Ma­soli hopes to MOP up

The Hamilton Spectator - - Sports - STEVE MIL­TON

Just a lit­tle over three years ago, Jeremiah Ma­soli was one step away from be­ing out of the CFL.

To­day, he’s one bal­lot box away from be­ing the league’s Most Out­stand­ing Player.

Af­ter he was named the East Di­vi­sion nom­i­nee Thurs­day, he goes against Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers’ quar­ter­back Bo

Levi Mitchell for the pres­ti­gious award.

“When I got put on the prac­tice squad, that was kind of rock bot­tom in a sense,” the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats quar­ter­back said of the 2015 sea­son, which he spent mostly as No. 4 on the depth chart.

“It was just a kick in the butt for me. There was al­most zero per cent chance of me see­ing the field that year. So it was, ‘Let’s just put my head down and be the best team­mate I could be.’ Even­tu­ally it cir­cled back to me.”

Ma­soli joins Ti­cat team­mates Larry Dean (Most Out­stand­ing De­fen­sive Player) and Bran­don Reven­berg (Most Out­stand­ing Of­fen­sive Line­man) as East choices for the ma­jor player awards.

The over­all win­ners, cho­sen by CFL head coaches and mem­bers of the Foot­ball Re­porters of Canada, will be an­nounced Nov. 22, dur­ing Grey Cup week at Ed­mon­ton.

For the first time in eight years, the Tiger-Cats will have three fi­nal­ists. Only twice in league his­tory have the Tiger-Cats had more: four in 2010 and 1989. Three times prior to this year, they’ve had three.

Some eastern vot­ers have ar­gued that Ot­tawa’s Trevor Har­ris, who beat Ma­soli’s Ticats in the three games which de­cided the East pen­nant, was a bet­ter choice for the di­vi­sion nom­i­na­tion and all-star spot, which Ma­soli also won. But Ma­soli, whose elite re­ceiv­ing corps was ab­so­lutely shat­tered by se­rial in­juries to starter af­ter starter — in­clud­ing game-break­ers Bran­don Banks, and Jalen Saun­ders — still set the club record for most games (12) with 300 or more pass­ing yards.

On de­fence, mid­dle line­backer Dean is up against Win­nipeg line­backer Adam Bighill. Dean had 105 de­fen­sive tack­les, third in the league this year and the fourth-high­est to­tal in fran­chise his­tory.

“I ac­cept the award on be­half of the whole de­fence,” Dean said.

“They have a rich his­tory of foot­ball here and de­fence drives it. On any de­fence, the lne-back­ing corps is the meat of it.”

Third-year Ti­cat Reven­berg will be pit­ted against the Stam­ped­ers’ Stan­ley Bryant. He paid trib­ute to his of­fen­sive line­mates and said that the in­creased num­ber of run­ning plays un­der June Jones has made all of them more com­fort­able and ef­fec­tive.

Reven­berg has long since jus­ti­fied the use of the third-over­all 2016 draft pick on a player who had been ranked much lower in pre-draft rat­ings.

The Ot­tawa Red­blacks nailed the other three fi­nal­ist berths in the east: re­ceiver Brad Si­nop­oli will go against Win­nipeg run­ning back An­drew Har­ris for Most Out­stand­ing Cana­dian; and kicker Lewis Ward, got the East nod for both Most Out­stand­ing Spe­cial Teams Player, and top rookie. He’ll face, re­spec­tively, B.C. kicker Ty Long and Saskatchewan re­ceiver Jor­dan Wil­liams-Lam­bert.

The Roughrid­ers’ Chris Jones and Red­blacks’ Rick Camp­bell are the Coach of the Year fi­nal­ists.

Ma­soli be­comes the first Ti­cat MOP fi­nal­ist since Danny McManus won the league award in 1999 and Reven­berg is just the sec­ond Ti­cat to rep­re­sent the East in the top of­fen­sive line­man cat­e­gory in the past 29 years.

The last Ti­cat of­fen­sive line­man to reach the na­tional vote-off was cen­tre Mar­wan Hage in 2010, and be­fore that it was tackle Miles Gor­rell in 1989.

SCOTT GARD­NER THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Tiger-Cats Bran­don Reven­berg, left, Jeremiah Ma­soli and Larry Dean have all been named fi­nal­ists for the CFL’s top player awards.

CHRISTO­PHER KATSAROV THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

JOHN RENNISON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

DAR­RYL DYCK THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers quar­ter­back Bo Levi Mitchell will be Jeremiah Ma­soli’s com­pe­ti­tion for the CFL Most Out­stand­ing Player Award.

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