Week 5 in the CFL: Bombers Could Be In for a Rough Ride

The best football game of Week 4 in the Canadian Football League was supposed to be at Investors Group Field last Thursday night.

It wasn’t.

In fact, there weren’t very many good games in the CFL last week. That’s what happens, I guess, when six of eight teams don’t even the talent to score 20 points.

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Eddie Steele and the Edmonton defense was just too good for Winnipeg. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

After four weeks, the CFL is a bit of a mess. Last week, Edmonton blasted Winnipeg 26-3 and B.C. crushed Montreal 41-5. In the other two games, not one team reached the 20-point plateau.

OK, I’m old, so I remember the days in the CFL (about 1994) when the defenses were sensational and yet, if a team didn’t get to 30, it wasn’t going to win. Of course, those were the days when CFL coaches had their quarterbacks under centre and used motion to their advantage. These days, high school teams have more imagination. In the CFL, coaches put the QB in the shotgun and instead of using motion to deceive the defense, they just run five or six receivers at the line of scrimmage. It’s the same thing play-after-play. No wonder the defenses have it figured out. Everybody does exactly the same thing on every play.

Oh well, it is what it is and all you can do is hope somebody has an epiphany one day. I don’t expect that to happen, but one can always hope.

In the meantime, our intrepid prognosticators had an interesting Week 4. The Coach went 2-2 because Winnipeg lost and Calgary didn’t cover. Dr. Football went 1-3 because Winnipeg and Toronto lost and Calgary didn’t cover. Thank heaven for Andrew Harris, Kevin Glenn and the B.C. Lions.

Anyway, this week, Dr. Football decided to use his keen CFL mind and head to Vegas to piss away all of his money. So he mailed in his picks. Literally, not figuratively. He actually mailed them in. So that leaves the Coach to do the actual work and he’s not happy about it.

Let’s look at Week 5:

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Mike Reilly is a tough dude (Photo by Jeff Miller)

CALGARY (3-0) at EDMONTON (4-0) LINE – Pick ‘em

The battle for first place in the West kicks off Week 5 as the Eskimos, on the strength of the best defense around takes on an undefeated Calgary team that was lucky to beat Hamilton 10-7 at home last week. Edmonton went into Winnipeg and ate up the Bombers’ Drew Willy while Calgary was awful in a three-point win over a team with a quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Even his own coach thought Masoli should probably be playing Arena ball. If the Hamilton defense shut down Bo Levi Mitchell, the Edmonton defense will put him in the hospital. Really. Just ask Zach Collaros.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE STAMPEDERS TO WIN.

The Coach: TAKE THE ESKIMOS TO WIN.

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Andrew Harris

WINNIPEG (3-1) at B.C. (2-2) LINE – B.C. by 8

The Bombers have shown they can win on the road. After all, they beat Montreal with 17 seconds remaining on the clock. Trouble is, the team the Bombers are playing this week, beat Montreal 41-5 last week. The Lions’ Andrew Harris has always said he’d like to play for his hometown Blue Bombers someday. How about this week?

Dr. Football: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN BUT NOT COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN AND COVER

OTTAWA (1-2) at HAMILTON (0-3) LINE – HAMILTON by 4 1/2

Zach Collaros won’t play again this week. Henry Burris returns to Hamilton. Hamilton scored seven points last week. Ottawa won last week. Hamilton is favored this week. Go figure.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE REDBLACKS TO WIN.

The Coach: TAKE THE REDBLACKS TO WIN.

21 Week 5 in the CFL: Bombers Could Be In for a Rough Ride

Darian Durant

TORONTO (1-3) at SASKATCHEWAN (1-2) LINE – SASKATCHEWAN by 6

One can’t help but think that the Roughriders will get the ship back on course sooner, not later. And one way to get back to .500 is have the Toronto Argos come to town, a team that was hammered by Winnipeg in Week 1 and last week became the first victims of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks. Watch for Darian Durant to put up some big numbers against a Toronto defense with more holes than Portage Avenue in April.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS TO WIN AND COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS TO WIN AND COVER.



