Delays, Controversy and a Winner

Courtesy of Sportsology.com and The 20-Yard End Zone

By Footloose

It was an interesting week in the CFL.

Things started Thursday night in Winnipeg on Milt Stegall Night. 

After a lightning delay of more than two hours, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stormed out of the gate and took a 34-0 halftime lead on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and would win 37-11.

Stegall, the second all-time leading receiver in CFL history behind Geroy Simon, was honored with his family at halftime. Stegall, a Cincinnati native, played at Miami (OH) and then was a Cincinnati Bengal for three seasons before going to Green Bay and then to Winnipeg. During his career, he was a favorite of ESPN personality Chris Berman.

CJ Roberts scored on a pick six early in the game, and then Matt Nichols fired TD passes to Thomas Mayo and Clarence Denmark. Andrew Harris scored a touchdown on the ground.

Hamilton scored a TD in the third quarter when Jeremiah Masoli connected with Terrence Toliver for a 44-yard gain to set up a one-yard TD run by Jeff Mathews.

BC wins in Montreal

Friday night, the BC Lions went into Montreal and outscored the Alouettes 15-0 in the fourth quarter to win 38-18.

Jonathan Jennings completed 27 of 32 passes and tossed a TD to Manny Arceneuax. Jeremiah Johnson scored a touchdown on the ground, and Loucheiz Purifoy made the play of the game by scooping up a loose ball and scoring on a fumble recovery. Richie Leone added four field goals.

BC sacked Montreal QB Kevin Glenn six times. Glenn threw a TD pass to BJ Cunningham and ran for one score.

Bo knows winning

Bo Levi Mitchell of the Calgary Stampeders is the all-time leader CFL in winning percentage among quarterbacks, and he played like it Friday.

Mitchell threw for 312 yards and fired a TD to Anthony Parker in the 35-15 win over Saskatchewan. Jerome Messam and Andrew Buckley ran for TDs. Rene Paredes kicked four field goals.

Rob Bagg scored on a 48-yard pass from Darian Durant for the Riders.

Controversy in Ottawa

All eyes were on Henry Burris as he bounced back with a 23-20 win over the defending Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos in a penalty-filled contest in Ottawa Saturday night.

Burris threw TD passes to Ernest Jackson and former New Orleans Saint Chris Williams. After a Jermaine Robinson interception and long return in the dying minutes of the game, Chris Milo kicked a 17-yard field goal to give Ottawa a 23-20 lead. The Redblacks’ defence then came up big by forcing three Mike Reilly incompletions for the win.

Edmonton scored the most unusual TD of the year when a Burris pass appeared to hit the ground but it actually bounced off Williams’ foot and went high into the air. JC Sherritt interception the ball on the run and raced down the sideline to dive into the end zone. Reilly hit Chris Getzlaf, the brother of NHL star Ryan Getzlaf, for the two-point convert.

At halftime, Burris was interviewed by TSN’s Matthew Scianitti, and he unleashed a rant about the criticism and doubts he has faced from fans and, in particular, the TSN panel.

“Henry and I are friends and we have talked about it and shared a laugh,” said Milt Stegall, one of the panelists, in an interview that can be heard on our podcast.

This week’s games

Thursday – Montreal at Edmonton

Neither team has consistently been able to put a full 60 minutes of football together this year, but both teams have explosive passing games. Look for a high-scoring barnburner.

Friday – Winnipeg at Toronto

Toronto is quietly one of the best teams in the league, and back-up Logan Kilgore shone in his first CFL start after replacing an injured Ricky Ray. Winnipeg is also trending upward, and this is a new team after Matt Nichols replaced Drew Willy as the starting QB.

Saturday – Calgary at Saskatchewan

The Riders are a much better team playing in front of the best fans in the CFL at home. They beat Ottawa at home, but can they beat Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeders?

Saturday – Hamilton at BC

Zach Collaro smakes his return to the Tiger-Cats’ line up as they face the red hot BC Lions in Vancouver. Hamilton needs a win to keep pace with Toronto and Ottawa in the standings, but BC has been a juggernaut behind coach Wally Buono and quarterback Jonathan Jennings.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

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Redblacks roster shake-up continues on day two of free agency

After an action-packed first day of CFL free agency on Tuesday, day two did not disappoint. A number of big names found themselves new homes on Wednesday, perhaps letting the opening day dust settle and getting a clearer picture of the marketplace.

In Redblacksland, the day was notable for a couple of free agent losses and one signing. First, the bad news:

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The signing has since been confirmed. Capicciotti and his 12 sacks will be sorely missed on a DL that has also lost Shawn Lemon (NFL, er SSK) and Keith Shologan (WPG) since the Grey Cup game. 

Then:

After taking over from Chevon Walker as the starting RB at mid-season, JJ emerged as a real difference-maker in the Redblacks offense. In his seven starts (10 games total), Johnson amassed an impressive 448 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also emerged as a leader in the locker room.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s season would be cut short by a foot injury, and William Powell took over the starting job in early October. It was Powell’s performance the rest of the season and into the playoffs that ultimately made Johnson expendable, as the Canadian ratio makes it difficult for CFL teams to carry two American running backs. 

Johnson will be missed. So will his TD celebrations. 

