North x South: Grey Cup Preview

by Ryan McCarthy, BBM Staff Writer

The pinnacle of the 2018 CFL season takes place on Sunday afternoon as the Ottawa RedBlacks will meet the Calgary Stampeders in the 106th edition of the Grey Cup Final. This is the second meeting of the two teams in the final over the past three seasons: Ottawa beat Calgary in the 2016 Grey Cup, 39-33 in overtime.

The Grey Cup Final will take place at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium at 6pm on Sunday. The game will be broadcast stateside on ESPN 2.

The RedBlacks advanced to the Grey Cup game with a dominant 46-27 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Final while the Stampeders overpowered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 22-14. Ottawa is in their third Grey Cup final appearance in four years while Calgary makes their fifth final appearance in seven years.

Eric Rogers caught three touchdown passes for the Stampeders last week. He'll need a similar performance if Calgary is going to win the Grey Cup on Sunday. (Photo Credit: Leah Hennel/Postmedia Network)

While the Stamps’ defense was credited with a dominating performance last week in the West Final, their offense was able to take advantage of that performance. QB Bo Levi Mitchell threw three touchdowns in the West Final, all of those touchdown throws going to WR Eric Rogers. RB Don Jackson ran for 83 yards and contributed by lengthening drives, resulting in over 31 minutes of possession time for the Stamps. The offense will have to contend against a RedBlacks defense that made life miserable for Hamilton’s offense in the East Final. Things did look hairy for the RedBlacks toward the end of the first half when DB Jonathan Rose was disqualified for pushing an official after committing an unnecessary roughness penalty. (Rose is suspended for the Grey Cup game, but has submitted an appeal.) The defense could have had a meltdown in the second half, but they remained glued in forcing two interceptions in the half out of Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli. Veteran LB Kyries Hebert – the last remaining player from the defunct Ottawa Renegades that existed from 2002-2005 – led all RedBlacks tacklers with seven total tackles. The RedBlacks’ success on defense will depend on whether or not Rose can successfully appeal his suspension. (Edit: Rose was able to play in the Grey Cup game.)

Trev Harris had the game of his life last Sunday in the East Final. Will he have a similar performance against Calgary's defense in the Grey Cup Final? (Photo Credit: Peter Power/Canadian Press)
On the flipside, the RedBlacks offense – in particular QB Trev Harris – had one of the most successful East Final games in CFL history. Harris went 29-of-32 for 367 yards and SIX touchdowns, which is a CFL division final record. Two went to WR Diontae Spencer and one each were scored by WRs Greg Ellingson and Marco Dubois, RB Brendan Gillanders, and TE J-C Beaulieu. Ellingson would lead all receivers with 144 yards receiving. RB William Powell didn’t score any touchdowns, but kept drives going throughout the game and finished with 89 yards rushing. They’ll have to face Calgary’s defense, which lived up to its reputation as one of the best in the league over the season. The Stampeders' defense shut down a Winnipeg offense that was carrying a lot of momentum into the West Final. LB Alex Singleton once again lead the Stamps with seven total tackles. Calgary also sacked Winnipeg QB Matt Nichols three times during the West Final, two by DL Ja’Gared Davis and one by 2018 sack champion Micah Johnson. The secondary shut down Winnipeg’s receiving corps in the West Final, but will have to contend with one of the league’s best corps of receivers in the Grey Cup, though, in Ellingson, Spencer, and Brad Sinopoli. 

Outlook: This is a game between two pretty evenly matched teams: both feature elite quarterbacks, stout running games, excellent receivers, and opportunistic defenses. Calgary’s reputation on defense this season has relied on its pass rush: they lead the league in 2018 with 45 sacks while Ottawa allowed 43 sacks. If Ottawa’s offensive line can contain the pass rush, it will allow Harris to get on a roll like last week’s East Final. But seeing how the Stampeders' defensive line disrupted Winnipeg’s offense last week, it’s doubtful that Harris can have that type of game again. The Stampeders will likely win their eighth Grey Cup at the home field of their biggest rivals. Calgary 33, Ottawa 21.

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