As a fan the one thing you wan to see out of a championship game is a spectacle. You hope for drama, entertainment, memorable moments, big plays and lots of action. The 2017 Grey Cup delivered on all counts. Sat watching into the early hours of the morning in a kitchen in the UK, cup of tea to hand and newly acquired rescue kitten perched on my lap I was rapt. Last years final was going to take a lot of living up to and this delivered.
League commissioner Randy Ambroise talked about moving the league to earlier in the season so fans could watch in better conditions. It is understandable – I don’t have to sit there in the freezing cold, but there is something wonderful about a snow game.
The Toronto Argonauts won their 17th championship in snowy conditions in front of a sold out crowd of 36,154 at Ottawa’s TD Place.
They won 27-24 against the Favoured Calgary Stampeders and most of the damage was done on big, highlight reel plays. The two biggest being a Ray to Posey 100 yard Touchdown on the first play of the second quarter and Cassius Vaughan returning a fumble 109 yards to tie the game in the fourth quarter enabling another Ricky Ray led game winning drive capped off by Liram Hajrullahu’s 32-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining.
Even then it wasn’t over as the Stampeders came back and Jorden got open and made an acrobatic grab at the Argo 30. Two plays later, however, on second-and-five, Mitchell went for the end zone and was intercepted by Matt Black in the corner, clinching a dramatic victory for the Argos.
Argos wide receiver DeVier Posey was named the Most Valuable Player for a performance that saw him catch seven passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, including a Grey Cup record 100-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.
The snow came down pretty thickly pre-game and into the first half. Toronto running back James Wilder Jr., the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie was un-phased as he did pre-game warm ups on the field shirtless in temperatures around -3C – not bad for a guy from Florida!
At the end of the 2016 season things looked pretty grim for fans of North America’s oldest professional football team the Toronto Argonauts. They had finished the season 5-13, with a 7 game skid to see out the year and were on the outside looking in as the playoffs began. For a while in the off-season they were without a Head Coach or GM too.
This franchise was looking pretty dysfunctional. Then they hired GM Jim Popp and Head Coach Marc Trestman, both of whom have a fine CFL pedigree and fans of the Double Blue had a glimmer of hope once more. I think with those hands at the tiller, most fans would’ve expected toe Argos to turn a corner, but perhaps not this swiftly.
In the space of a year the Argonauts have transformed themselves from worst to first, taken the Eastern Division and walked away the Ultimate prize the Grey Cup itself. Even their season was a microcosm of that ongoing improvement as they turned around a 4-7 start to the season by going on a 7-2 run (including playoffs) perhaps most notably of all going 5-2 against the Western Division in that span.
You have to feel for Calgary and their fans who must have a terrible feeling of deja vu. They watched a dominant 15-2-1 team in 2016 upended by a stunning 39-33 overtime loss to an Ottawa Redblacks team that finished the regular season with an 8-9-1 mark. This year The Stampeders had a 13-4-1 record while Toronto finished first in the East Division at 9-9 only for the same upset to occur in the championship game.
Bo Levi Mitchell has the highest winning percentage of any CFL QB and a Grey Cup to his name. The Stamps are by all measure the dominant team in the CFL in recent years but people will be questioning their big game ability. The thing is they were competitive in both finals in 2016 and 2017, facing potential HOF QB led teams and could have come away with the W on both occasions. It just wasn’t to be.
Kamar Jorden may be haunted by this one. The Stamps were up by a TD inside the Argos 10 yard line and it was his fumble that was returned 109 yards. Whilst we remember the moments like this though we should also recall that one play does not make the game. After all Jorden also had six catches for 117 yards and a TD.
So many factors go into it, and whilst we can feel bad for the Stamps we can feel joy for the Argos picking up their first championship since 2012.
This is Marc Trestman’s 3rd Grey Cup and in Toronto they will be hoping success will spark a surge in interest from the public in improved game attendances.