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Now for the good news:

The 27-year-old Gascon-Nadon is a 3-year CFL veteran, originally drafted by Hamilton in 2012 (3rd round, 17th overall). He spent a year at Rice University (2008) before coming back and winning two Vanier Cups (2010 & 2012) at Laval.

As a pro, Gascon-Nadon has appeared in a total of 20 games, though his first start on the Hamilton defensive line was actually in the Eastern Final against Ottawa, filling in for the injured Eric Norwood.

Yes, Ottawa fans only memory of him might be the interception he didn’t make prior to #2ndAnd25, but Gascon-Nadon is not here for his receiving ability. He is a highly regarded DL prospect, who also contributed on special teams in 2015, with 11 tackles.

Another action-packed day in the books for the Redblacks. Here are Ottawa’s remaining unsigned free agents:

QB DeMarco, Thomas
LB Green, James
WR Henry, Marcus
LB Hinds, David
DE Marshall, Andrew
DE Smith, Marlon
DB Thompson, Brandyn
LB/FB Verdone, Jordan

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photo credit: Toronto Sun

#TBT: Looking back with Marc Parenteau

By: Santino Filoso

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In today’s Throwback Thursday Interview we sit down with offensive lineman Marc Parenteau. Drafted by the Renegades in 2003, Marc went on to play for Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Toronto during the course of his 9 year career, winning two Grey Cups (in 2007 and 2012) along the way.

RR: After being drafted by the Renegades with the 36th pick in 2003, you didn’t get to start a game until 2005, how frustrating was that experience?

MP: I actually decided not pursue any NFL or CFL options after my collegiate career at Boston College. I’d played a lot of football since I managed to avoid being redshirted and played every game for four years, going to four straight Bowl games and earning All-Star nods my final two years. I felt that my football career was full and I was content to leave it there, so after college I accepted a job with a private company. At the time I was also coaching at Bishop’s University and while there I got the “itch” to play back and decided to try and make a comeback in 2005. I was fortunate enough to make the Renegades after a two year hiatus.

When you think back to your time with Ottawa, what sticks with you the most?

The city and fans were so great, all they wanted was a well managed team that could compete in the league.  I never would have left if they hadn’t folded.

On the line of scrimmage pretty much anything goes if the ref doesn’t notice. What were some of your favourite tricks or techniques that you used to give yourself an edge that might not have always been legal?

Holding hahaha!  I didn’t cheapshot opponents but if I got my hands on you I was going to hold you until that whistle blew.

Who was the most ferocious defender you where ever matched up against?

Adriano Belli, I always knew it was going to be a tough game when I played him

Describe the feeling you got as an lineman when you pulled on a sweep and got to take a 15 yard run at a DB.

I felt scared! Mostly because as a lineman you know the DBs are quicker than you and that they would do anything to avoid contact. You always knew you might totally miss them and get ridiculed by fellow offensive lineman in meetings the next day.

Did you have any pre-game superstitious?

I did early in my career.  Ranging from what I would eat, to the order of how I got ready to the drills I did pre-game on the field.  I got away from those at the end of my career and took a bit of a more relaxed approach.

Offensive linemen pride themselves on ignoring the elements and always wearing short sleeves. Did you ever cave and cover up your arms?

Now and then in practice but never in games.

Mike Abou-Mechrek told me that you were the funniest guy he’s ever played with. What kind of things did you do to keep the mood light at practice or during games?

Oh Mike! I would hide people’s stuff in the locker room, make jokes pre-game or even sometimes in the huddle between plays. Sometimes when they’d put up the 50/50 draw on the scoreboard and I’d stop everyone in the huddle to show them.

What was the most memorable prank you ever involved in?

Too many to name and some of those are top secret since they still don’t know it was me.  Let’s just say some players were sent “seat belt extenders” on plane trips by flight attendants in front of everyone. Also if a rookie acted out he may have found his stuff frozen in a big ball in the ice machine the next day.

Which fan base has the best hecklers?

I’d say it’s a tie between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

On the field did you talk a lot of trash or were you more of the silent type?

Mostly silent but I had the occasional game where I was lippy.

In terms of style, what was your favourite jersey to wear?

Anything that fit properly hahaha.

Why #57?

I was #73 in high school and college but OL can’t wear numbers in 70s in the CFL. I settled on #57 because I liked the look of it.

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Which Grey Cup win was more satisfying, 2007 or 2012?

That’s an unfair question, that’s like picking a favourite son! They’re both very special to me for various reasons.

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CFL: 100th Grey Cup Calgary Stampeders at Toronto Argonauts

CFL: 100th Grey Cup Calgary Stampeders at Toronto Argonauts

You are the only lineman in CFL history to ever score a touchdown in a Grey Cup (2010), talk us through that play.

It was originally put into the game plan two weeks earlier and even though we didn’t use it we left it in the goal line package. When the call game in during the Grey Cup I couldn’t believe it and was even more in shock that it was actually thrown to me. It’s an awesome memory and still without a doubt the best celebration in CFL history. When the play started I knew I really had to make it look like a run and once I cleared the line I didn’t see anyone within 10 yards of me. Glory followed.

 

As a Sherbooke native, which CIS team do you cheer for?