The NHL Releases Report On Climate Change and On What it Will Do About It

On Monday, the National Hockey League released an unexpected, yet refreshing and comprehensive report on the league’s environmental impact and how it plans to reduce that impact. It was kind of thrilling, actually.

In fact, the report stated that “action on environmental issues is absolutely necessary for the league’s growth.” The report, which surprisingly, draws attention to the impact of climate change on the long-term future of the sport is, according to the NHL itself, the first of its kind from any major professional sports league in North America.

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Gary Bettman

According to Commissioner Gary Bettman, “The NHL more than any other league depends on cold weather and clean water, not just in and around its arenas and outdoor events but also because many youth hockey players — the future talent for the league — learn to play the game on frozen outdoor ponds.”

Now I must admit, I never thought of the NHL and/or Bettman to be at the edge of science in the United States. While most intelligent people understand that climate change is upon us and the weather that change has produced is becoming more extreme every year, it is surprising to me, at least, that a major sports league that is so dependent of fossil fuels would concede that climate change is already negatively affecting its futre. Kudos to the NHL for stepping up.

The report states: “Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is impacted by environmental issues, particularly climate change and freshwater scarcity. The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of the League’s history and culture. Many of the NHL’s players, both past and present, learned to skate outside on frozen lakes, ponds and backyard rinks. The game of hockey is adversely affected if this opportunity becomes unavailable to future generations.”

Bettman then stepped up on a personal basis. He wrote:

“We believe that this effort is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our League. We have a vested interest in this cause. As a business, we rely on fresh water to make our ice, on energy to fuel our operations and on healthy communities for our athletes, employees and fans to live, work and play. Moreover, to continue to stage world class outdoor hockey events like the NHL Winter Classic, NHL Heritage Classic or NHL Stadium Series, we need winter weather.”

Now, I must admit that I didn’t realize the NHL has gone to bat for climate change science before. In fact, the league highlighted its dependence on the environment and the potential threat of climate change in letters to members of the United States Congress.

And in an amazing show of candor the NHL even released its carbon footprint on Monday disclosing (by the report’s calculations) that it produces nearly 530,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.

“The vast majority of the league’s footprint comes from electricity to power its arenas and from team travel between games,” the report stated. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions calculator, that is the equivalent of the yearly output of approximately 111,579 cars or 48,358 homes.”

NHL Outdoor Games The NHL Releases Report On Climate Change and On What it Will Do About It

The Outdoor Game in Philly

Now, to be fair, the NHL used the report to let the public know about the work it’s already doing. The league did launch the NHL Green initiative in 2010 in partnership with environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council, and it also reported that it has since undertaken initiatives aimed at water and environmental restoration, (Gallons for Goals and Hattricks for Trees). The report also claims that hockey fans are already 11 times more likely to recycle than the average American adult, and 20 times more likely to pay for environmentally-friendly products and services. But hey, nothing wrong with a little PR in a country that leads the world in climate change deniers.

“At the NHL, we recognize that we have great responsibility for the way we conduct our business,” Bettman wrote.  “As our revenues, TV viewership and attendance continue to rise, we are acutely aware of our influence on culture and society, especially with today’s youth. We have the power to promote, develop and support positive change.”

Good for the Commish.



Colby Lewis is a Whiner or Baseball Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Let me preface this by saying I love baseball. Greatest game in the world. But every now and again, it can get really stupid.

They are called “unwritten rules,” and how they are interpreted and by whom can make baseball really, really moronic.

Take Saturday afternoon’s little disagreement in Toronto as a for-instance. Seems Texas Rangers righthander Colby Lewis (6-7, 6.37 ERA) was all upset over Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Colby Rasmus’ decision to lay down a bunt in the fifth inning of Toronto’s 4-1 win at Rogers Centre.

Colby Lewis Colby Lewis is a Whiner or Baseball Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Colby Lewis (Duh?)

What happened here was pretty simple. The Rangers, like so many teams in the Majors this year, have decided that moving into a shift – even for guys hitting .223 like Rasmus – is a good idea. So when the Rangers moved their entire infield to the right side of second base to defend against Rasmus, Rasmus decided to lay a bunt down the third base line in order to take advantage of the obvious weakness in the alignment. It was a good play and I don’t understand why players such as Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Alex Avila etc. etc. don’t take advantage of that situation more often (oh, yeah “unwritten rules.”).

