actual record for winning margin in the Yates Cup is 57 points, shared by Queen's (1964) and Windsor (1975). I know, it seemed weird to me too that Windsor is on the right side of a scoring record, let alone one for a championship game.

  • Saint Mary's squeaks through. As alluded to up top, it is bad optics to have an eligibility issue come up in the first week of November. It's doubtful the furor ended with the St. FX-SMU game itself. There's no remedy to this that won't end without someone saying, "Well that went slightly better than the worst it could have gone."
  • Calgary gets its third wind. Always a sucker for a running back jetting outside on third-and-short and scoring a dagger touchdown. Well-done, Jeshrun Antwi! And with that, Calgary will host another Hardy Cup game.
    In UFC terms, SMU's win against St. FX could get the game-of-the-day bonus since it was not decided until th final play. Some people like offence and Adam Sinagra's Calgary offence (648 yards, 475 passing) and Brad Baker's Alberta attack (493, 429) had a lot of it.
  • The CFL game on the same field on Friday did not have an offensive touchdown, but that's hardly a fair comparison.
  • Montréal at Laval for the Dunsmore Cup. For only the fifth consecutive season and seventh out of the last nine!

    And if we want to strain the MMA analogies, that was probably like a Georges St-Pierre fight during his peak years. Take a backseat to no one in respecting the technical mastery but boy, was that ever perfunctory.

The games themselves:

  • Saint Mary's 16, St. Francis Xavier 15 — The Huskies kept up their pattern of putting up numbers on the stat sheet, 435 yards, including 300-plus in the final 30 minutes, if not the scoreboard. I'm glass half-full about that; if the production is there, it's more likely a team will start finishing, rather than stop moving the ball. It's like.when you were a kid and your parents warned you about spoiling your appetite. There's going to be another appetite.

    Case in point, the Huskies lost the ball inside X's 10-yard line in the third quarter. But right after Kaleb Scott put together a neat six-play drive that ended with Jack catching a touchdown.

    Antoine Lyte-Myers interception with 1:57 left in a tied game sparked Saint Mary's to get in range for a go-ahead single on a missed field goal. The X-Men opted against a Hail Mary or a Madame Lateral play to let Jonathan Heidebrecht try a 68-yard field goal on the last play. Please tell me they put men onside for that.
Canada West 
  • Calgary 39, Alberta 22 — It took a good 2½ quarters before the Dinos tilted the field. One snap after Alberta got to even terms midway through the third quarter, Calgary's Ab Abdel-Rahim scored on an 88-yard reception. The Dinos never led by fewer than seven points again.

    The Dinos, who were still without receiver Michael Klukas, are apparently back in form but please keep in mind that even with the mail-in job by Calgary last week, the Alberta defence is still statistically week. They allowed the most yards of anyone who made the Canada West playoffs, gave up the most passing yards and were second-last with 24 disruptions. (That's a made-up category for combined fumble recoveries, interceptions and sacks.)
  •  No. 6 UBC 28, No. 9 Regina 21 — The 'Bird gang, and please come up with a better nickname for that defence, UBC sports communications, made enough plays to thwart a Regina comeback. By the way, since that was wide receiver Trivel Pinto breaking up the Hail Mary pass, you can't say the UBC offensive players didn't have any big plays in the second half. In the rain in Vancouver, UBC didn't score any offensive points in the second half. Being sporadic is unlikely to get it done against the Dinos.

  • No. 5 Laurier 19, No. 7 McMaster 6 — Laurier's veteran defensive back Scott Hutter broke up a potential touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, keeping Laurier ahead and the game from getting interesting.

    Conference semifinals in Ontario often do involve one team just trying not to screw up a good thing and that was Laurier in a matchup that presented stout defences and low-risk, low-yield offences with young quarters, the Golden Hawks' Tristan Arndt and Mac's Jackson White.

    After Mac got within four points, Laurier did a decent job of closing up. Chunk-yard plays in both offensive phases from Levondre Gordon and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. helped Laurier seal the win with field goals.

    Arndt did show a flash of potential by hanging in against a free rusher to deliver the deep shot to Gittens that set up the late field goal that opened a 10-point lead.

    Mac's longest play from scrimmage was on a fake punt.
  • No. 2 Western 66, No. 8 Guelph 12 — Guelph might have a chance, they said. The Mustang machine rolled up 28 points during the second quarter to decide the issue very early. They hit half-a-hundred before the game was 42 minutes old.

    The Gryphons touchdown came through a 102-yard fumble return by Nick Parisotto. That runback covered more yardage than the Gryphons netted the entire day. True story. Unless Western had 12 separate misfortunes befall its defensive starters — one maybe; two sure; three there's an outsid chance, but 12? — there isn't much point in offering further commentary.
  • No. 1 Laval 45, Sherbrooke 0 (fourth quarter) — The Vert et Or are now 0-27 all-time against Laval, and it's now more than two years since its last offensive TD against Laval. Bishop's was allowed to go join another league; might the same accommodation be extended to Sherbrooke? Let them switch with an Ottawa-area school and then have Western join the RSEQ to even the numbers out?

    Just a thought. Rouge et Or QB Hugo Richard had three rushing touchdowns and passed for a fourth. Very Phill Côté-esque.
  • No. 3 Montréal 42, Concordia 20 — Finally, a game where each team had points. In a way, that makes them both winners but in another, more accurate way, Montréal is the winner.

    Richard's Carabins counterpart, Samuel Caron, had two touchdowns by air and one by land. How drearily conventional. But defensive back Jordan Perrin had an 80-yard pick-six. That's better.

    The Stingers got their Big 12 on in the first quarter with a three-play, 86-yard drive that used only 76 seconds. Adam Vance had two 42-yard strikes on the drive, the second a touchdown pass to Jarryd Taylor. More of that next season, please, Concordia.
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