I actually moved to Florida when I was 12 years old so I never followed any CIS team.

Why did you choose to settle in Ottawa after you finished your CFL career?

I would have never left if it was up to me.  Even when they announced they were bringing a team back I patiently waited hoping to get a chance to play for it, but it kept getting delayed and then I was at the end of my career.  Ottawa is such a beautiful city and the perfect place for my real estate business. I wouldn`t want to be anywhere else

Finish the sentence. Every tourist coming to Ottawa should…..

Visit the Byward Market. It’s close to Parliament Hill and there’s tons of activities to do

Have you made it out to any Redblacks games? 

I made it to the opener and it was a great game! I have a bunch of friends who play on the team.

North Side or South Side?

No comment

Thanks so much for your time Marc and I look forward to seeing you at more Redblacks’ games in 2015!

@RedBlackGade

*All images via Marc’s collection

The Saskatchewan Dresslers Outlast the Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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On a beautiful day for football in Regina, the Redblacks let a golden opportunity to keep pace with the rest of the East slip through their fingers. Ottawa battled hard for the win but ultimately came up short in double overtime, falling to 1-10 on the year.

Pre-game:

– Head Coach Rick Campbell gets the boys fired up

– Redblacks call tails on the coin flip and lose, dropping their record to 3-10 on the year

1st Quarter:

– After Jamill Smith (#15) fields the opening kick, the Redblacks offense comes out of the gate strong, rotating between DJ Harper’s (#28) running and Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) catches, until a flag on Marter (Matt Carter #85) and a John Chick sack derail the drive

– The Greenwhites try to run the ball twice into the teeth of the Redblacks defence which gives them nothing, Smith’s punt return is aided by a 15 yard no yards flag

– With the grace of a ballerina, all 290 pounds of Alex “The Bulldozer” Krausnick (#55) makes a smooth catch before lowering his shoulder and levelling a defender

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Boom

– Henry Burris (#1) shows that age ain’t no thing as he scrambles 8 yards for a TD

– Saskatchewan moves the ball with back-to-back catches from Weston “I don’t like Ottawa’s money” Dressler, until the drive stalls at Ottawa’s 34 yard line. Kicker Chris Milo’s 40 yard FG is good

– On the ensuing kickoff, Smith showcases his toughness when he gets popped but holds onto the football and bounces right back up

– Despite the Greenwhites going offside the Redblacks go two-and-out when Burris one-hops a pass intended for Wallace Miles (#84)

– Linebacker Travis Brown (#43) sniffs out a screen, forcing another Greenwhites two-and-out

2nd Quarter:

– On 3rd and 1, HC Rick Campbell chooses to punt and Brett “Don’t Talk to Me” Maher (#3) blasts the ball 59 yards for a rouge

– Not content with taking their former name, the Greenwhites also seem to be using Ottawa’s offensive playbook as they continue to go two-and-out

– Tearrius George makes Nolan MacMillan (#66) his plaything and sacks Burris for a 5-yard loss, but a roughing the passer call keeps the drive alive

– A streaking Carlton Mitchell (#88) catches a deep pass on the pump and go

– Offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson’s Alzheimer’s kicks in as he forgets about Harper and the run game, calling his 12th straight pass

– Redblacks dig into their bag of tricks as they use backup QB Danny O’Brien (#9) to fake the field goal on 3rd and 2, earning a fresh set of downs

– Burris scrambles around a collapsing pocket buying time until Miles gets open for a 12-yard TD, capping off a 13-play, 90-yard drive

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A welcome sight

– Abdul Kanneh (#14) nearly picks off Tino “Two-and-Out” Sunseri’s misthrow, Antoine Pruneau (#6) breaks up a deep pass intended for Dressler and the Greenwhites punt again

– Ottawa finally runs the ball and newcomer Jeremiah Johnson (#27) picks up 5 yards

– Proving it IS a game of inches, Mitchell just misses hauling in a deep pass

– Refs turn a blind eye to a Maher being run into and a blatant clip as Weston “Not Quite Good Enough for the NFL” Dressler takes the punt return 78 yards to the house

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If you look closely, you’ll do a better job than these CFL refs and see two missed calls

– All alone in space, Miles drops a gimme

– Redblacks do their best Tennessee Titans impression when Smith laterals across the field to Khalil Paden (#13) who jets down the sideline for a 53 yard gain

– Once again evading heavy pressure, Burris connects with Miles in the end zone for the second time, this one an 8-yard TD

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– “Rider Pride” is on full display as boos rain down and bounce off ugly watermelon helmets to end the half

Half-time:

– An irate Rick Campbell tries to chat with the referee but unsurprisingly he’s looking the other way

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3rd Quarter:

– Rob Bagg gets behind Kanneh but Sunseri overthrows him by the length of a watermelon field

– Smith’s straight ahead running style results in a good punt return

– Burris gets nailed from his blindside as the Redblacks give up their 4th sack of the game

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– Still smarting from being run over early in the game, Brackenridge levels Mitchell and forces a fumble

– The Greenwhites quickly make the turnover count when a misdirection play results in a touchdown

– Ottawa responds in a spectacular fashion as catches by Marter and Harper keep the drive alive until Jeremiah “Happy Birthday Momma!” Johnson’s 19-yard TD caps off a 7-play, 66-yard drive

