- FREE AGENCY
Hello, Wally Buono. Not the way you were supposed to go out, but you handled it with your usual “not-the-end-of-the-world” shrug and a nod to an opponent who played a whale of a game. Thanks, Wally. Thanks for your decades of immensely valuable dedication to the league, the game, and the people who love it just like you do. Thanks for all those quarterbacks you brought in. And all those coaches you developed. Thanks for being a dependable, comfortable sight for me, week after week, pacing the sidelines, occasionally biting your lip. “There’s Wally. All is right.” Thanks for telling like it is when your team won and especially for telling it like it is when your team lost.
Thanks for all of it, Wally. All the best in your retirement. I can imagine that there are thousands of couches across this land, where you’d be more than welcome to sit a spell and watch some football with some grateful fans, no matter the colour of jersey they happen to be wearing on game night.
Here are this week’s takeaways.
That was some kind of brute strength displayed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the late going of their 23-18 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. As the TSN team of Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor stated, it is quite something to be able to run the ball with the kind of authority the Bombers displayed when the other team – one with the league’s second-best rushing defence – knows you’re gonna do it.
But they did just that, with tailback Andrew Harris running hard along the fresh asphalt that his O-line was laying down ahead of him, grinding out the yards and eating clock as the fourth quarter progressed.
Let’s give those Bomber bulldozers some “name in print” recognition here. (You’d actually need to send this column to your printer to make it official, of course.)
Stanley Bryant, Patrick Neufeld, Mathias Goossen, Sukh Chungh and Jermarcus Hardrick.
Imagine if you could live your life with those guys surrounding you every step of the way. You’d be invincible on every crowded subway platform and at every Christmas season shopping mall.
Can’t wait to see this unit take on Calgary’s formidable front – including their incomparable running back destroyer Micah Johnson – in the Western Final.
That can be said for both the Hamilton Ticats and the BC Lions, with respect to the Eastern Semi-Final.
For the Lions, it is quarterback Travis Lulay’s first play from scrimmage, where he got saddled with an unforced error, the ball coming out of his hand as he pivoted to get away from Hamilton’s Adrian Tracy, who’d sealed the edge on him. Tracy never touched him, but since he was lurking, he got the gift of falling on the loose ball for an easy recovery.
For the Ticats, it is their first touchdown, just moments prior to Lulay’s mistake. Short yardage QB Dane Evans was in on third and goal and he was stuffed prior to reaching the goal line on the play. That would have been a big, big early stop for the visiting Lions, but on a play like that, fumbling the ball is not a bad thing it turns out. And fumble it he did, into the end zone where offensive lineman Kelvin Palmer quickly grabbed it for the major. For Hamilton, two wrongs actually made a right.
If only our own days could be so telling. We’d know by the end of breakfast whether we should venture out to conquer the world or dive back under the covers for the day.
This is not the first time that the BC Lions have been manhandled during the playoffs when crossing over to the East.
In six trips to the ET, the Lions are 1-5 and most of those losses have been of the rather one-sided variety, although this latest scorching represents the largest margin of victory for an Eastern team over them during that time.
Outside of a 34-27 OT win in Hamilton in 2009, the Leos have lost by scores of 45-35 (the most favourable of the deficits, coming in 1997), 28-7 (2003), 56-18 (2009 Eastern Final), and 50-17 in 2014.
Those 1 p.m. ET starts are something the Lions might want to avoid in future playoff games. Or, maybe head over at the beginning of the week so it doesn’t feel like a morning game.
Stop Andrew Harris. Keep an eye on Weston Dressler. Don’t let Darvin Adams hurt you. Watch out for Nic Demski.
All things that opposing defences have had to worry about when squaring off with Winnipeg.
Here’s another, rapidly emerging and ready to hurt you.
The Z receiver, in most of Winnipeg’s formations, is Drew Wolitarsky, the 23-year-old, second-year man out of the University of Minnesota. As well as playing a mean, celebratory air guitar, Wolitarsky runs crisp patterns and snares passes.
With five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown on a beautifully run route in Sunday’s win, Wolitarsky continued to do good things for the Blue Bombers. He’s another dependable receiver for quarterback Matt Nichols to zero in on.
Wolitarsky had a good 2018 regular season and a great Western Semi-Final, so, the message is clear: Don’t sleep on the Z.
Hamilton Coach June Jones couldn’t be more relaxed these days if he had an on-call masseuse loosening his shoulders 24/7. Dude showed up to his eve-of-the-game media conference wearing a Hawaiian shirt and now we know why, outside of him being both a player and a coach in the pacific tropical paradise at one time; he was feeling pretty good about his team’s prep for the Eastern Semi-Final.
“I knew we were ready to play and I think it showed,” Jones said after the Ticats’ complete dissection of the BC Lions at Tim Hortons Field.
Have an eye on the coach the day before Hamilton meets the REDBLACKS in the Eastern Final this weekend. If he’s dressed again as though he’s looking for his lost shaker of salt, beware, Ottawa. The rest of the league is on notice: Fear the flora.
AND FINALLY… Sometimes it’s good not to over think things. When asked why he started receiver Bralon Addison (5 catches for 124 yards) over Terrell Sinkfield on Sunday, June Jones gave just a two-word answer. “He’s better,” said Jones with a big smile.