The Grey Cup Championship game match-up has been set, as the favored Calgary Stampeders will face the surprising Hamilton Tiger-Cats for supremacy in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The Grey Cup is the traditional battle for the championship in the CFL, roughly equivalent to the Super Bowl for Canadian football. It dates back over one hundred years, and is a rich Canadian sports tradition.
The Calgary Stampeders have been the dominant team in the Canadian Football League (CFL) all season long. They got off to an undefeated 5-0 start, and remained ahead of the rest of the league throughout the season. Ultimately, they produced the best record in the league by tying their franchise best ever 15-3 regular season record. That was easily good enough to earn them home field advantage for the playoff game against their provincial rivals, the Edmonton Eskimos, who had the second best record in the league. Yet, the Stampeders earned a surprisingly easy victory over the Eskimos that was indicative of their 2014 season as a whole. They dominated throughout, pounding Edmonton en route to a 43-18 blowout win that earned them another shot at the Grey Cup.
Edmonton was able to successfully contain Calgary’s running game, but quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was able to step up and make the Eskimos pay for daring him to beat them. He did not complete a ton of passes, but he made the ones that he did get count in a big way, completing 14 of 22 passes for 336 yards and 4 touchdown passes, with no interceptions. The Eskimos simply had no answer to Mitchell’s performance.
The Eastern Final featured the visiting Montreal Alouettes and the hosting Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Both teams had gotten off to horrendous starts early in the season, and looked like they were going to be non-factors. Hamilton started the season at 1-6, and Montreal started the season at 1-7. Yet, in a weak year for eastern teams in the CFL, both teams managed to have strong recoveries to become the two top teams in the east. Montreal looked like they were about to clinch the eastern title late in the season, until they suffered a loss at Hamilton in the season finale that gave the eastern division to Hamilton, providing them with home field advantage, ultimately, in this game. It proved valuable, too, as the Tiger-Cats managed to wear down, and eventually wear out, Montreal.
Hamilton defeated Montreal 40-24, and were particularly fueled by the inspired play of punt returner Brandon Banks. Banks ran for an astonishing 226 punt-return yards, which included two touchdowns that were crippling for the Alouettes.
Now, the Grey Cup match has been set between favored Calgary and Hamilton. Under head coach and General Manager John Hufnagel, Calgary has been a successful regular season team in recent years, but that has not necessarily translated to postseason success. They did win the Grey Cup in Hufnagel’s first season in 2008, but they have not won it since. The Calgary Stampeders made it to the Grey Cup recently, losing 35-22 in 2012 to the Toronto Argonauts, who were hosting the game.
Hamilton also made it recently made it to the Grey Cup, as they managed to qualify for last year’s championship finale. However, they fell short against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, 45-23.
The Grey Cup match is now set between favored Calgary and Hamilton. It will be held on Sunday at 4pm ET at Vancouver’s BC Place. Calgary will try and complete a dominant 2014 campaign by securing the league championship, which would be the first for the franchise since 2008.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by marc.watmough – Flickr