Semifinals packed with intrigue
By Kirk Penton, QMI Agency
|Chad Owens didn't return any kicks for touchdowns this season.He'll go up against the Eskimos — the best punt cover team and the second-best kick cover squad in the CFL. (TORONTO SUN/FILES)
It’s not every year the CFL produces division semifinal matchups as juicy as the ones this year.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders will continue their excellent rivalry in the West Division semifinal (it’s their fifth post-season meeting in the last seven seasons), while Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray will face his former team in the East Division.
The CFL could not have rigged the division semifinals any better than they turned out.
The East semifinal winner will move on to face the Montreal Alouettes, while the West’s victor will travel to Vancouver to face the defending champion B.C. Lions. The division finals will take place on Nov. 18.
Right now it looks like the Lions and Alouettes will meet in Toronto for the 100th Grey Cup, but this is the CFL. It could just as easily be Saskatchewan and Toronto in the big game or, who knows, even Calgary and Edmonton.
Here’s a closer look at the four teams that will be battling this coming weekend:
Eskimos secondary vs. Ricky Ray
Ricky Ray is one of the league’s premier passers and has won a couple of Grey Cups. However, he will be going up against the most interception-happy secondary in the league at Rogers Centre on Sunday. The Eskimos, led by Joe Burnett’s six, plucked a CFL-leading 28 passes out of the air this season. Ray served up two of them.
Charleston Hughes vs. Darian Durant
Calgary’s Hughes, who has proven himself to be one of the best defensive ends in the CFL this season, will be ready to get after No. 4 on Sunday. Hughes has 10 career sacks against the Riders, and he will also be asked to contain running back Kory Sheets, who finished second in league rushing to Jon Cornish.
Chad Owens vs. Edmonton cover teams
The Flyin’ Hawaiian didn’t return any kicks for touchdowns this season, but maybe he’s just saving them up for the playoffs. Owens is always dangerous in the open field, and the Eskimos will need to be wary. The good news for the Green and Gold is they have the best punt cover team and the second-best kick cover squad in the CFL.
Nik Lewis vs. Tyron Brackenridge
Lewis, the beast of a slotback for the Stamps, is the go-to guy for Calgary’s quarterback, no matter who’s slinging the pigskin. Lewis gets open or takes the big hits over the middle to make the grab. At times it’ll be up to Brackenridge, Saskatchewan’s strong-side linebacker, to stop Lewis from extending drives and eating up yards after the catch.