Anyway, Rasmus’ decision to bunt, really got under Lewis’ skin.

Now let’s make sure we understand the situation. When Rasmus defied the alleged unwritten rule that you don’t bunt against the shift (When did that become an unwritten rule, exactly?), it was the fifth inning of a game the Blue Jays were leading 2-0. There were two out and nobody on and I guess Lewis felt Rasmus should just give up his at bat because what happened next could have been comical if it hadn’t been so sad.

Lewis started yelling at Rasmus, telling him to “swing away.”

“I told [Rasmus] I didn’t appreciate it,” Lewis told MLB.com. “You’re up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don’t think that’s the way the game should be played.”

Huh? So what Lewis is saying is this: “Hey, Rasmus, be an idiot and hit a ground ball into the shift. What are doing actually trying against me?”

After the game, Lewis told MLB.com that he thought Rasmus was being selfish because apparently he didn’t try to steal – with two outs in a 2-0 game.

“[Rasmus] didn’t steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position,” Lewis said. “That tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average. And I didn’t appreciate it.”

After the game, Rasmus, who has attempted to steal twice in his last 180 games, told reporters he was trying to help his team and did not understand why Lewis took offense.

“I’m just trying to help my team and he didn’t like it — so sorry about it,” Rasmus told MLB.com. “I’m not here to try to please the other side, I’m here to help my team, and I had an opportunity where I could, and I took advantage of it.”

Colby Rasmus Colby Lewis is a Whiner or Baseball Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Colby Rasmus on first after his bunt single.

Apparently, by bunting against Colby Lewis you break Colby Lewis’ unwritten rule, which is, apparently, “My team, a team that is 21 games out of first place, can radically shift its defense to defend against a .223 hitter but the .223 hitter can’t try to bunt against me in order to beat that shift because… Ted Williams.”

As the boys at The Big Lead tweeted: “Unfortunately, whining after a defeat remains acceptable under baseball’s unwritten constitution.”

And Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan tweeted: “Lefties were hitting .402/.444/.598 against Colby Lewis coming into today. The bunt by Rasmus wasn’t bad form. It was mercy.”

On a good day, Colby Lewis is a moron.



Three of the IceCaps Best Signed by the Jets

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his assistant GM Craig Heisinger certainly know how to build a Calder Cup contender.

On Saturday, three of the best players on the roster of the Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate were signed to new deals: forwards John Albert, Patrice Cormier, and Eric O’Dell.

Eric ODell Three of the IceCaps Best Signed by the Jets

Eric O’Dell (Photo by Jeff Miller)

As with the signing of Carl Klingburg earlier in the week, Cheveldayoff hasn’t done much to make the NHL Jets better but he’s certainly guaranteed that the AHL’s IceCaps will be solid.

Albert, 25, agreed to a one year, two-way contract worth $585,000 if he plays with the Jets. Last season, Albert played in nine games with the Jets including his NHL debut on Dec. 2, 2013 at the Rangers. That night he scored his first NHL goal. Born and raised in The Cleveland, Ohio, Albert played 63 games with the IceCaps last season and had 28 goals and 45 points. He also played in 21 playoff games with the AHL club and had a goal and six assists. Albert was originally selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Cormier, 24, agreed to a one year, two-way deal worth $625,000, if he plays in the NHL. Last season, Cormier played in one game with the Jets and had three assists. He has now appeared in 49 career games in the NHL (Atlanta/Winnipeg) and has a goal and four assists. Last season, he played 61 games with St. John’s and had nine goals and 17 assists. The left-handed shooting centre also played in 21 postseason games for the IceCaps and had two goals and five assists. He was originally taken by the New Jersey Devils in the second round, (54th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and has never lived up to the potential that the Devils scouts believed he had.

