The Canadian Press
The 2021 regular season is over and the playoffs are on the horizon as six teams remain on the Road to the Grey Cup.
This is the best time of the year for football fans who are looking for action-packed matchups. With everything on the line, teams lay it all out on the field as they hope to continue the journey to the Grey Cup in December.
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The Eastern Semi-Final between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes kicks off post-season football in the CFL for the first time in two years. Tim Hortons Field, the site of the 108th Grey Cup, is sure to be rocking as the Tabbies welcome the Alouettes on Sunday afternoon.
Later that day, the Western Semi-Final gets underway in another loud venue, Mosaic Stadium. The Saskatchewan Roughriders host the Calgary Stampeders in what is sure to be a heated, high-flying battle.
With a pair of contests to tune into on Sunday, there are a ton of players to watch as well. Here are 10 players to keep an eye on during the Eastern and Western Semi-Finals.
QB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Despite one blip in the final stretch of the season against the Argonauts, Jeremiah Masoli has been playing some of his best football. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes to just two interceptions (both came in the aforementioned game against Toronto) and has passed for over 300 yards in four of his last six contests.
It’s Masoli’s team right now and all eyes will be on him as he looks to take his team to the next round.
BO LEVI MITCHELL
QB, Calgary Stampeders
Bo Levi Mitchell and his Stampeders boast a road record of 5-2 so it almost seems like the best situation that Calgary will have to win three games on the road if they want to hoist the coveted Grey Cup in December. However, Mitchell will be looking first at the Roughriders in the Western Semi-Final, where he will face a menacing defence at Mosaic Stadium.
The 31-year-old is coming off a three-touchdown performance in Week 15 against the BC Lions (he only played the first half of his team’s final regular season game against Winnipeg last week) and will hope that continues on Sunday.
QB, Saskatchewan Roughriders
In his second-ever start in a playoff game, Cody Fajardo will be hoping for a different result than the Western Final in 2019 when the team’s season ended on the crossbar (Sorry, Rider fans).
Fajardo passed for 2,970 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during the regular season and had helped his team to host the Western Semi-Final where he’ll be searching for a win against the Stamps.
QB, Montreal Alouettes
Trevor Harris has found much success in the playoffs in his CFL career. We all remember his record-setting six-touchdown performance in the Eastern Final in 2018, right? Interestingly enough, that game was against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, though Harris was a member of the Ottawa REDBLACKS at the time. Can he do that again? Time will tell.
The 35-year-old enjoyed his best game as an Alouette in Week 16 against the REDBLACKS, throwing for 259 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He’ll be looking for much of the same this weekend against a stout Ticats defence.
DB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Tunde Adeleke has quietly put together a very tidy season at safety for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season. He’s been a reliable last line of defence while also showing off his ability to get after the QB on the blitz – he tallied two sacks (a career-high) including one last week against the Roughriders.
WR, Calgary Stampeders
It may be a small sample size, but Reggie Begelton‘s impact in the Stampeders receiving corps has already been felt. In Week 15, Begelton was the feature receiver for Bo Levi Mitchell, as the pair re-ignited the chemistry they had built back in 2019. The pass-catcher hauled in 119 yards and a touchdown in that contest. It won’t be surprising to see Mitchell look to Begelton on Sunday.
WR, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Another receiver that has made an impact since returning to the CFL from the NFL is Duke Williams. In four games in 2021 with the Riders, Williams has hauled in 285 yards and a touchdown on 17 catches. His best game, however, was in Week 15 where he caught 146 yards and that major score.
Plus, how many other players can say that they have caught three onside kick attempts this year?
WR, Montreal Alouettes
He’s not called Touchdown Jake for nothing, as Jake Wieneke finished on top of the leaderboard for most receiving touchdowns with 11. He’s found chemistry with his QB Harris late in the season, scoring two of those majors in the final week of the regular season against the REDBLACKS.
The six-foot-four, 215-pound receiver will be hoping to live up to his nickname in Hamilton in the Eastern Semi-Final.
LB, Calgary Stampeders
Leading the league in tackles with 97, first-year linebacker Darnell Sankey has been a standout on the Calgary Stampeders defence. He collected 12 tackles in two separate games this season – once in Week 7 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and then again in Week 15 against the BC Lions.
His lone sack of the year was against the Riders in Week 12 and he’s sure to want to get to Cody Fajardo once again on Sunday afternoon.
RB, Montreal Alouettes
The league’s leading rusher has to be on this list, right? With his hard-nosed running ability, William Stanback rushed his way to the top of the stats board, becoming the only running back to surpass 1,000 yards on the ground this season.
Stanback has a been a feature of Khari Jones’ offence throughout the regular season and with cold weather on the horizon, there is likely to be an even bigger emphasis on his involvement on Sunday.