On Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats played the 108th Grey Cup on their own turf. Unfortunately, the team came up short against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the best team in the CFL this year. Even though Hamilton was unable to pull off the upset, the game was arguably the most exciting of the season.
The Tiger-Cats had a lead through three quarters, getting a lot of momentum off two Kameron Kelly interceptions. However, things didn’t go entirely as expected, with starting quarterback Dane Evans suffering an injury in the second quarter. After the game, Evans stated that the injury was not new, and he was trying to play through it as best as he could.
The veteran Jeremiah Masoli took over, and gave the offense new light. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 185 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The interception was what ultimately ended the game, but more on that later. With the Tiger-Cats holding a 22-13 lead in the fourth, Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros led a drive that resulted in a Nic Demski touchdown. With an extra point good and another point scored on the kickoff, the score became 22-21.
Close to the end of the fourth quarter, things really started to get wild. Kicker Sergio Castillo made a field goal to give Winnipeg a 24-22 lead, which was followed by an extremely controversial play. On the following kickoff, Tiger-Cats returner Tim White kneeled in the endzone, giving Winnipeg another point and extending their lead by a full field goal. The decision was questioned by commentators and fans alike, with some assuming that White simply forgot the CFL rules.
With little time left on the clock, Masoli drove the Tiger-Cats all the way down the field, but they were unable to get a touchdown out of it. Winnipeg cornerback Deatrick Nichols had a game-saving play, breaking up a pass intended for Jaelon Acklin. Kicker Michael Domagala sent the game to overtime, tied at 25 a piece.
Winnipeg got the ball first, which resulted in a touchdown by Darvin Adams. After a two-point conversion, the Bombers led 33-25. The Tiger-Cats got the ball back, needing 8 points to keep the game alive. On a long second down, Masoli threw a pick to linebacker Kyrie Wilson, giving Winnipeg the victory.
This loss will be viewed as one of the toughest in Tiger-Cats history. The team came literal inches within a championship, but simply couldn’t get the job done. Had Tim White not kneeled on the kickoff, the game would have likely gone in a different direction. With the CFL rules being reviewed in the offseason, the play will be one of discussion moving forward.
For the Blue Bombers, it was a defining moment in franchise history. The team took down Hamilton in the last Grey Cup, but that was over two years ago. Many were questioning if the long absence would hinder their chances at going back-to-back, but the answer is now clear. Before 2019, Winnipeg hadn’t won a championship in nearly 30 years. Now, they’ve done it twice in a tenth of the time.
With the CFL season at an end, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on everything that’s happened since August. There will be much more news in the coming weeks surrounding coaches, players, and executives, but that shouldn’t be the main focus right now.
Given all the challenges the league faced through the pandemic, it was a feel-good moment to end up at this point. There are definitely some glaring issues that need to be addressed, but 2022 couldn’t come sooner. Canadian football is back, and hopefully it won’t have to leave again.