– Saskatchewan goes two and out before Milo’s 65-yard punt rolls out at Ottawa’s 1 yard line

– Facing 2nd and 10, Mitchell makes a 24-yard catch to give the Maher some breathing room when he’s forced to punt. Eric “The Pilot” Fraser (#7) is flagged for no yards

– Kanneh continues to play like a kid jacked up on a sugar high and lowers the boom on Dressler

– Apparently still shaking off the cobwebs, Dressler blotches the hold on Milo’s 43-yard FG attempt leading to a turnover on downs

– The Redblacks offensive line continues their porous play, giving up a 5th sack

4th Quarter:

– Ottawa’s defence suddenly becomes allergic to tackling as Dressler runs 60 yards through a half dozen missed tackles for a TD

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– Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) makes yet another first down catch though the drive ultimately stalls

– Jasper Simmons (#31) is shaken up and newly signed Damaso Munoz (#45) slots in

– Justin Capicciotti (#93) wraps up Sunseri for this 5th sack of the year

– With just over 7 min left in the game, instead of trying to run some clock, OC Gibson continues his trend of ignoring the ground game; Redblacks take maybe 15 seconds off the clock with two incompletions

– Heavy pressure from the defensive line forces a two-and-out

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– Johnson picks up 7 yards and 29 yards on back to back run plays

– Burris keeps up the time honoured tradition of QB’s whiffing on blocks as Johnson reverses direction for a short gain

– Playing not to lose the Redblacks elect to keep the ball on the ground on 2nd and 9 at Saskatchewan’s 16 yard line

– Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on Tool Time, Maher nails a 24-yard FG with 1:53 left to give the Redblacks an 8-point lead

– Taking advantage of injuries on back-to-back plays in Ottawa’s secondary, Sunseri magically strings together a few passes before a bonehead pass interference call moves the ball 31 yards and sets up the Greenwhites on the 1

– Predictably they score and get the 2-point convert when the Redblacks strategy of leaving Dressler uncovered bites them in the ass

– With enough time on the clock to get into FG or at least punt for a rouge win range, Johnson drops a 1st down catch and the Redblacks inexplicably run the ball on 2nd and 10

– The Greenwhites take a knee to send the game into overtime

1st Overtime:

– Burris gets hit as he throws and the pass is picked off, Redblacks fans everywhere pull their hair out in frustration

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The mythical clean pocket was nowhere to be found on this play

– After two fruitless runs, Milo attempts a 37 yard FG but the snap is mishandled, the kick goes wide-left into the hands of Jamill Smith, who boots it out from the back of the end zone. The punt is caught by Saskatchewan but the punt back is blocked (or short?), sending the game to double overtime. Whew!

Double Jeopardy (2nd Overtime):

– Ottawa chooses to play defence first as R-Nation uses a defibrillator

– Milo’s 22-yard FG is good, meaning the Redblacks control their own fate

– Looking like a rookie, Burris takes an enormous 13-yard sack, pushing the Redblacks out of FG range

– Henry²’s 14-yard catch brings the Redblacks back into FG range leaving Campbell with a decision to either try and tie the game or go for the win on 3rd and 5

– Playing it safe fails when Maher’s 38 yarder is blocked

Final score: Greenwhites 35, Redblacks 32

Key Stats:

Burris went 23 of 38 for 282 yards with 3 TDs, 1 INT and 1 rushing TD

Johnson had 7 carries for 49 yards

Henry² made 8 catches for 87 yards

Simmons led the way on defence with 8 tackles

Maher punted 10 times for 492 yards

Closing thoughts:

In a season of frustrating losses, this one easily lands at the top. Despite finally exorcising their offensive demons, the Redblacks defense and a few non-calls by the referees cost Ottawa a much needed win. Burris shook off some early accuracy issues and finally brought the offence to life but his antics in overtime were horrible. He did the two things a QB simply cannot do in OT by tossing a pick and taking a sack. Henry² had a strong game making numerous 2nd down catches to keep drives alive and Miles was either catching TDs or making drops. Johnson and Harper did an admirable job filling in for injured Chevon Walker (#29) but despite averaging over 5 yards a carry, OC Mike Gibson ignored the run game until the worst possible moments, going into ultra-conservative mode at inexplicable times. The offensive line might have played their worst game of the season in terms of pass protection, giving up 6 sacks and making Burris scramble for his life every second pass play.

The normally stout defence came apart at the teams in the 2nd half, making Sunseri look like a seasoned vet as opposed to the green-faced rookie making his second start that he is. Losing some key personnel in Jerrell Gavins (#24) and Kanneh to injury on the game-tying drive certainly didn’t help matters any, along with a crushing pass interference call that put the Greenwhites on the 1. The team’s tackling in general seemed to regress as the game wore on, as evidenced by Dressler weaving his way through the secondary with ease.

Special teams issues reared their ugly head as Dressler’s punt return TD gave Saskatchewan life when they were dead to rights. Two blatant blown calls are poor consolation to R-Nation as this point, even though TSN at least had the balls to point them out during half time. The fake field goal and punt return lateral were extremely well executed and timely calls that gave the team a boost at key moments in the game, both leading to touchdowns.

