13th man unforgettable

KIRK PENTON, WINNIPEG SUN

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The Grey Cup isn't always the most memorable moment of a CFL season.

This year, it was.

In one of its most dramatic finishes, the 97th CFL championship game in Calgary will always be remembered for one number: 13.

That's how many players the Saskatchewan Roughriders had on the field when Montreal kicker Damon Duval pushed his last-second, 43-yard field goal attempt to the right.

The two officials underneath the uprights threw their flags while the ball was still in the air.

The call? Too many men.

So Duval got another chance, this time from 33 yards away.

He didn't miss, and the Alouettes escaped with a 28-27 victory to snap a four-game losing streak in the big game.

The scene in the Riders locker-room afterwards was gut-wrenching. Some players were literally sick to their stomach, vomiting in the bathroom, while others simply shed tears.

For some of those players, this year's championship game will end up being their only chance to have won a Grey Cup; dashed because of one too many men on the field (it was reportedly linebacker Sean Lucas).

If you were wondering why some of the Riders were sick afterwards, that's the thought that was going through their heads: What if that was my only chance to win a ring?

Here's a look at the other prominent story lines from the 2009 CFL season (excluding the fun that emanated out of Winnipeg, of course):

- Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo just keeps getting better, even though 40 is on his horizon. In November Calvillo was named the league's most outstanding player for the second year in a row after throwing 26 touchdowns against just six -- six! -- interceptions. He almost choked away the Grey Cup again, but his stirring fourth-quarter comeback will only add to his legacy as one of the CFL's greatest passers.

- The Als were the class of the league, demonstrated by a 15-3 record overall and 9-0 mark at home. Head coach Marc Trestman was rewarded with a contract extension after the Grey Cup triumph.

- The league was rocked in early February when Saskatchewan GM Eric Tillman, who helped clean up the Riders' tarnished image, was charged with sexual assault following a 2008 incident with a baby-sitter. Tillman worked from his home and didn't do interviews all season, and he is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 4 on a summary charge of sexual assault.

- Quarterback Casey Printers returned to the B.C. Lions and led them on their playoff run, which ended in a blowout loss to the Als in the East semifinal. Printers did, however, show glimpses of the form that won him the most outstanding player award in 2004, and could very well be the Leos starter next season.

- Edmonton's Fred Stamps led the league in receiving with 1,402 yards, while Calgary's Joffrey Reynolds was the top rusher, with 1,504 yards.

- It was the year of the running back, as seven of the league's eight starting tailbacks hit the 1,000-yard mark.

- It was a rough year in Toronto, where Argos rookie head coach Bart Andrus had trouble grasping the Canadian game, the owners are flirting with selling the team, and the players struggled to a dismal 3-15 mark on the field. They traded away petulant slotback Arland Bruce III, only to watch him play well in Hamilton, and they also examined the possibility of playing their games at BMO Field -- a soccer pitch -- until a CFL feasibility study shot that plan down. The Argos fired Andrus on Dec. 14.

- The West was best once again, as the crossover rule went into effect for the second straight year and for the sixth time since 1997. The Lions, who were fourth in the West at 8-10, crossed over to play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats -- and beat them in overtime.

- B.C. boss Wally Buono became the CFL's winningest coach in September with a victory over Toronto that gave him 232 in his illustrious career, bumping Don Matthews to second spot.

- The league enjoyed record television audiences and the league website was a flurry of activity, but attendance went down 1.5% and corporate sponsorships declined greatly. The commish can chalk up the negatives to the economic downturn, with people opting to stay at home and watch games on their computers and TVs.

- Despite that little "too many men" penalty, 2009 gave the Rider organization plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the future. Darian Durant emerged as a bona fide quarterback, they hosted the West final for the first time in 33 years, and they're talking about building a very expensive dome to replace Mosaic Stadium.

- The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' association expires before the start of next season, and reports emerged in early November that the owners want to reduce the number of starting Canadians from seven to four. That caused quite a stir, and commissioner Mark Cohon didn't exactly deny it during his annual Grey Cup press conference. Unlikely that will happen, but stay tuned.

- The CFL made a couple of significant rules changes in May, making the "Wildcat" formation legal and forcing teams to kick off after field goals. Can't recall ever seeing a Wildcat formation, and the number of kickoff return touchdowns dropped from three in 2008 to one this year. So much for the rule changes.

- Ottawa city council gave conditional approval to the Lansdowne Live plan, which includes the construction of a football stadium and paves the way for the CFL's return to the nation 's capital. The project will go to a final council vote in May or June, and if all goes well the league could once again have nine teams in 2013.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.com


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