Patrice Cormier by Jeff MIller Three of the IceCaps Best Signed by the Jets

Patrice Cormier against the Avs at MTS Iceplex (Photo by Jeff Miller)

O’Dell, 24, has agreed to a one year, two-way deal worth $650,000, if he plays in Winnipeg. The right-handed shooting forward played in 30 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season and often played very well. He finished with goals and seven points. where he earned seven points (3G, 4A) and 10 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 17, 2013 and then scored his first NHL goal about a month later, on Jan. 13, 2014 at MTS Centre in a 5-1 win over Phoenix in head coach Paul Maurice’s debut. O’Dell is from Ottawa and he played most of last season with St. John’s. In 42 games, he had 17 goals and 42 points. He also played 21 games during the club’s run to the Calder Cup and had nine goals and five assists. O’Dell was originally selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round (39th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Of the three, O’Dell has shown the most NHL potential and should get a good look in training camp.

(With files from the Winnipeg Jets)



The Difference Between 2013 and 2014: The Fixes are Easier

A year ago, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were a team that was already in trouble. They were 1-3 after the first four weeks of the season and had just come off a 35-19 home loss to Toronto.

This team, the one that is 3-1 and has just come off a 26-3 home loss to Edmonton is not that team.

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Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is ahead of last year (Photo by Jeff Miller)

This team knows who its No. 1 quarterback is. It doesn’t have an injured runningback and it doesn’t have three injured receivers. It also doesn’t have a coaching staff that is completely lost or a general manager who can’t be found.

That’s why social media is so much fun. The angst, the gnashing of teeth and the couch-potato coaching, has been interesting at best and hilarious at worst.

Make no mistake, the Bombers were whupped on Thursday night, but defense wasn’t a problem. Of course, the number of people who wanted to blame the defense was somewhat disconcerting. Do people really know that little?

The Bombers defense allowed only 19 points. Granted, on a weekend in which five of the six teams that have already played (the was written before the Montreal-B.C. game) have scored fewer than 20 points, giving up 19 might seem a little much, but under normal circumstances in the CFL, you need to score 30 to win. The fact that teams just don’t seem to have the high-powered offenses they used to have is fodder for another column (coaches don’t use motion the way they used to in the CFL’s golden era of offense in the 80s and 90s). However, let us just say that allowing Edmonton QB Mike Reilly only 192 yards of passing offense and only one touchdown is nothing to be criticized.

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Demond Washington hurries Mike Reilly (Photo by Jeff Miller)

The Bombers gave up four field goals — which means the defense bent but it didn’t break – in a game in which the Bombers offense had 10 two-and-outs and Edmonton had great field position at least half the time.

No sir, the Bombers’ defense was not the issue on Thursday night. A dreadful offense and a porous offensive line was the problem.

Now, be sure, the Bombers have had an offensive line problem for a number of years, but in the first three weeks of the season it appeared as if line coach Bob Wylie had this mess figured out. On Thursday night, the Bombers O-line couldn’t have blocked the Eskimos girlfriends. In heels.

It was an awful performance. The Bombers had the ball for 21 minutes and 34 seconds while Edmonton’s offense was on the field for 38 minutes and 26 seconds. Guess that means the Bombers defense was even better than we thought.

“I don’t have a lot of concerns,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters on Thursday night. “The guys we have in that locker-room are the same guys we had for the first three wins. It’s not like their character just changed in one loss.”

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Teague Sherman wraps up Mike Reilly (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Well, their character hasn’t, and that’s a good thing. The offensive line has, and that needs to be addressed. If the coaching staff – and maybe with a little help from GM Kyle Walters – can get that fixed, things might improve in Vancouver next Friday. That is, of course, if something like that can be fixed in a week.

On the bright side, Walters and O’Shea know the problem and that’s miles ahead of where Tim Burke and the absentee GM were at this time last year.



Eskimos Defense Smothers Bombers

Odell Willis once enjoyed calling himself “The Mayor of Swaggerville.” Thursday night the nasty former Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end swaggered into the end zone with a first-quarter interception and the Edmonton Eskimos never looked back.

In front of more than 30,000 blue-clad partisans at Investors Group Field, the Edmonton defense completely shut down the highest scoring team in the CFL, scored one touchdown itself and held the Blue Bombers to 10 two-and-outs as Edmonton came to town and rocked the home side 26-3.