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Certainly feels this way sometimes

This loss falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff who got conservative at the worst possible time. Gibson shied away from running the ball all night, despite picking up a healthy amount of yards per carry. Then with the game on the line, he TWICE chose to run the ball on 2nd and long. His decisions were mind-boggling and sent the wrong message to the team., instead of going for the win the Redblacks played not to lose, and it ended up costing them.

With every other Eastern team winning this weekend the Redblacks’ playoff hopes took a serious hit and if they’re going to make any kind of push at all they’ll need to overcome the Als Friday night at TD Place. R-Nation will pack the place and bring the noise, so it’ll be up to the players on the field to snap this exasperating 8-game losing streak.

@RedBlackGade

– All images via CFL.ca and the Ottawa Sun

#TBT: An Interview with Mike Abou-Mechrek

By: Santino Filoso

Mike Abou-Mechrek Ottawa Renegades. Photo F. Scott Grant

Today we sit down with former Ottawa Renegades offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek. Drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999 and quickly going on to establish himself as a reliable starter throughout his 10 year career, Mike played in Ottawa from 2002-2004 before winning a Grey Cup with Saskatchewan in 2007.

RR: You played for the Renegades from 2002-2004, what are some of your favourite memories of that time?

MBM: Ask any of the players, coaches, GMs, or front office staff, anybody at all who was a part of that Renegade family, and they’ll tell you that their favourite memory of Ottawa was the people. We came together as a family like no other team that I was on in my 20 years playing the game. I’m still good friends with some of those guys and even our children are best friends . We forged a bond that couldn’t have been built anywhere except on an expansion team in a foreign city, lead by Coach Pao Pao, Kani Kuahi and their beautiful wives Dottie and Gay who brought all of us “Renegades” together.

Why did you choose to sign in Ottawa as a free agent?

Playing with Winnipeg was great and I had just finished my 3rd season in the CFL and 2nd as a starter, but I felt that being on an expansion team would give me more job security so that I could grow and get better as a football player. That, combined with the fact that I’m from Toronto and wanted to be closer to home without being too close, made it an easy choice. Ottawa is a beautiful city that I may still retire in and live there again one day.

What kind of challenges does an expansion team face that a normal team wouldn’t?

Football is the ultimate team sport and expansion teams are just a bunch of “Renegades” thrown together on a roster – they aren’t a team. The X’s and O’s are the same as everyone else but the guys don’t know each other yet.

Many people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?

I went back to Winnipeg in 2005 so I didn’t see the entire circus but I will say that the first act was enough for me.

Who was the toughest defensive player you were lined up against?

I’d say there were three: Joe Fleming, Johnny Scott and Cameron Wake

Did you have a favourite (or least favourite) stadium to play in?

Yeah, the Rogers Centre. I’ve won a high school city championship, a Vanier Cup, and a Grey Cup in the it, plus it’s in my home town, so you’d think I’d love the place but I don’t. It feels like you are playing in someone’s back yard: no fans, no atmosphere, no passion.

What was your typical pre-game meal?

Half a chicken with two cups of pasta and a big salad….which I would throw up before every game.

Run blocking > pass blocking?

Of course, you shouldn’t even need to ask

Mike Abou-Mechrek Ottawa Renegades. Photo F. Scott Grant

Describe your perfect day off while living in Ottawa.

Bike ride from Barrhaven down to the Byward Market, stopping at the Canal Ritz for a rest and refreshment. That’s the best drive/ride there is in Ottawa in my opinion.

Once I was feeling refreshed I’d continue down to the market , maybe hit up a used book store, eat some delicious Lebanese cuisine and find another patio. Later on someone would have to come pick me up and take me home because all that bike riding and refreshing makes one tired.

Who was the funniest guy you ever played with?

Marc Parenteau

Is the a special reason why you wore #67?

Many reasons. First off it’s the last year the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Cup. Secondly it’s slimming; the 6 gives the number the girth that a big man like me needs but the 7 brings the eyes in to the waist line, the number really accentuates my V shaped body haha. The worst and final reason is that it’s two away from 69 (me and you baby).

Now that you’ve retired, what are you doing for work?

I’m a Certified Financial Planner, which is what I originally wanted to be when I grew up, football just got in the way. In fact, I started my career in finance while playing in Ottawa, I was sure they would cut me and wanted to be ready to move on once they did. Thankfully I’ve never been cut.

Every player has a nickname or two, what was yours?

Abou

Do you still keep in touch with any former teammates, and if so, who?

Alex Gauthier, Marc Parenteau, George Hudson and Val St’Germain are some of my best friends, our wives all get along and our kids are the same age. It was such a blessing to come to Ottawa and meet such good people. I also keep in touch with Greg Bearman too, but he doesn’t have a wife and kids. I chat with Gay Kuahi on Facebook at least once a week.

What piece of advice would you offer any high school or university lineman looking to go pro?

Don’t look to go pro, just work hard at whatever you are going to do, or else it isn’t worth doing. If you focus on something you love to do the “pros” will find you. I was quite a fat, shy kid with low self esteem and football gave me a vehicle where my size finally was an advantage – as I WAS athletic. All the faster smaller kids who used to call me names and then run away in the school yard had nowhere to run to on the gridiron.

