The BC Lions left no doubt from July on.
I would find it hard to believe there were many CFL fans out there who were surprised to see Sunday’s game play out the way it did.
Since the end of July, the BC Lions have been just a cut above the rest of the pack, and their display at the 99th Grey Cup was no different. Wally Buono’s team was at a slightly different level than the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and was victorious because of it.
When Travis Lulay won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in the events leading up to Sunday’s game, it was seen as a deserving nod to a guy who had spearheaded an improbable rise to the top of the standings.
While his numbers were slightly lower in a few categories than his running mate Anthony Calvillo, there was no doubting how much voters put stock in the Lulay-lead BC charge to the top. He did nothing to prove voters wrong on Sunday.
It could be debated when Lulay really arrived as a premiere quarterback in this league. Was it last year’s Western Semi-Final loss to the Riders? Was it his fairly impressive outing in week one this year, albeit in a losing effort to the Alouettes?
Or was it sometime during BC’s incredible finish to the season? Where you pinpoint it doesn’t really matter, because the Lulay party was capped with a 320-yard, two touchdown performance on the grandest stage of them all.
He showed us everything that made him the league’s top player this year: threading passes through coverage, eluding elaborate pressure packages, and extending plays with his impressive mobility.
Good on him.
The Lions won their sixth Grey Cup thanks in large part to their young, fresh core of players. From Lulay and Andrew Harris offensively to Khalif Mitchell and Solomon Elimimian on the other side, BC’s “youth” was a huge part of their title season.
But three veteran performances stood out in Sunday’s game specifically, playing just as large a part in the win as anyone else.
Arland Bruce hadn’t won a title since he faced the Lions as a member of the Argonauts in the 92nd playing of the Grey Cup, which is an accomplishment that had totally slipped my mind.
While his tenure in Hamilton didn’t end in a great fashion, there’s no questioning how large his impact was on the turnaround for BC once arriving at the beginning of August.
He gave Lulay another security blanket on passing plays (not like he needed said blankets), and he was a huge factor in opening the field up for Geroy Simon as the season went along.
Oh yeah, there’s also that Simon guy, who’s accomplished almost everything a receiver could hope to in this league.
BC’s powerhouse 2006 season en route to their fifth championship likely stood out as the highlight season of his career; he won the Most Outstanding Player award along the way.
2011 may be without an MOP trophy, but being such a huge part of a season like this one might just knock that first title campaign off its perch.
And then there’s Buono. BC’s Head Coach and General Manager was the hot topic throughout the week in Vancouver, with many wondering if he was set to be coaching in his final game.
If that indeed is the case, then it really was a privilege to watch one of the great class acts in the sport ply his trade for as long as he did, and it was fitting to watch him go out on top.
I selfishly hope he’s not ready to move on to the next chapter, because the man still knows how to coach.
“I hope he comes back and coaches because he knows this team so well,” Simon told the Vancouver Province. “But what better way to go out?”
I thought Bombers Head Coach Paul LaPolice was graceful in defeat following Sunday’s game, which shouldn’t surprise anyone one bit.
While serving with the Riders, he was just as gracious in such awful circumstances following the 2009 debacle in Calgary. His team fought like champions and made this game interesting, which once again, shouldn’t be shocking at all. He’s a head coach who doesn’t lie down, and his team took on that personality this season.
It’s of little consolation, but I felt this game was closer than its final score for the majority. Who knows what would have happened had Ben Archibald not broken up Odell Willis’ seemingly postmarked trip to the endzone?
This was not a Bombers team undeserving of their spot in this game, and in time I hope they can be proud of their great season under LaPolice if they’re not already.
I know fans in Winnipeg won’t soon forget the calendar year of 2011, where they saw a beloved hockey team return in conjunction with their beloved football team reenergizing it’s faithful.
The best part from a Winnipeg perspective comes from their future. This is still a relatively young Bombers squad, particularly offensively, and to expect them to go anywhere come 2012 would be shortsighted. With LaPolice at the helm, the future looks very, very bright for the 2011 Eastern Champions.