Crunch Time for September 6, 2012
‘Labour Day' was hardly a holiday for former Eastern Eagles
Mitchell, Nichols, Sherritt all get some TV time in ‘Classic'
By PAUL DELANEY
Monday was no holiday for a trio of former Eastern Washington Eagle football players.
Bo Levi Mitchell, Matt Nichols and J.C. Sherritt all played their parts in round-one of what is called the Canadian Football League's “Labour Day Classic” this past Monday.
It took place at Calgary's McMahon Stadium where the hometown Stampeders watched as a 49-yard field goal sailed wide left in the swirling Alberta prairie winds with no time remaining to preserve a crazy 31-30 victory over the rival Edmonton Eskimos.
The game had big stakes for Edmonton, who was trying to tie West Division leader, British Columbia with a 6-3 record. As it turned out Calgary and Edmonton are both 5-4.
With NBC now broadcasting select CFL games, not only does it allow one to see plenty of a true new Canadian folk-hero in Sherritt, and glimpses of Mitchell and Nichols, but also of this decidedly different version of the game of football.
Played on a 110-yard field with three downs, 12 players a side and constant motion, there are more ways to score points it seems in a CFL game than politicians have excuses. Sure, there's the traditional touchdown, or “major” as the broadcasters call ‘em. There's a point-after kick for one, or a “rouge,” and then a point for not advancing a kick out of the end zone,
So even though it appeared Edmonton had lost when kicker Grant Shaw missed the game-ending field goal, the Eskimos still had an opportunity to tie had the ball not been returned out of the 20-yard deep end zone.
And we thought college football's new rules for kick offs were a bit hard to get used to.
But Monday was much more about Sherritt – on pace as a second-year pro to break the CFL record for tackles in a season – and featuring notable cameos from Stampeders' back-up QB Mitchell, as well as Nichols, third on the depth chart as the Esks signal caller, but the regular holder on place kicks.
Sherritt, named just last week as the CFL's Player-of-the-Month for July as the league-leading tackler from his middle linebacker spot, had his moments as both a hero and an everyday man. He came out of Monday's contest with 78 stops after nine games, well on the pace to surpass the CFL record of 127 with nine more games to play.
Mitchell's name was called early with the Stampeders down to the one on their first drive of the game where he punched the ball across for a 6-0 lead. It was the former Walter Payton Award winner's fourth touchdown rushing this year giving him 42 yards on the season. Ironically, Mitchell, known for his passing arm, is just 3-of-6 for 28 yards and no TDs.
Edmonton answered right back with a touchdown, but on the extra-point, Nichols bobbled the snap and the Eskimos trailed 7-6.
The game was billed in part as an individual battle between Calgary's running back Jon Cornish, a 6-foot, 205-pound former Kansas Jayhawk and Sherritt's 5-9, 218-pound frame. The two waged a pretty good personal battle in the War for Alberta.
Round one went to Cornish who scored after going one-on-one in coverage with the former Eagle and scored when Sherritt slipped and fell.
Dusting himself off from the rubber pellets that soften the artificial turf, Sherritt made a huge play on an end around stopping Calgary's Larry Taylor a for a loss, forcing the Stamps to settle for a field goal and a 24-16 lead.
Sherritt later got even with Cornish for another huge stop with 12 minutes to go in the game, forcing the Stampeders to punt. It was one of eight tackles he had on the day to go with one forced fumble.
Edmonton, outscored 17-2 at one point to start the second half, would score twice in just 43 seconds in the fourth quarter, once on 39-year-old quarterback Kerry Joseph's sneak and the other an interception return on Calgary's first play of the ensuing drive giving the Eskimos back the lead, 30-25.
Mitchell, looking pretty Eastern-like in his black and red Calgary colors, was called upon one more time in a short-yardage situation with 4:40 to play. He was tripped up when the Esks' Almondo Sewell stuck a hand out of a dog pile and Mitchell was short of a first down.
Calgary would go back down the field to score the go ahead touchdown with just over a minute to play. But it didn't happen without another notable effort from Sherritt.
He tipped away a pass on a first and goal but was unable to keep Taylor from scoring with 1:19 to play as Calgary took a 31-30 lead.
The Stampeders failed on their two-point conversion when the pass fell incomplete at the back of the end zone. But who was racing in on QB Kevin Glenn to try to cause havoc? The former Eastern Buck Buchanan winner of course.
And as if once was not enough, they suit up and do it all over, just five days later this Friday night, Sept. 7, up the road in Edmonton.
Gonna' be setting the DVR so I can see how the next round goes. You might want to do the same. It's fun watching these Eagles from the past chart their future.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.