O-line coaches in junior ball have their work cut out for them because quite simply the kids aren’t strong enough to do things ‘right’. Trusting a coach is the best thing any athlete can do, especially when you are learning to play o-line. Everyone knows what the QB or RB has to do but no one knows what the O-line does or why they do it until they play the position. It’s quite humbling learning a game you thought you knew all over again.

For those looking to get better at football, or anything else: trust your coach/mentor, come up with a plan, and then do what you said you were going to do. The single best piece of advice I ever got (and it didn’t pertain to football at the time) was SHUT UP AND WORK.

Thank you very much Mike for a hell of an interview! Take care and we hope to see you in Ottawa again soon!

@RedBlackGade

Redblacks lose but Ottawa Wins; Recap of 1st ever pre-season game

By: Santino Filoso

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After years of suffering from through Gliebermans, Watters, Enemies of Lansdowne, and the painstakingly drawn out CBA negotiations between CFL players and owners, on Saturday night Ottawa finally resumed it’s rightful place in the CFL. The Redblacks traveled to Regina to play a home game in their road uniforms. Here are our highlights, in case you missed any of the action.

Pre-game:

– Can’t help but comment on how sharp the Redblacks road uniforms look. The white helmets are a refreshing change

– There was a mascot showdown just before the opening kick between Redblacks mascot and Ottawa legend Big Joe Mufferaw  and a rodent known as Gainer, who apparently represents the local Regina team. It’s interesting to note that after said showdown, Gainer was not seen again and Big Joe’s axe looked a little notched (allegedly).

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– Tons of empty seats in Legoland… I mean Mosaic stadium. So much for the GREENWHITES having the most die-hard fans in the league. Attendance was later announced as 13,014, but I doubt it.

1st quarter:

– You couldn’t have written a better opening 2 minutes and 4 plays for the franchise’s history. It started off with a Justin Phillips sack tackle of QB Tino Sunseri, continued with a forced incompletion, punctuated by a 76-yard punt return by rookie Jamill Smith to the Green Riders 2 yard line, before being finished off by a Chevon Walker rushing TD.

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– The 5′ 6″ and 155-pound Jamill Smith’s 76-yard punt return was a thing of beauty and an incredible display of pure speed

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Smith tackled just short of the endzone

– Walker enters Ottawa history as the 1st player to score a TD in Redblacks history

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The historic 1st TD in Redblacks history

– Justin Phillips limped off the field on the ensuing kickoff, not because he was hurt but because he’s a nice guy and wanted to spare the GREENWHITES QBs from further bruising

– The 1st completion in Redblacks history was Henry Burris to Marcus Henry, allowing R-Nation to witness the birth of Henry² (Squared)

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– Ottawa’s run game looked strong with the o-line opening up some huge holes

– Redblacks coaching staff served notice to the league that we’re back and not to be trifled with when Offensive Coordinator Mike Gibson called a play which used the umpire as a pick

– Travis Brown earns the honour of becoming the 1st Redblacks player in history to be penalized drawing a flag for no yards

– Former Eskimo Marcus Henry makes another catch, this time an incredible one hander. Henry²  should be a connection to be reckoned with this season

– After playing 10 snaps, Burris headed to the sidelines and was replaced by QB Danny O’Brien. This ensued:

– Continuing their trend of stealing all things Ottawa, the Wheaties get their own big punt return, this one for 75 yards and a TD

2nd quarter:

– Palardy misses a 34 yard field goal, pushing it wide right

– Jonathon Williams takes a tripping penalty

– Jeff Hunt drops an interesting tidbit while being interviewed saying that Ottawa has the most retired numbers of any team in the league #richhistory

– Durant enters the game and moves the ball at will

– Safety Eric Fraser looks strong in run support, making a number of crunching tackles

– Redblacks continue their game long trend of mightily struggling in punt coverage

– With 3:33 left, the Redblacks snuff out a screen and force a fumble which is recovered by first round pick Antoine Pruneau

– O’Brien flashes his potential on a 15-yard roll out completion before an overthrow

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QB Danny O’Brien

– Justin Phillips puts an exclamation mark on a fine first half of work with another solid tackle

3rd quarter

– Redblacks kicked off to start the 2nd half but quickly re-gain possession thanks to a T.J. Hill interception

– DeMarco proceeds to get Buck Pierced

– Antoine Pruneau has his ‘welcome to the pro’s moment when he gets truck-sticked by Green Rider running back Toston

– Weber leads Green Riders on a long march down the field ending with WR Swain hauling in his 2nd TD grab of the night, making it 21-10

– Pruneau throws a huge hit, showing he can give as good as he gets

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Big hit by Antoine Pruneau on Sask QB Doege

– Trayvon Patterson makes the mistake of fielding a punt in the endzone and is quickly tackled at the 1

– DeMarco completes a pass to Fred Rouse for 26 yards and gives the offense some breathing room

– A beautiful 60-yard TD strike from DeMarco to Patterson rights a wrong and caps a 109 yard drive, closing the gap to 21-17

4th quarter

– Running back D. J. Harper breaks a nice run for a first down

– Rouse makes another catch and picks up some good YAC (yards after the catch), but seems to aggravate his injury and hobbles off the field

