The CFL playoffs continue this weekend with the divisional 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 are the top 5 Western Finals in CFL History.
1982: Edmonton 24 Winnipeg 21
This one is an absolute heartbreaker for Bomber fans. My 9-year-old self was bawling after this game. 1982 was supposed to be the year of the Bombers. Led by strong-armed quarterback Dieter Brock, the Bombers were expected to end the Eskimo dynasty that had ruled the CFL since 1978. However, the Eskimos defeated the Bombers in Winnipeg late in the season to wrap up first place in the West. When the two teams collided in the Western Final in Edmonton, it was expected to be a classic. The Bombers dominated the game in terms of time of possession and yardage. But the Bombers failed to capitalize on red zone opportunities. Kicker Trevor Kennerd had an awful game for the Bombers, missing 2 short field goals in the fourth quarter. However, it was defensive end John Helton who wore the goat horns. Late in the fourth quarter with the Bombers leading 21-17, Warren Moon dropped back to pass on a third down gamble. The pass fluttered to the ground and it looked like the Bombers were going to win. However, a late flag was thrown as Moon was levelled well after the pass was thrown. Helton was called for roughing the passer, keeping the Eskimos alive. Jim Germany rumbled in from 3 yards out, giving the Eskimos the victory. Helton, who is in the CFL Hall of Fame, played his final game and left in infamy.
1991: Calgary 38 Edmonton 36
The Battle of Alberta has produced some of the greatest games in CFL history. Prior to the 1991 Western Final, the Eskimos had dominated the Stampeders, making this rivalry somewhat one-sided. This game would change the landscape of the rivalry. The Eskimos held a 33-18 lead going into the fourth quarter but the Stamps started to gain momentum in the final frame. With just 1:02 remaining, Stamps quarterback Danny Barrett found Pee Wee Smith streaking down the sidelines. Barrett fired an absolutely perfect pass to Smith, who raced by the Eskimo defender, into the end zone and eventually out of the stadium as Smith didn’t stop running. It was a memorable moment in a memorable game. The Stamps not only defeated their long time nemesis, they established dominance in the Western Division usurping their hated provincial rivals.
1992: Calgary 23 Edmonton 22
You know a game is good when it has a nickname. The 1992 Western Final will forever be known as the “One Shoe Game.” In front of a record crowd at McMahon Stadium, the Stamps were trailing 22-16 with under two minutes remaining. Quarterback Doug Flutie engineered a flawless drive in bitterly cold conditions all the way to the Edmonton 3 yard line. With just 19 seconds remaining Flutie called for a quarterback bootleg. As he was rolling out, Flutie lost his shoe while trying to cut to the outside. Somehow, Flutie managed to maintain his balance on the icy turf and dove in for the winning touchdown. McMahon Stadium went wild as fireworks exploded overhead. The fate of the missing shoe is cause for folklore in the Stampede City.
1994: BC 37 Calgary 36
A shocking upset. The Stamps had the best record in the CFL, going 15-3 in 1994. They were huge favourites going into the Western Final against the underdog Lions. The Stamps scored 698 points that season which was and still is a CFL record. Only overconfidence could stop the Stampeders. Fans felt overconfident. A small crowd at McMahon Stadium didn’t give the Stamps much of a home field advantage. The weather didn’t help either. A cold, snowy day graced Calgary that fateful Sunday afternoon and the weather did play a factor. It was well-known in CFL circles that Doug Flutie did not care for playing in inclement weather. Even though he was a star at Boston College, where he played a fair share of games in lousy conditions, Flutie wasn’t thrilled when the snow started to fly. The snow started coming down in the fourth quarter and Flutie’s effectiveness started to wane. Meanwhile, the Lions made a quarterbacking change as Danny McManus came in to relive Kent Austin of his duties. McManus adjusted to the weather beautifully as he led the Lions on a late drive down 36-31. On the game’s final play, McManus found Darren Flutie, (yes, Doug’s brother) in the end zone from 4 yards out, giving the Lions a shocking victory. The Stamps went home as the best team in CFL history not to win a Grey Cup.
2004: BC 27 Saskatchewan 25 (OT)
The game that changed the life of kicker Paul McCallum. Before we get to him, the rest of the game had many stories to tell on its own merit. It looked like the Lions would blow out the Riders when Casey Printers found Ryan Thelwell for a long touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage. But the Riders bounced right back and took a 14-7 lead at halftime. The teams traded scoring plays throughout the game, as the crowd at B.C. Place grew nervous. Rider quarterback Henry Burris was having a career game as he ended up with 416 passing yards. With just 6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Lions kicker Duncan O’Mahoney hit a clutch 47 yard field goal to force overtime. The Riders got the ball first and drove down to field goal range. In came McCallum and his life change. The Riders kicker had attempted a chip shot 18 yard field goal. Even though the angle was somewhat acute, it should have been a sure three points. Instead, McCallum was wide left on the attempt only giving the Riders a rouge. The Lions took over and O’Mahoney responded with a 40 yard field goal, sending the Lions faithful into a frenzy. McCallum took the blame for the loss and the frustration from Rider fans. When the team arrived back in Regina, McCallum noticed his house had been vandalized and manure was spread all over his front yard. His family was the subject of death threats as well. Ironically McCallum signed with the Lions in time for the 2006 season.
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