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Eddie Steele (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Both teams went into Thursday night’s game with identical 3-0 records but the Eskimos defense made sure the visitors were the only ones to leave the stadium undefeated. In what was billed as the most competitive game of the week. Thursday’s battle turned into a rout by an Edmonton defense led by Willis, defensive end Willie Jefferson and Winnipeg’s own Eddie Steele.

Have to admit, when Dr. Football and I made our picks this week, we both agreed Edmonton could win this game, but neither of us saw a 26-3 blowout coming.

The Bombers might have gone into last night’s game as the highest scoring team in the league with 115 points, but they sure didn’t add much to their total. The Eskimos had five sacks and held QB Drew Willy to 14 completions in 27 attempts for a mere 180 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Of course, after having plenty of steamboats with which to throw during the first three weeks of the season, Willy had little time at all on Thursday night as the Bombers started slowly and then stalled.

Meanwhile, the Eskimos offense wasn’t dominant, but it was good enough. QB Mike Reilly completed 18 of 31 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown – to a wide open AJ Guyton — and one interception. However, he also rushed 10 times for 96 yards and that obviously frustrated the Bombers defense, a defense that was on the field more in Thursday night’s game than it had been at any time during the season.

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Mime Reilly (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Now, to be fair, it wasn’t Willy’s fault that Willis picked off that pass and took it to the Bombers end zone. First, it bounced a few times in RB Nic Grigsby’s hands before Willis snatched it and ran the other way. It was an unfortunate mistake on a night that was loaded with unfortunate mistakes.

Clearly, however, the difference in the football game was the Eskimos defense. They had allowed the fewest points (55) in the league over the first three games (although Calgary has allowed only 23 in two games) and before the coin toss, the 30,976 in attendance knew that this game was going to be decided by either the Bombers offence or the Eskimos D. Chalk one up for the theory that defense wins championships – and big games.

Granted, there was no one in the CFL, let alone in Winnipeg, who thought the Bombers would go 18-0. A loss was coming and after avoiding one in Montreal, the Blue couldn’t avoid one on Thursday.

However, it gets a little tougher next week. The Bombers have to head into Vancouver to face a B.C. Lions team that is pretty good at home and is starting to become accustomed to Kevin Glenn at quarterback. Oh yeah, and they also have that Andrew Harris dude.

This was a test against Edmonton and the Bombers just weren’t good enough. It will be a real test next week against B.C. That Blue Bombers offensive line had better be prepared.



CFL Predictions For Week 4: All Bombers All the Time

The best football game of Week 4 in the Canadian Football League will be at Investors Group Field on Thursday night.

The next best will be in Ottawa on Friday night.

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Mike Reilly

The games will be good for two completely different reasons. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos are both 3-0 and are the two best teams in the CFL after the first three weeks. Their game at IGF will be a donnybrook.

Ottawa and Toronto have not been very good, at least not to this point in the season, and that means they both bad and evenly matched. It doesn’t matter the level, if two teams are evenly matched, you can still have a very entertaining football game.

The other two games this week – Hamilton at Calgary and Montreal at B.C. – will be ugly blowouts. Man, is the East ever lousy.

Last week, our intrepid prognosticators each went 2-2. They were rock solid picking Winnipeg and Edmonton but no so smart when it came to the Argos and Saskatchewan. One of our boys has learned his lesson with the Argos (Editor’s note: They’ve picked the Argos twice and lost and picked against them and lost, what lesson would that be?). He will never pick the Argos again. Unless it’s at home against Hamilton.

Anyway, this week, The Coach and Dr. Football are ready to go to the breach again. Dr. Football writes our pithy predictions while The Coach scarfs down Cheezies and whines.

