Watching the huge roles Nic Demski and Brady Oliveira played in Winnipeg’s 50-14 win over BC on Thursday got me thinking: the race for Most Outstanding Canadian is red hot approaching the midway mark of the season.
Demski went for 83 offensive yards and a receiving touchdown in the win while Oliveira finished with 67 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. As hometown Oak Park grads, both Oliveira and Demski are eligible for Most Outstanding Canadian. And, with the seasons they’re having, both players are also very much in contention for the award.
Demski’s Week 9 performance kept him amongst the league’s top receivers, regardless of nationality, in both yards and touchdowns. For sake of this conversation, though, Demski’s 497 receiving yards and four touchdowns leads all Canadians in both categories. So far so good in year one of that three-year contract he signed in February.
And then there’s Oliveira. The second-year starter has been the league’s most productive running back this season and is showing no signs of slowing down. Oliveira’s league-leading rushing total is now at 593 with three games over 100; he’s also up to three rushing touchdowns, tied for second overall amongst tailbacks.
But as good as the Bombers’ dynamic duo has been, Demski and Oliveira aren’t the only standouts in this MOC conversation. In fact, there’s plenty of competition on both sides of the ball, regardless of how Week 9 played out.
Case in point is Mathieu Betts. While the Lions were on the losing side of Thursday’s lopsided marquee showdown, Betts is still putting together an incredible season. Even with a quiet night in Winnipeg, Betts leads the CFL with ten sacks and has been a menace more often than not.
Teammate Boseko Lokombo continues his strong season, too. Back healthy, and back as BC’s full time WILL linebacker, Lokombo has racked up 46 defensive tackles, two sacks, one interception, and one defensive touchdown in eight games. It felt like 2021’s Most Outstanding Canadian was in line for a bounce back campaign of sorts, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.
Fellow outside linebacker Cam Judge is thriving again in year two with the Stampeders and played a huge part in his team’s crucial 20-7 win over previously unbeaten Toronto Friday night. Judge finished the night with four defensive tackles and one knocked down pass as he and partner Micah Awe continue to form one of the league’s best linebacker duos. Judge is now up to 38 defensive tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble in eight games.
Finally, we’d be remiss to exclude Montreal’s Kaion Julien-Grant in this conversation. He entered Week 9 fifth overall with 486 receiving yards in just six games and was one half of the league’s most dangerous duo along with Austin Mack. Unfortunately, Julien-Grant has been placed on the six-game injured list with a hand injury and missed his team’s 27-14 win over Hamilton on Saturday night.
Maybe it’s a little recency bias, but it feels like this year’s Canadian contingent on both sides of the ball has been as dangerous and impactful as ever. And outside of Julien-Grant’s injury situation, none of these guys look close to tailing off, as they’re all integral parts of their team’s success.
It should be a fun race to watch as the season rolls on.
By the way, Mack is the real deal and I thought Saturday’s outing vs. Hamilton drove the point home. The first-year receiver went for 106 yards on five catches to help the Alouettes to an important 27-14 win on the road. Not having Julien-Grant on the field focused more attention on Mack, which made his performance that much more impressive.
I’m curious to see how the Argos handle quarterback Chad Kelly coming off their first loss of the season. Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie opted to sit Kelly for the second half vs. Calgary with an ankle injury despite being able to go if needed. Toronto plays Ottawa in Week 10 before hitting their second bye and Dinwiddie suggested they might use that schedule to their advantage. It wouldn’t be a shock to see backup Cameron Dukes start vs. the REDBLACKS, because when we’re talking about Kelly…better safe than sorry.
At the same time, the Stampeders absolutely needed that win. Big hat tip to Calgary’s defensive line against the Argonauts because they came to play. Mike Rose, Mike Moore, and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund all racked up sacks in the win, which is an impressive feat considering the opposition. Prior to Friday, Toronto was averaging just over one sack allowed per game; the Stamps got to them for three.
Finally, it was neat to see Mason Fine pick up his first win as a CFL starter in Sunday’s Week 9 closer. Fine threw for 269 yards and a touchdown in Saskatchewan’s 26-24 win over Ottawa, which gets him up to 998 passing yards in parts of four appearances. With at least 37 pass attempts in each of his three starts, Fine certainly likes to air the ball out. Encouragingly, he looks gradually more comfortable running the Riders offence, which seems to be translating to sounder decision making.