City of Champions Once Again

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The 103rd Grey Cup was a battle between the best teams in the league just like a championship should be as the top two teams in the regular season faced off for the last game.

That is far from where their similarities end though as both of these teams had fan bases waiting a long time to see their team back in the championship.

For Edmonton it was a 10-year wait since their last time winning the Grey Cup, a long time for a CFL franchise and even longer for a team from the City of Champions.

Yet since 2005 they had struggled to get back to their winning ways even sinking to the bottom of the west in 2011 and 2012.

That rough patch ended when the Eskimos hired two-time Grey Cup champion as the defensive coordinator for the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders, Chris Jones.

The season that Jones joined the Eskimos the turnaround was underway as they finished second to their provincial rivals and came one game short of making the Grey Cup.

This year that turnaround took another step as they were able to beat the Stampeders twice and then again in the western championship.

They came into the Grey Cup with a chance to complete the turnaround in only two years and win their first Grey Cup since 2005.

To do that they had to take on a team with a little bit longer of a wait for a championship in the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

The REDBLACKS are the third attempt at a professional football franchise in the CFL and that long history had football fans in Ottawa waiting since 1976 for a championship.

They seemed like they were going to wait longer after the first season of the new franchise ended with only two wins.

It seemed like it could have been a long wait until the 2015 off-season saw the REDBLACKS revamp their team.

Those additions, specifically in the receiving, corps helped Henry Burris to the best season of his career at the age of 40.

He led the league in passing and won the MOP while having four receivers reach 1,000 yards, an accomplishment that had never been done before.

Burris was riding high into the playoffs and beat Hamilton three times on their way to the Grey Cup where they looked to complete the greatest turnaround in CFL history.

As much as these teams were similar they went about their season in different ways.

The REDBLACKS were the offensive powerhouse with a great passing game and a pretty good defence that ranked first in stopping the run.

The Eskimos were the best defence in the league with an offence that was just coming into their own at the end of the season thanks to the return of Mike Reilly.football-sidebar

That matchup of offence against defence was the focus of the lead-up to the Grey Cup as many wondered if the Eskimos could cover all of the great receivers or if defence truly does win championships.

When the game started it seemed like defence was not going to win this championship as the REDBLACKS came out to a quick start.

Burris threw all over the field on the first drive of the game and marched the REDBLACKS to a quick 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff the Eskimos fumbled the ball giving the REDBLACKS a short field which Burris once again took advantage of putting the REDBLACKS up 13-0 after a missed extra point.

The Eskies finally got on the board after Burris threw an interception in Ottawa’s third drive of the game and Reilly took the chance throwing a touchdown to Adarius Bowman.

From that point on it was all about the defences as neither team found the endzone again with what looked like a shootout turning into a defensive struggle.

Both teams added field goals and singles until the fourth quarter when the Eskimos got the ball back down 20-18 with six and a half minutes left.

They looked to march on a late game drive and received plenty of help from the Ottawa defensive backs.

On their third play they gained 28-yards after Abdul Kanneh was called for pass interference.

The next play saw the Eskimos go deep again for an incomplete pass but after the play Jones took a timeout to look at the play and eventually decided to challenge for pass interference.

The challenge was successful as the Eskimos gained 37 yards on pass interference putting them inside the ten yard line.

After two massive calls, both were correct, the Eskimos were ready to drive the ball home which they did two plays later going ahead for the second time in the game.

From that point the Eskimos league-leading defence went to work shutting down Burris and the REDBLACKS who punted with hopes of getting the ball back.

They never would as the Eskimos got two first downs and ran out the clock to take home the 103rd Grey Cup.

The REDBLACKS fell just short of the greatest turnaround in CFL history and the future is a bit of a mystery after setting the bar high in their second season.

For the Eskimos it was the culmination of a quick rebuild under Jones and a return to winning in Edmonton.

It is also another step in what could be a great time in the Battle of Alberta as the last two years have seen Albertan teams take home the top prize.

Calgary and Edmonton are only going to continue battling with two young quarterbacks that now both have Grey Cup MOP Awards.

As they continue to battle in the west the east looks to finally win a championships in 2016 when the Grey Cup moves back east for the first time since 2012.

That was the last time an eastern team won the Grey Cup and with the conclusion of the 2015 season the preparation for 2016 begins as the west tries to keep the streak going and the east tries to take home field advantage.

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