– The Redblack sack attack continues when Justin Capicciotti crushes the Sask QB

– Harper lowers his shoulders and pushes the pile for another first down

– With 8:19 remaining a promising drive is snuffed out with a DeMarco interception after an overthrow

– DL Andrew Marshall sniffs out the QB draw with a meaty tackle

– 6:12 left and pinned at the 5 yard line, Alex Carder enters the game for the Redblacks, he completes a 9-yard pass on a nice roll out and strings together a few first downs before telegraphing a throw and getting picked off with 3:23 remaining in the game

– Redblacks get the ball back with 2 min left and despite converting a 3rd and 17, the potential game-winning drive stalls. Ottawa turns it over on downs at the Wheaties 50 with just under a minute left in the game

Final thoughts:

Though they lost on the scoreboard, the Redblacks can hold their heads high. They got a number of strong performances from their starters, Burris and Walker looked sharp and the Henry²  connection figures to be potent. Also, Jamill Smith demonstrated great speed returning punts.

On the downside, punt coverage was suspect. The Redblacks need to tighten up their tackling or they will be gashed all season long. None of the backup QBs really shined, as they all made numerous overthrows, though DeMarco did have one scoring drive. All in all, it was an incredible night for Ottawa and a history one for the league. The Redblacks showed that Ottawa is back and that we won’t be pushed around.

@RedBlackGade

Photos from the Ottawa Redblacks Facebook page

CFL Mascots 101: What they didn’t tell you in the media guide

By: Santino Filoso

Welcome to Defend the R’s first annual (and completely unbiased) CFL Mascot Power Rankings. We’ve got the inside scoop on all the things left off the mascot scouting report. If you thought you knew everything about these cuddly mascots, prepare to be surprised!

THE EAST:

4) Jason (Toronto)

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Jason brings up the rear in what can only be described as an extremely weak mascot division. This cartoony Argonaut suffers from multiple personality disorder. He carries a sword, wears a futuristic space helmet, only has three fingers and looks like he’s been trying to pinch a loaf since the start of the Trojan War. Jason needs to seek professional help. And if you’re an Argos fan, please encourage him to get it next time you see him fishing on Lake Ontario.

3) T.C. and Stripes (Hamilton)

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T.C. and Stripes, the love children of Tony the Tiger and Tigger, are the tamed pussy cats who can be found patrolling the Hamilton sidelines. T.C. , which cleverly stands for Tiger Cat (man, they got some thinkers in Steeltown), has been leading purrs of “Oskee Wee Wee” since the mid 80’s. Sadly, this feline’s best days are behind him and like John Henry giving way to the steam-powered hammer, it’s only a matter of time before Stripes (get it — tigers have stripes!) replaces him.

2) Touché and Blitz (Montreal)

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These identical unilingual twin birds representing the Als are a stretch at number two but by default they can’t rank any lower. Like junkies searching for their next hit (of worms), these birds have been known to draw flags for illegally entering the field. Lastly (and most worryingly), though they claim to be birds, Touché and Blitz have never been spotted airborne, leading many to question their true nature.

1) Big Joe Mufferaw/Grand Jos

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The gem of the East division’s mascots, this dashing lumberjack can do it all; whether it’s chopping down trees, exterminating rodents (he’s looking at you, Gainer), bird hunting, or causing French language controversies, Joe’s the man for the job. When he’s not being serenaded by R-Nation at TD Place, Joe can be found log running down the Rideau Canal or in Mattawa, where his winter home is.

THE WEST:

5) Gainer the Gopher (Saskatchewan)

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Though Alberta has successfully and meticulously prevented rats from entering the province, their watermelon hat-wearing neighbours to the east have fully embraced rodents – even selecting one to represent their fabled name-stealing team. Gainer, which is an anagram of Regina, struggles when trying to count to 12, and has two cousins named Leonard and Goof (seriously) who sometimes make watching the Green Riders lose a family affair.

4) Leo the Lion (BC)

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Leo is a lion who tragically can’t roar. When he’s not meowing to pump the crowd up, you can find the feline practicing ballet and avoiding Ralph.

3) Punter and Nanook (Edmonton)

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They say opposites attract, and boy oh boy is that ever true when it comes to the Eskimo Empire. You can’t expect a lot out of your offense when one of your mascots is a ‘roid raged football named Punter. The yin to Punter’s yang is Nanook, a polar bear who moved South to avoid the melting Arctic ice floes and because he heard so many good things about the sushi in the West Edmonton Mall.

2) Buzz and Boomer (Winnipeg)

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Ever since they flew the coop in Chicken Run, these poultry have been living large. The loveable duo never stop hatching plans to entertain the Winnipeg faithful because they know their team won’t.

1) Ralph the Dog (Calgary)

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You have to give respect where respect is due, and despite always looking like he just woke up, Ralph deserves all the praise he gets. As the CFL’s first and oldest mascot, Ralph has been eating Eskimo pies, chicken Alouette and gopher gumbo long before any of the other mascots showed up. Despite showing his age, this pooch is still top-dog in the West.

Where do you rank ’em? Let us know in the comments below!

