Zebras on their toes

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

REGINA -- George Black had just warned his officials in the last few weeks that something crazy might happen in an upcoming game.

The CFL's director of officiating wanted the zebras to be on their toes for a moment like Saturday night, when the Saskatchewan Roughriders turned Mosaic Stadium into a rugby pitch on the final play.

"It's that time of the year when (teams) get into semi-desperation mode," said Black from Toronto yesterday afternoon.

"They (the officials) have to be ready for almost anything."

And Black is very pleased with how his seven-man crew - led by head referee Ken Lazaruk - handled the chaos, which featured the ball changing hands nine times with no time left on the clock.

The 28-year veteran in the officiating game is already shooting down any notion that Rider quarterback Rocky Butler was legally down before the ball popped loose to start the unscripted madness.

"I'm satisfied at first (glance)," said Black, who watched the play live on TSN from his southern Ontario home at almost 1 a.m. ET, but will further review the play in detail today.

"The ball was clearly fumbled (by Butler) ... and the officials kept covering it.

"I'm pretty confident they were on top of it.

"But I'm pretty sure Danny Maciocia's heart was in his throat (during the play)."

One look at the isolated TV replay of Maciocia's face during the final moments proves that point.

Expensive ...

Saskatchewan's loss to Edmonton on Saturday likely killed the opportunity for a home playoff game in Regina for the first time since 1988.

Although there are no firm numbers coming from the Riders, a West semi-final at Mosaic Stadium could generate at least $400,000 for team coffers.

But now the third-place Green and White need to make up five points on Calgary in the last four games, which will be very tough considering the two teams don't meet again. Besides the financial windfall, a home playoff game would also probably save head coach Danny Barrett's job.

With the game all but dust, some football observers now believe Barrett has to get to the Grey Cup to keep his job - but take that with a grain of salt.

A berth in the West Division final might be enough for general manager Eric Tillman to keep a coach who is loved by his players.

Bad break ...

Did former Edmonton Eskimo Davis Sanchez just deliver a blow to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' playoff hopes, while helping his former team at the same time?

The Montreal halfback drilled Milt Stegall with a low tackle at the knees on Friday night, leaving the legendary receiver with a strained MCL.

"It was legal contact," said Winnipeg coach Doug Berry. "Everybody would rather get hit high and Milt was hit more from the back side and hit low but you can't complain about it because it's football and it's all within the rules."

Berry doesn't know the full extent of the injury, but has the slotback listed as doubtful for the Bombers' next game. More importantly, a strained MCL can take up to a month to heal properly.

A game in hand on the Bombers, Edmonton is five points out of the East Division crossover berth with four tilts remaining.

PLANS WORKED: The Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes both held private player-only gatherings last week - and they got the results they wanted by winning.


Videos

Photos