Let’s say I had a Thanksgiving party this weekend; nine of them in fact.
Let’s also say that I invited one team per party and provided them with a turkey dinner. At each party, I found out what they’re thankful for and what they hoped for after getting the big chunk of the wishbone.
Let’s say as host, I awarded one drumstick to whomever I chose. As well, I awarded one extra piece of pumpkin pie to someone.
In case you’re wondering why I handed out only one drumstick, it’s because I kept the other one for myself, naturally.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
THE WISHBONE: A stable kicking game.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Quarterback Zach Collaros. He is once again the dashing, confident swashbuckler we knew and loved before those injuries came calling. And it is a joy to watch. Oh, and I’m giving the drumstick I was keeping for myself to Adam Bighill.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Mike Miller. Leads the league in special teams tackles this season. Already holds the all-time record. He’s 32-years-old and has been doing this since 2011. You know what? Give him all the pumpkin pie. No one else gets pumpkin pie unless Mike Miller says so.
THANKFUL FOR: Turning BMO Field into a can’t-lose proposition. The emergence of running back D.J. Foster.
THE WISHBONE: A more healthy stretch run.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: SAM linebacker Chris Edwards. The veteran has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Argos’ D in 2021, making plays all over the field. But perhaps more importantly, he’s also been the salt that spikes the drink of the opposition, adding a palpable disagreeable streak to Toronto’s defensive unit. And defensive units need to bring the mean.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Linebacker Dexter McCoil. Started the season as a rotational depth guy but now is the statistical leader on that Argonauts’ defence. Maybe that was inevitable, considering his resume. Doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned extra pie.
THE WISHBONE: Making connections in the deep passing game.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Defensive back Nick Marshall. Another banner season for the premier corner, in both downfield coverage and in speeding in from the backfield to stop short-stuff ball carriers in their tracks, out in the flats. He is a living, breathing tackling technique video on continuous loop. He’s made 23 tackles this season. How many chances has he had? I’m guessing 23. Three interceptions, one for a major.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: General manager Jeremy O’Day, for landing proven contested-catch magician Duke Williams.
THANKFUL FOR: Rookie linebacker Jordan Williams and his being a quick study on how to dominate in the middle. And for what modern medicine can do for a guy’s elbow.
THE WISHBONE: Less of a need for modern medicine and what it can do for a guy’s elbow.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Receiver Lucky Whitehead. Expectations were high, so very high. He’s met them, beautifully, becoming the CFL’s most dangerous offensive spark plug, while continuing to be a terrifying presence in the return game. And rolling up to practices on a scooter while wearing a beanie, with a little “beep-beep”? He’s getting my drumstick, too. Two drumsticks for Lucky Whitehead.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Bo Lokombo. The “Bollistic Missile” entered this week’s action as the CFL’s leader in total defensive plays with 64, including 3 interceptions, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 sacks. Maybe he should have gotten my drumstick. Well, ask Lucky for one of his.
THANKFUL FOR: The return of receiver Bralon Addison. He showed you why in his first game back, in Week 9. For linebacker Simoni Lawrence still playing like he’s 27-years-old.
THE WISHBONE: A speedy, full recovery for Dane Evans, and a return to form for Jeremiah Masoli. Quite a sizeable wish. But, hey, Thanksgiving only comes around once a year.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Frankie Williams. A lockdown defensive back AND a game-changer on kick returns? Again? Frankie Williams is just two behind the leaders in pass knockdowns (five) while being No. 1 in punt return yardage (459, with a touchdown) and second in kick return yardage (463).
Guy does his integral part in forcing the opponent to kick, then punishes them further by returning those kicks in elite fashion.
(Note: I was subjected to a blistering chirp attack from Simoni Lawrence after handing out the drumstick. When I told him I was very close to awarding him the drumstick instead of Frankie Williams, the onslaught only heightened. So, I gave him my drumstick, thinking that he would no longer continue withering me with his mouth full. I was wrong.)
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Defensive back Jumal Rolle. Replacing the incredible Delvin Breaux, Rolle has guarded the shores of that secured island as impenetrably as his predecessor.
THANKFUL FOR: First-year MIKE Darnell Sankey, who is doing the legacy of terrific Calgary middle linebackers proud. And for Jameer Thurman being insistent on being persistent and consistent. And really, really good.
THE WISHBONE: The Bo they’ve known.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Head coach Dave Dickenson. This has been his toughest assignment during his time in Calgary. A whole lot of established, veteran stars left Calgary during the off-season, so it was assumed the Stamps would be a little more human in 2021. Then came the injuries, most notably to Mitchell. Dickenson prepped rookie pivot Jake Maier to step in, and step in well. It has been a constant uphill climb for the Stampeders this season, but Dickenson has kept the team hanging
in, and now they’re back in the playoff mix.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Running back Ka’Deem Carey. And if he’s too sore to lift the fork to his mouth after his tour de force on Saturday night, another Stampeder should feed him.
THE WISHBONE: Consistency on offence.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Quarterback Vernon Adams. Not for his performance, exactly, as that has been up and down and up and down. But for his refusal to sulk about it, choosing instead to work harder. And in playing with an injured ankle against Hamilton, he added a layer of leadership that his teammates cannot help but notice and rally around.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Patrick Levels. His vocal “we shall never surrender” attitude of the last couple of weeks no doubt has been invaluable to the Als.
THANKFUL FOR: The juking, the spinning and the accelerating of returner DeVonte Dedmon.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Middle linebacker Avery Williams. The most overused phrase of 2021? “Avery Williams in on the tackle as well.” With 61 tackles (briefly taking over the league lead with an eight-tackle performance against Toronto on Wednesday night), he has somehow remained somewhat unsung and underrated and that is absolutely criminal.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Head coach Paul LaPolice. It’s just been a lot, you know? Give the man some extra pie.
THANKFUL FOR: Finally winning in Calgary on Labour Day. A defence that is up to the challenge, so long as you don’t leave them on the field all night.
THE WISHBONE: That it’s not too late to turn this around.
THE DRUMSTICK GOES TO: Running back James Wilder Jr., who has provided the Elks with his high-energy personality, along with his churning, never-stop-moving-your-legs-until-everyone-on-the-field-is-on-your-back running style. Second in the CFL in rushing, second among running backs in receiving yards, second among running backs in YAC, eighth overall in the league.
AN EXTRA PIECE OF PUMPKIN PIE: Defensive back Trumaine Washington. Tops on the Elks in total defensive plays, Washington looks comfy in the Edmonton secondary, with a couple of interceptions – including a pick six – and a forced fumble.