Let’s look at Week 4:

Drew Willy CFL Predictions For Week 4: All Bombers All the Time

Drew Willy (Photo by Jeff Miller)

EDMONTON (3-0) vs. WINNIPEG (3-0) LINE – WINNIPEG by 2 ½

The battle for first place in the West kicks off Week 4 as the Eskimos, on the strength of Adarius Bowman’s three touchdowns last week, role into Winnipeg a confident bunch. The Green and Gold have looked more dominant than the Blue and Gold and the improving Mike Reilly has been stellar. Winnipeg’s Drew Willy has been equally as exciting, but how long can he keep going as the Bombers still look like they really haven’t solved their O-Line woes? When the match-up is this tight, go with the home team. The Coach says: I’m not necessarily as in love with home teams as I used to be (three visiting teams won last week after all four home teams won in Week 2), but if it’s in the din of Winnipeg, I’ll go with the Bombers. In that building, in a close match-up, the fans are almost as important as the talent on the field.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE BOMBERS TO WIN AND COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE BOMBERS TO WIN AND COVER.

Anthony Coombs CFL Predictions For Week 4: All Bombers All the Time

Anthony Coombs

TORONTO (1-2) vs. OTTAWA (0-2) LINE – TORONTO by 2 ½

Chad Owens out is a huge issue for the Argos; in my opinion he’s the heartbeat of the team. Yes, Ricky Ray always seems to figure it out, but this time he needs to play “party pooper” as well in the RedBlacks home opener. Ottawa’s Chevon Walker may be the fastest player on the field this week in the absence of Owens, but with ol’ Hank struggling to get anything going since the first quarter against Winnipeg way back on July 3, look for another big loss for his squad. The Coach says: We live in Canada, which means the Toronto Sports Network will constantly tell us how good the Argos are. But they aren’t. Any good, I mean. It will be a full house at TD Place in Ottawa and the RedBlacks will be ready to win. If they don’t start winning a little bit, I wonder how long that Ottawa franchise will last this time around.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE ARGOS TO WIN AND COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE REDBLACKS

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Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders

HAMILTON (0-2) vs. CALGARY (2-0) LINE – CALGARY by 9 ½

Good grief. Close your eyes if you don’t like a massacre. Calgary might score 60 against this sad sack squad and with Zack Collaros out, don’t expect any Ti-Cats offence. Practice dummies would put up more of a fight. The Coach says: No Zach Collaros, no chance. Do not allow children to watch this one.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE STAMPEDERS TO WIN AND COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE STAMPEDERS TO WIN AND COVER.

 CFL Predictions For Week 4: All Bombers All the Time

Andrew Harris, B.C. Lions

MONTREAL (1-2) vs. B.C. (1-2) LINE – B.C. by 6

Montreal’s Troy Smith seemed to get into a grove last week, but that was at home; the Als don’t travel well to the West coast. Kevin Glenn looked better too and what can you say about Andrew Harris? The Winnipegger is in a class all by himself. B.C. won’t get beat by Montreal again. The Coach says: At the end of this week, it’s very likely that three teams will be tied for first in the East at 1-3 and at 0-4, Hamilton will still have serious playoff hopes. That’s sad.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN AND COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN AND COVER.



Harris A Monster As Lions Make a Statement to Finish Week 3

Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris, the key to the B.C. Lions offence, was the dominant factor in Week 3 of the Canadian Football League season. Now, as we head to Week 4, Winnipeg and Edmonton are undefeated and Harris’s B.C. Lions have broken their 2014 maiden.

Last Saturday, Harris picked up 203 total yards – 138 yards rushing and 65 yards receiving — as the B.C. Lions upset the heavily-favored Saskatchewan Roughriders. Of course, it was just another day at the office for the best runningback ever produced by the Winnipeg High School Football League. He was named Offensive Player of the Week in the CFL as well as Canadian Player of the Week.

Andrew Harris Courtesy Andrew Harris Harris A Monster As Lions Make a Statement to Finish Week 3

Andrew Harris (Courtesy Andrew Harris)

In one of the most impressive games of his brilliant career, Harris carried the ball 18 times for 138 yards and a touchdown, while picking up five receptions for 65 more yards from former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn .

Glenn completed 16-of-27 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s huge for me,” Harris told the Canadian Press. “But at the same time, it’s all about the team and getting the win.”

The Lions (1-2) were 6.5 points underdogs in Regina, but they now have the same record (1-2) as the defending Grey Cup champions.