 @RedBlackGade

Interview with “Redblacks Theme Song” creator Nevill Carney (@NevillCarney)

By: Santino Filoso

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Today I’m interviewing Nevill Carney, one of the guys behind the “Redblacks Theme Song”, a fast paced anthem that’s been rocking R Nation. Though conceived and edited by Carney, the song itself was written and performed by Lucas Haneman, a close friend. Make sure you give both Lucas and Nevill a follow on Twitter to stay up to date on all of their latest projects:

@NevillCarney
@LucasHaneman

RR: How long have you and Lucas Haneman known each other and been making music together?

NC: I have known Lucas since Grade 7. We both grew up in Kanata (west end of Ottawa) and have been friends ever since. He is the musician while I am the videographer, essentially, I am the eyes and he is the ears. Believe it or not, all of the music that you hear in the RedBlacks theme music is Lucas! I guided him along what I was hoping to achieve but his talent carried it through to where it is now. He never ceases to amaze me!

From start to finish how long did it take you guys to put the whole thing together?

From start to finish, it took about a day and a half to come up with the musical aspect – Lucas is that talented! Once we established that we wanted to keep it simple enough for anyone to hum along to (and have a hint of 80s rock in there for good measure! – think Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”) we made quick work with the video. The visual aspect took half a day to shoot but two or three solid days to get the edit where I felt it was appealing enough to release on Youtube. So, all in, I would say five days of total time to complete it.

Were you surprised at how quickly the Redblacks and R Nation embraced your song?

In the age of social media, it didn’t surprise me that we would get a few responses for the theme. But the amount of POSITIVE feedback that we have received is ludicrous, especially at this time of year when football is an afterthought for most people focused on hockey. We couldn’t have gotten far without support; R Nation rocks!

Has there been any talk of your song being used at home games next season, and if so what would it mean to you guys?

When I initially thought of the idea for creating the tune, my end goal was to have it used by the team for when the players come out onto the field during home games. If it were to become the ‘official’ theme of the Redblacks, that would be amazing! It would mean a lot to both Lucas and myself as we have wanted to contribute in some small way to the Ottawa community. If it gets people jacked, excited and/or pumped, we have done our job! Hopefully people continue to support it so that it is heard over the sound system at TD Place at Lansdowne.

Are you guys big CFL fans, or was this just a case of being in the right place at the right time?

I wouldn’t say that I am a big CFL fan…yet! Reason being that I don’t like hopping on any other team’s bandwagon and cheering for anyone but Ottawa. I was pretty young when the Rough Riders left in ’96, and the year the Renegades left was when I was hoping to attend my first live football game at Lansdowne. With the announcement that the Redblacks were coming in 2014, I jumped at the chance and got season tickets on the new south side.

Lucas, on the other hand, due to his being visually impaired (many people have expressed shock when we tell them this detail!) is not able to observe sports the same way you or I do. Regardless, he does enjoy supporting his home town teams and maintains a high spirit each and everyday that I have known him.

What’s your favourite Lansdowne memory?

Having missed out on CFL games growing up, my favourite Lansdowne memory would have to be with the 67’s. There was one season (2000-2001 season) where the team went on a tear and won the OHL championship trophy (the J. Ross Robertson Cup). I always enjoyed, at the end of each game, having a chance to meet the players and collect signatures. I still have my signed pennant on the wall from guys such as Jon Zion, Joey Talbot, Zenon Konopka and Brendan Bell.

Which Redblacks player are you most excited to see take the field next year and why?

The Redblacks player that I am most excited to take to the field this coming season would be either Henry Burris or John Delahunt. It will be interesting to see if Burris can shake off both last year’s Grey Cup loss and the expansion woes of a new team. Plus, he seems like such an awesome, likeable guy! John Delahunt was with Hamilton last year and is a local guy who played with the Kanata Knights/Ottawa Sooners – it’s hard to not cheer on a guy from your home town!

How will you follow this song up? Are you guys planning on making any more Redblacks related music?

I would love to follow this theme song up with something else. Some of the comments we have received have been ‘negative’ in that we didn’t make the video funny enough or have ‘creative lyrics.’ That was never the point of this particular theme. It was always about being a predominantly instrumental piece that incorporates the team name in a chant to get both players and fans alike pumped before a game. Maybe eventually we can make a funny chant or something. I would love to make use of the saw blade sound effects for something else! That was a good time incorporating that with the music theme.

Any chance of a parody video in the works?

Chances of a parody video? It might be something fun to do down the line. I would be open to suggestions!

Would you recommend watermelon smashing as a good stress reliever for other Redblacks fans?

Haha, watermelon smashing is definitely a good (yet, costly!) stress reliever for Redblacks fans. Seeing as Saskatchewan is only in town once/twice a season, something else may need to fill in. Stomping on stuffed tiger kitties, perhaps?

Where can people go to check out more of your music?

People can check out more music by going to YouTube and searching “Lucas Haneman” (whom I have helped produce many of his music compilation videos). Here is a link to his channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/LucasHaneman/videos
and here is one of my favourite videos:

I am mostly a video guy but some of my work can be found on YouTube as well under “Nevill Carney”. I split my time in Ottawa/Toronto and work for Discovery on the show “Mighty Ships” while in the Big Smoke.

Thank you very much for your time and I hope to see more Redblacks related songs in the future!

@RedBlackGade