HEAD OF THE CLASS
106TH GREY CUP Calgary Stampeders can finally celebrate after two straight championship game losses
EDMONTON — It was red, black and white against black, white and red in a championship clash of grey in Sunday’s 106th Canadian Football League final.
In the end, the Calgary Stampeders hoisted the Grey Cup with an 27-16 win over the Ottawa Redblacks in front of a capacity crowd of 55,819 at Commonwealth Stadium.
It was a rematch of the 2016 championship game between the two clubs, which saw the Redblacks win 39-33, and kick off a run of back-to-back Grey Cup losses for a Stampeders squad that has been the perennial powerhouse of the league throughout the John Hufnagel era of the past decade.
But the third time was a charm for Calgary, who won their eighth league championship in club history and third under their current general manager.
While weather wasn’t nearly the factor that could be expected, the turf was hard and slick, which affected footing and ball grip throughout.
Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell completed 24 of 36 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Ottawa’s Trevor Harris completed 20 of 38 passes for 267 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
Calgary’s first possession opened with a sack by Ottawa’s J.R. Tavai, and ended with an interception in the end zone by none other than Redblacks cornerback Jonathan Rose, who only got into the game by appealing a suspension for shoving an official in last week’s East Division final.
But Stampeders cornerback Ciante Evans returned the favour, stepping in front of a pass intended for Greg Ellingson to give Mitchell & Co. the ball back on Ottawa’s 32 yard-line.
Running back Don Jackson took it 21 yards on a textbook screen pass overtop of Ottawa’s blitz to make it 7-0 11 minutes in.
Lewis Ward, the CFL’s most outstanding rookie and special-teams player who finished the regular season 51-for-52 between the uprights, while posting a record of 48 straight, hooked a 48-yard field-goal attempt wide left to close out Sunday’s first quarter. But he opened second-quarter scoring with a 29-yarder to put Ottawa on the board.
Following catches for 20 yards by Eric Rogers and 26 yards by Julan Lynch, Lemar Durant got his hands on a similar screen pass Jackson scored on earlier, only to drop it in open field.
Rogers responded by shaking two Ottawa defenders and fighting for a first down to set up a 21-yard touchdown by Lynch, who dived in for a 14-3 lead midway through the second.
Sherrod Baltimore came up with an interception in Calgary territory, only to have William Powell fumble the ball right back on a force by Jameer Thurman and recovery by Folarin Orimolade.
But Ottawa got the upper hand from the exchange, following up a Calgary punt with a 55-yard catch and run into the end zone by Julian Feoli-Gudino. The Laval product ran in the last 30 of those yards, escaping a pair of defenders on the way to knocking over the flag on his way out of bounds.
The ensuing two-point conversion was caught by a wideopen Jean-Christophe Beaulieu as Ottawa trailed 14-11.
But Calgary stole all the momentum right back on the longest punt-return touchdown in Grey Cup history, 97 yards, by Terry Williams to lead by 10 at halftime.
Tempers flared early in the third, as Matthews was penalized with unnecessary roughness after taking a swing at Anthony Cioffi, before a 41-yard field goal off the foot of Ward opened second-half scoring.
Rene Paredes responded with a 34-yard field goal at the other end to regain the double-digit lead with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Ottawa suffered a further setback when Diontae Spencer opened the final frame by fumbling a punt return, forced by Riley Jones and recovered by Wynton McManis. It resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Paredes. making him 11-for-11 in Grey Cup games.
The Redblacks got to the doorstep before turning the ball over on downs on a pass breakup by Jamar Wall on Brad Sinopoli that would have been enough for a first down.
Wall followed up with an interception on a last-gasp long bomb by Harris with 2:25 left, while Tre Roberson came up with another with 82 seconds to go.
Calgary conceded a twopoint safety on the way to running out the clock, as the final play ended with a sack by Calgary defensive tackle Junior Turner.