The CFL playoffs begin this weekend with the divisional semi-finals. While the Grey Cup game itself generates the most interest, the playoffs leading up to the Great Canadian Party tend to be overlooked. With that in mind, I will take a look back at some of the best playoff games that either have been forgotten, or need more attention. Here’s a look at the five best Western Semifinal games in my lifetime.
1977: B.C. 33 Winnipeg 32
The 1977 B.C. Lions were called the Cardiac Kids by members of the Canadian media. Throughout the 1977 season, the Lions led by quarterback Jerry Tagge had 4 come-from-behind victories, winning those games in dramatic fashion. In the Western Semifinal against Winnipeg, the Lions had to hang on for the win as defensive back Joe Fourqueran made a spectacular defensive play as he tipped a Ralph Brock pass away from speedy receiver Mike Holmes to preserve the win. The rain-soaked fans at Empire Stadium roared with delight as the Bombers could only wonder what might have been.
1986: B.C. 21 Winnipeg 14
When the Lions jumped out to an early 21-0 lead, this game looked like it would be a blowout. But the Bombers fought back and were within a touchdown in the dying minutes. With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bombers were down at the B.C. 1 yard line. The first two attempts failed. On third down, the Bombers gambled. Instead of running a quarterback sneak, John Hufnagel handed off to seldom used running back Sean Kehoe. The result was a disaster for Winnipeg. Kehoe fumbled and B.C. recovered. The Lions ran off the rest of the clock to preserve the win. The Bombers were left at the altar while the Lions enjoyed the spoils.
1992: Edmonton 22 Saskatchewan 20
Dave Ridgeway is considered one of the best kickers in CFL history. No fan of the Saskatchewan Roughriders will ever forget his game-winning 35 yard field goal in the 1989 Grey Cup game. However, in the 1992 West Semifinal, Ridgeway had his moment of ignominy. When Sean Fleming hit a 44 yard field goal with 21 seconds left, it looked like the Eskimos had the game in the bag. But the Riders quickly drove down the field, to set up the reliable Ridgeway for the game-winning kick. However, the turf at Commonwealth Stadium reared its ugly head, as Ridgeway slipped on the frozen tundra as he attempted the field goal. The ball went meekly into the pile and the Riders were left stunned. Even the best have their bad days.
2010: Saskatchewan 41 B.C. 38 (OT)
An absolute classic in Regina. After a low scoring first half that saw the Lions take a 16-7 lead, the second half saw an awakening in the Riders offence. Saskatchewan built a 27-20 lead late in the fourth quarter until the Lions struck. On the final play of regulation, quarterback Travis Lulay found Emmanuel Arcenoux in the end zone from 29 yards out on a Hail Mary pass to force overtime. Both teams traded touchdowns on their first possessions in the extra period. B.C. were held to a field goal on their second possession. The Riders responded with Darien Durant finding former Lion slotback Jason Cleremont from 24 yards out, sending the partisan Roughrider crowd into a frenzy. This is arguably the best football game ever played at Mosaic Stadium/Taylor Field.
2012: Calgary 36 Saskatchewan 30
A chilly, icy day in the Stampede City didn’t hinder the Stamps or Riders in this thrilling encounter. Both teams traded punches throughout the game with an everything you can do, I can do better. Rider quarterback Darien Durant and Stamps signal caller Drew Tate were having phenomenal games as the tension mounted. The Stamps had a 10 point in the fourth quarter, but Durant found Greg Carr not once, but twice in the end zone to give the Riders a 1 point lead with only 52 seconds remaining. But Tate had one more miracle left. Thanks to some horrible coverage by the Riders secondary in which the safety failed to rotate over, Tate found Romby Bryant open down the sideline. Bryant raced 68 yards for the winning touchdown, as MacMahon Stadium went crazy. Just another day in the CFL.
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