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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
The celebration, the trade, the concern
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - Week 1 of the CFL season is in the books and while it was memorable in many ways, the result of one game may be causing some concern at the league office.

- Friday night, Geroy Simon of the BC Lions became the CFL's all-time receiving yards leader, when he hauled in a 56-yard pass from Travis Lulay at the 4:57 mark of the fourth quarter in a Grey Cup rematch against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Lions beat the Bombers easily, 33-16.

Ironically, Simon began his CFL career with Winnipeg in 1999.

The native of Johnstown, Pa., had five catches for 195 yards, but it was the final one that became a record-setter.

With the catch, Simon now has 15,192 receiving yards, which eclipsed the record set by former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Milt Stegall, 15,153.

Simon's numbers are truly remarkable. He has 161 consecutive games with at least one catch, 98 receiving touchdowns and 61 games with at least 100 receiving yards.

Stegall, commissioner Mark Cohon and several members of Simons' family were in attendance for the record-breaker, including his father Geroy Allen and his son Gervon, who will be attending West Point Military Academy this fall.

Once the record was set, the game was halted for 10 minutes. After Cohon, Stegall and BC general manager Wally Buono spoke, Simon grabbed the mike and gave an emotional speech.

"I want to thank the Winnipeg organization because you guys gave me my first opportunity," Simon said.

Classy words from a classy person.

- Saturday night, all eyes were on Commonwealth Stadium to see the Edmonton Eskimos host the Toronto Argonauts in the return of Ricky Ray to Edmonton. Ray was traded to Toronto in the offseason for Steven Jyles.

The Eskimos beat the Argos, 19-15. Ray completed 29-of-39 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown, while Jyles was 21-for-36 for 236 yards.

While the numbers for Ray may look impressive, they could have been better. Ray was sacked three times and was pressured constantly by the Edmonton defense. What didn't help the Argos' cause were 18 penalties.

Still, Toronto had a chance to win the game when it had the ball on its 19-yard line with 2:09 left. In six plays, Ray moved the offense down to the Edmonton 37, but on 3rd-and-7 Chad Owens was tackled after a 4-yard gain and the Argos came up short.

After the game, Ray said, "We made some plays to get it closer. They made us throw underneath on a few plays and rallied up and made some good tackles." Right now, early advantage to Edmonton.

- The opening weekend wrapped up on July 1, Canada Day, when the Montreal Alouettes visited Calgary.

The game telecast opened with a spine-tingling video, "It Reflects Us All," which featured the music of "Gift Shop" by the Tragically Hip, and narration from Kiefer Sutherland. The video paid tribute to the 100th Grey Cup, which will be played this year in Toronto.

In a touch of sweet irony, a Canadian-born player playing in his first-ever CFL game scored the opening touchdown. Calgary safety Keenan MacDougall, from the University of Saskatchewan, scooped up a fumble and ran 63 yards for the score.

Then another homegrown player, Jon Cornish, from New Westminster, British Columbia, who attended Kansas, took over and racked up 86 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns en route to Calgary's 38-10 victory.

Calgary quarterback Drew Tate, completed 25-of-35 passes for 299 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while Montreal's Anthony Calvillo went 16- for-31 for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Stamps defense made Calvillo look old, slow and tentative while the Montreal defense, led by new coordinator Jeff Reinbold, didn't appear to be in synch.

"It was just a pathetic performance on us, especially myself," Calvillo said. "We've got to accept that and move on. It doesn't matter what we did the year before. We've got to come back and perform this year and today we didn't do it."

Many CFL observers are wondering if they have the personnel to do that.

- In an absolute shocker, the Saskatchewan Roughriders destroyed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 43-16, Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Receiver Weston Dressler caught 13 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. But it was one of those catches that raised some eyebrows, and evoked a lot of discussion.

With Saskatchewan up 7-6 in the second quarter, the Riders were in a 2nd-and-16 situation with the ball at their 29. Quarterback Darian Durant threw a pass to Dressler, who initially appeared to trap it.

Dressler kept going and the result was a 52-yard gain which led to a Chris Getzlaf touchdown and a 14-6 lead, and the rout was on. To their credit, the Riders quickly ran the next play before the challenge flag could be thrown.

What had most observers scratching their heads was the obvious question: Why didn't head coach George Cortez challenge the call?

"Because we didn't get a view upstairs till after next play," he explained after the game. "The one I saw on the video board, his back was to the camera and you couldn't see the ball. In hindsight, we should have challenged it."

Meantime, Andy Fantuz, the biggest free-agent signing in the offseason, left Hamilton fans feeling a little concerned with his post-game statements.

"We got whooped in the second half, pretty much flat out," he said. "It's a good wake-up call for us because maybe we thought we were better than we are."

The statements from Cortez and Fantuz appear to indicate the Tiger-Cats weren't prepared.

Hamilton fans have a right to be more than a little concerned. A familiar pattern is recurring. Since 2004, Hamilton is 0-8 in season openers.

It doesn't get easier as the Tiger-Cats' next game is Friday night, when they visit the Grey Cup champion BC Lions.

Heading into this season, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said $1 million in league funding would be made available for marketing and grassroots initiatives in Southern Ontario for both the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats.

The fact that the home opener for the final season at Ivor Wynne Stadium wasn't close to being sold out, and the poor performance by the Tiger-Cats, means right now, the CFL's return on investment in Hamilton is zero.

Couple that with the still unanswered question of where the Tiger-Cats will play next year and I'm sure the league brass will ask the Tiger-Catd executives one question:

What is going on?

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

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