“I’m just happy to get the win especially against a Western opponent,” said Harris. “I thought we played well. We were consistent, we sustained drives and when we needed to run the clock down at the end there, the (offensive) line played amazing.”

Harris, 27, who played at both Grant Park and Oak Park during his high school career in Winnipeg, joined the Lions out of the B.C. Junior League’s Vancouver Island Raiders and in five years has become one of the most respected players in the CFL. Amazingly, the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters 2012 athlete of the year always dreamed of being a professional hockey player.

However, when he was young, Andrew’s mom, Carlene Boivin, sometimes struggled to pay the bills. In fact, Boivin, who is now a highly regarded Winnipeg social worker, often worked two jobs to put food on the table and a roof over her small family’s heads.

“I always wanted to be a hockey player when I was young,” said Harris who still plays three times a week in the off-season with his buddies at Canlan Ice Sports. “When I was young, my heroes were Steve Yzerman and Paul Kariya. I loved the game and still do today.”

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Andrew Harris

But while the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and even the Western Hockey League showed some interest in Andrew, the cost to play the game at a high level just became too much for he and his mom to handle.

“The fees, the equipment, the travel expenses, I don’t know how a lot of families today that can afford it,” Harris told The Point After Magazine. “I played at a time when composite sticks were just coming out. They were about $100. I played with a wooden stick, because I would go through one every week. When I looked around, I was the only one on the team who had one. I used to wear this old bubblehead helmet, something from the ‘80s. I got teased about it, but I took it. That’s part of the rite of growing up. But it just got too expensive for us. I still think about what might have happened if I stuck with it. Some of the kids I played with are in the NHL or the AHL. But I don’t go around with a lot of regret. I found football, and I love the game.”

Indeed. It’s pretty hard to beat football, especially if you like the contact and you have the athletic skills that were handed to Andrew Harris.

In fact, he started playing football in Steinbach because the coach of the Eastman Raiders noticed how good he was – at age 9.

“I was just running around this community picnic, playing with the football and outrunning all my friends when the coach of the Raiders came over to me and said, ‘You’re pretty good, you should play organized football,’” Harris recalled. “”I thought, ‘Great!’ and my mom signed me up.”

Good decision. In 2012 with the Lions, he carried 187 times for 1,112 yards and was No. 3 in rushing. He also broke Terry Evanshen’s Canadian mark (set in 1967) for most cumulative yards in a season. He was named to the CFL’s all-star backfield along with another Canadian back, Jon Cornish of Calgary.

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Andrew Harris at Grant Park. Raiders eat Harris dust (Photo by Glenn Dickson)

In 2011, he won the starting runningback’s role, played brilliantly down the stretch and was not only instrumental in the Lions 2011 Grey Cup championship, but he also earned Most Valuable Canadian in the Grey Cup, as well.

In 2013, he carried 198 yards for 998 yards and caught 61 passes for 513 yards to finish with 1,511 total yards.

So far this season, he has carried 36 times for 201 yards and caught 11 passes for 167 yards. He’s currently fourth in the CFL in rushing and sixth in receiving.

This coming weekend, the Lions return home to face the Montreal Alouettes and their shaky defense. The Coach and Dr. Football will have their picks right here on Wednesday. You can bet they’ll have renewed respect for Andrew Harris and the Lions.



O’Shea and Walters Have Rebuilt the Bombers

This coming Thursday night, the 3-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers will play host to the 3-0 Edmonton Eskimos in a battle for first place in the Canadian Football League’s Western Conference.

Last year these two teams were 3-15 (Bombers) and 4-14 (Eskimos). It’s amazing what a quarterback and a head coach can do.

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Drew Willy (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Last year, without Mike Reilly, the Eskimos were horrible. This year, with a healthy Riley and a swarming defense led by Winnipeg’s own Eddie Steele, the Eskimos are unbeaten. Friday night, they whipped the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks as Reilly went 22-for-33 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed eight times for 48 yards.

Meanwhile, the Bombers were a simply horrendous football team last year, an embarrassment really. This year, with Drew Willy and a functional offensive line, the Bombers are unbeaten after three and on Friday night, won their first game on the road.

