Red­blacks back in busi­ness

Lethbridge Herald - - HERALD SPORTS -

It was a tri­umphant re­turn for Trevor Har­ris.

After miss­ing nearly a month with a shoul­der in­jury, the veteran quar­ter­back came back to rally Ottawa past the B.C. Lions 30-25 last week­end. Har­ris helped the Red­blacks erase a 19-point deficit to se­cure the vic­tory, pass­ing for 380 yards and three TDs.

It was the first win in three games for Ottawa (6-9-1), which moved to within a point of the front-run­ning Toronto Arg­onauts (7-8) in the East Di­vi­sion stand­ings. More im­por­tantly, the vic­tory moved the de­fend­ing Grey Cup champions five points ahead of Hamil­ton (4-10) with the Tiger-Cats hold­ing two games in hand, in­clud­ing a show­down with the Red­blacks on Oct. 27.

But it’s clear the Red­blacks have a much dif­fer­ent of­fence with Har­ris back un­der cen­tre. In their pre­vi­ous two losses with both Har­ris and backup Drew Tate ail­ing, Ryan Lind­ley was 33-of-67 pass­ing for 315 yards with a TD and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Then again, run­ning back Wil­liam Pow­ell was there to pick up the slack. He posted three straight 100-yard rush­ing per­for­mances — run­ning for a com­bined 438 yards on 65 car­ries (6.7-yard av­er­age) — and added 92 yards on 17 car­ries against B.C.

With Har­ris back, Ottawa’s of­fence now be­comes much more bal­anced and there­fore more dan­ger­ous. Pow­ell is run­ning well and the Red­blacks pos­sess a deep and po­tent re­ceiv­ing corps as Greg Elling­son (seven catches, 149 yards, two TDs) and Dion­tae Spencer (three catches, 116 yards, one TD) ex­celled against the Lions.

And that’s the chal­lenge fac­ing the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers, who host Ottawa on Fri­day night.

De­fen­sively, the Rid­ers can’t con­cen­trate solely on Har­ris be­cause of the threat Pow­ell presents. What’s more likely to be their ap­proach is to first try to shut Pow­ell down so Ottawa be­comes one-di­men­sional in its at­tack.

And while Saskatchewan has man­aged just 22 sacks this sea­son, Willie Jef­fer­son has eight to stand sec­ond over­all in the CFL. And de­fen­sive back Ed Gainey has a league-best eight in­ter­cep­tions.

How­ever what was most im­pres­sive about Saskatchewan’s 27-24 road win over Toronto last Saturday was the play of backup quar­ter­back Bran­don Bridge. The na­tive of Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., re­placed starter Kevin Glenn in the sec­ond quar­ter and helped the Rid­ers erase a 13-point deficit to reg­is­ter the vic­tory.

It was a big win for Saskatchewan (8-6), which re­mains tied with Ed­mon­ton (8-6) for third in the West Di­vi­sion stand­ings, four points be­hind Win­nipeg (10-4). Bridge fin­ished 20-of-28 pass­ing for 292 yards and two TDs but Glenn will start against Ottawa.

Saskatchewan is 4-2 at home this year but the Red­blacks are a solid 4-4 on the road. Where the Rid­ers hold a big ad­van­tage is their 5-1 record ver­sus East Di­vi­sion com­pe­ti­tion while Ottawa is 2-61 against West­ern ri­vals.

Pre­dic­tion: Saskatchewan. Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers ver­sus Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats (Fri­day night)

Hamil­ton is 4-2 un­der in­terim head coach June Jones, whose first de­ci­sion was to pro­mote backup Jeremiah Ma­soli to start­ing quar­ter­back ahead of in­cum­bent Zach Col­laros. Ma­soli threw for 338 yards and two TDs while run­ning for 48 yards in the Ti­cats’ 30-13 road win over Win­nipeg.

On July 29, Cal­gary (12-1-1) throt­tled the Ti­cats 60-1 and is com­ing off the bye week fol­low­ing a 59-11 vic­tory over Mon­treal. The Stamps are 5-1-1 both on the road and against the East Divi­son this year. Pre­dic­tion: Cal­gary.

B.C. Lions ver­sus Win­nipeg Blue Bombers (Saturday af­ter­noon)

It seems Win­nipeg (10-4) will have start­ing quar­ter­back Matt Ni­chols back for this one. He suf­fered an ap­par­ent hand in­jury last week against Hamil­ton but prac­tised this week. That’s im­por­tant be­cause the Bombers can ce­ment a play­off berth with a win. B.C. (6-8) has lost three straight games and six of its last seven. A loss to the Bombers would elim­i­nate the Lions from play­off con­tention.

Pre­dic­tion: Win­nipeg. Toronto Arg­onauts ver­sus Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos (Saturday night)

Ed­mon­ton (8-6) snapped a sixgame los­ing streak Mon­day against Mon­treal. More im­por­tantly, star quar­ter­back Mike Reilly is ex­pected to play after suf­fer­ing a lower-body in­jury. One of those losses was a 34-26 de­ci­sion to Toronto (7-8) as James Wilder Jr. ran for 190 yards and a TD in that game. He left Saturday’s loss to Saskatchewan in the fourth quar­ter and it’s un­clear if he’ll play Saturday. Pre­dic­tion: Toronto. Last week: 1-3.

CFL PICKS DAN RALPH

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