Tiger-Cats 39 Blue Bombers 17
Wally Buono’s playoff streak with the B.C. Lions remains intact.
The Lions clinched a CFL playoff berth Sunday when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated Winnipeg 39-17. The win secured the Ticats (9-9) second spot in the East Division and the right to host B.C. in the conference semifinal Nov. 15.
Winnipeg (7-11) finished third in the East standings but lost the No. 3 seed because B.C. (8-10), which was fourth in the West Division, posted a better record.
It means Buono has made the playoffs all seven seasons he’s been the Lions’ head coach and general manager. The CFL’s winningest head coach (235 regular-season victories and counting) last missed the post-season in 2002 with the Calgary Stampeders, the only time in his 20-year head coaching career that Buono hasn’t reached the playoffs.
And Buono knows all to well style points don’t count when it comes to making the CFL playoffs. In 2001, the Stampeders posted an 8-10 regular-season record but went on to capture the Grey Cup by upsetting a Winnipeg Blue Bombers team that posted a league-best 14-4 mark.
It’s one of four Grey Cup titles Buono has won as a CFL head coach.
There was some question this weekend as to who would start for B.C. as Friday night starter Casey Printers suffered a thumb injury before backup Buck Pierce went out with a shoulder problem. That left third-stringer Zac Champion to finish under centre for the Lions.
But Printers was throwing at the club’s facility Sunday, leaving Lions officials optimistic he could start in Hamilton.
There will be no shortage of storylines this week for the B.C.-Hamilton contest.
Printers signed as a free agent with Hamilton on Sept. 6, 2007 before being released Feb. 19, 2009. Current Ticats linebackers Otis Floyd, Markeith Knowlton and Jamall Johnson all played previously with the Lions and GM Bob O’Billovich served as B.C.’s player-personnel director before heading to Steeltown in December 2007.
There’s no doubt who will start for Hamilton. Veteran Kevin Glenn, dumped by the Bombers after last season, threw for 316 yards and a TD while scoring another for the Ticats.
The Hamilton-Winnipeg contest capped an eventful final week to the ’09 regular season that saw three of the four games have playoff implications.
The Edmonton Eskimos (9-9) cemented third spot in the West Division with 45-13 victory over B.C. Running back Arkee Whitlock led the way with 165 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders ended a 33-year drought by finishing atop the West Division with an exciting 30-14 home win over the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night. The two teams ended the regular season with identical 10-7-1 records but the Riders got top spot due to winning the season series.
That means Calgary will host Edmonton in the West Division semifinal Nov. 15. The winner will travel to Regina to square off in the conference final at Mosaic Stadium on Nov. 22.
Riders quarterback Darian Durant was 24-of-36 passing for 296 yards and two touchdowns against Calgary. In the three games versus the Stamps, Durant threw for 980 yards and seven TDs.
Calgary tailback Joffrey Reynolds had 107 yards rushing to break the 100-yard plateau in all three games against Saskatchewan this season.
Also on Saturday, the Montreal Alouettes continued their regular-season domination with a lopsided 42-17 road win over the Toronto Argonauts. The Als registered their club-record 15th win of the year while the Argos finished with a league-worst 3-15 record.
Montreal kicker Damon Duval had a club record-tying seven field goals and accumulated 24 points to finish with a CFL-record 242 points. That broke the mark of 236 held by former Toronto kicker Lance Chomyc.
The contest had no bearing on the East Division standings as Montreal had already cemented top spot and home-field advantage for the conference final Nov. 22. As a result, backup Adrian McPherson replaced incumbent Anthony Calvillo under centre as the Alouettes sprinkled backups generously throughout their lineup on both sides of the ball.
McPherson, in his second CFL season, was a 16-of-20 passing for 151 yards and two TDs before being replaced by youngster Chris Leak in the fourth. The two quarterbacks distributed the ball very well as 10 different Alouettes had receptions.
Several Argos were auditioning for jobs next season, including rookie quarterback Stephen Reaves. The left-hander was 23-of-40 passing for 209 yards and four interceptions.
The East and West Division champions will meet in the Grey Cup game Nov. 29 in Calgary.
Edmonton’s Ricky Ray ended the season as the CFL’s passing leader with 4,916 yards. Calvillo, the league’s outstanding player last year and a nominee for this season’s honour, captured the TD passes crown with 26 and also had just six interceptions in 550 attempts.
Reynolds, a nominee for the CFL’s outstanding player award, captured his second straight CFL rushing title with 1,504 yards. He was one of a record seven players to surpass the 1,000-yard plateau this season.
Edmonton’s Fred Stamps was the CFL’s leading receiver with 85 catches for 1,402 yards and eight TDs. Defensively, Johnson was the league’s top tackler with 109.
B.C. defensive end Ricky Foley posted a league-high 12 sacks this season, making him the fifth straight Lions player to lead that category. Cameron Wake, currently with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, was the CFL’s top sackmaster in 2007-’08 after veteran end Brent Johnson led the way in 2005-’06.
The last non-Lions player to end the season with the most sacks was Edmonton’s Tim Cheatwood, who had 14 in 2004.
B.C. safety Barron Miles led the CFL in interceptions with eight. He had one against Edmonton on Friday, giving him 66 overall to tie Larry Highbaugh for second on the all-time list behind Canadian Football Hall of Fame member Less Browne (87).