Behind 33-28 on Friday night with just 28 seconds remaining, Willy drove the Bombers deep into Montreal territory and found Montreal’s own Julian Feoli-Gudino for a 17-yard touchdown and a 34-33 victory.

Willy finished 24-of-38 for 256 yards and that lone major. It’s amazing how similar Willy’s and Reilly’s numbers were on Friday. Kind of spooky.

So this week, two teams that were out of it by this time last year, are now the best in the game simply because the coaches are different and the quarterbacks are better.

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Mike Reilly

In Edmonton, Reilly got healthy and Chris Jones took over from Kavis Reed as head coach. That’s a completely different team – especially on defense, where a small fast kid from Kelvin named Steele controls the middle.

In Winnipeg, Kyle Walters replaced Joe Mack as GM, Mike O’Shea replaced Tim Burke as head coach and Drew Willy replaced a handful of imposters as quarterback.

Walters was always going to be a star. No one knows the Canadian game better and the good thing is, he’ll only get more adept at his job. Nobody was certain about O’Shea. After all, he came to Winnipeg with no head coaching experience. But because Walters knew O’Shea’s character, he knew what he was getting and that says as much about the GM as it does the head coach.

Despite the constant screw-ups from the board and club management over the past decade, the presence of Walters and O’Shea will be remembered as strokes of genius. Sure, we’re only three games into a season that could end 3-15 (although I really doubt it), but already this is a better football team that the one that pranced around Investors Group Field last year.

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Bombers Coach Mike O’Shea (Photo by Jeff Miller)

For one thing, it can score and in the Canadian game an ability to put points on the board can hide a lot of shortcomings in other places. Friday night, the Bombers put up 34 on the road. That’s 45, 36 and 34 (on the road) in the first three games. So what if the defense occasionally looks like somebody’s plaything? When you can score, almost at will, you can win a lot of games on that big field.

This Bomber team is fast, gifted, interesting and brand new. And thanks to Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea, there is a good chance it will stay that way for awhile.

Thursday night, we’ll find out if it’s the best team in the West.



Winnipeg’s Coombs Will Get His First CFL Start

Former University of Manitoba Bisons three-time All-Canadian runningback Anthony Coombs has been given his first CFL start.

The first-round draft pick of the Toronto Argonauts (No. 3 overall) will start at slotback tomorrow night when the Argos play host to the Calgary Stampeders. So far this season, the graduate of Sturgeon Heights Collegiate has been used sparingly at RB.

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Anthony Coombs of the Argos (Photo by Jeff Miller)

There is little doubt that Toronto wanted Coombs in the draft this year. In fact, they traded up to get him. Not surprising, considering he went into the combine in Toronto as the No 9-ranked player in the 2014 CFL draft and came out as the third overall selection.

“It was important for us to make this trade and move up in the draft to get the guy we wanted,” said Argos general manager Jim Barker at the time.

“We needed to be proactive and go after him. Anthony Coombs has great quickness, catches the ball well, and we believe he will fit very well into what we do on the field. We’re looking forward to seeing him in training camp.”

In 2013 at the U of M, Coombs was remarkable. He started in all eight Canada West regular season games and led the CIS and the Canada West conference in all-purpose yards with 1,696 (212.0 average per game) while he was second in CIS in rushing yards with 1,015. In addition, he was third in the CIS with 11 touchdowns and also added 509 receiving yards.

At 7.8 yards per carry, Coombs had the highest rushing average of any player with 80 or more carries in 2013. He finished the season as the CIS leader in all-purpose yards and proved himself to be the most gifted all-around offensive player in the nation.

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Coombs will get to wear the dark uniform and start this week.

“One of his biggest strengths is that he will always make one defender miss in space,” said John Makie, Bisons quarterbacks coach. “You can always count on AC making a positive play. I have never witnessed a quicker, more agile, or as smooth a runner in all my time in this sport.”

A high school all-star out of Sturgeon Heights, Coombs has been named a First Team All-Canadian twice (2011, 2013) and a Second Team All-Canadian once (2012). Not bad for a 5-foot-9, 190-pound tailback who is now a starting slotback in the Canadian Football League.