The CFL season is in full swing and before we know it the playoffs, and ultimately the Grey Cup will be upon us.
In the run up to that game in November I thought it might be interesting to do a series on the decade anniversaries of the big game. Staring with 100 years ago, then 90, 80 and so on.
Now it is time for the last in the series – the 10 year anniversary of this year’s big game – the 2009 Grey Cup. An anniversary that will have CFL fans all over thinking of ‘too many men on the field’!
THE RUN UP TO THE GAME
The 2009 season saw Saskatchewan making their eighth successive playoff appearance. During that span they had appeared in 4 Western Finals. They lost 3 of them, but notably won in 2007 on their way to their third ever Grey Cup win.
Historically the Roughriders did not win titles in batches. They had only taken home the trophy in 1966, 1989 & 2007. The chance to win it all again just 2 years after their last triumph was an incredible one for the team and the fans.
Since returning to the CFL in 1996 the Alouettes had been a force in the East. They appeared in the playoffs every year from ’96-2009 whilst compiling a 154-87-1 regular season record.
They appeared in 12 Eastern Finals in 14 years leading up to this game. Prior to 2009 they had won 6 Eastern Finals but lost 5 of the 6 Grey Cups they played in. Their sole title had come in 2002 with a 25-16 win over Edmonton.
Another defeat in the championship game and they would start to look like perennial losers in ‘the big one’. A win and they would have won 2 titles in 8 years and been continually competitive the rest of the way.
GREY CUP PLAYOFFS
Both teams had won their respective divisions during the season. This meant they got to sit at home and wait for the Division Semi-Finals to play out.
In the East the BC Lions were in as a crossover and had beaten the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 34-27 in overtime.
Their ‘reward’ was trip to Montreal who promptly demolished them 56-18. The Als led 17-3 after one, 31-11 at the half, and 45-18 after three. It was a procession to the Cup game for the team with far and away the best record in the league that year.
In the West the Calgary Stampeders defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 24-21 to set up a tilt with Saskatchewan.
That Stamps team would have been highly motivated. They were the defending champions and the Grey Cup was being played on their home field.
That determination could be seen as they took a 10-0 lead over the Riders part way into the second quarter. However Saskatchewan found a way to even things up by halftime in a game being dominated by the D of each team.
Darian Durant threw two touchdowns in the third quarter. That saw Saskatchewan build a 24-11 lead and Calgary never got in front again as the Riders won 27-17.
THE GREY CUP GAME
This game is remembered for the ending more than anything else. With the score at 27-25 in the Riders favour, Montreal kicker Damon Duval stepped up for a 43 yard attempt to win the game. He missed wide right and Saskatchewan started to celebrate.
Except! There was a flag on the field – against Saskatchewan. They had thirteen players on the field during the field goal attempt. Referee Glen Johnson explained, “Illegal substitution, too many men on the field, Saskatchewan. It’s a ten yard penalty, we’ll repeat first down”.
Duval gratefully snatched his second chance with both hands, booting a 33 yard game winner – and the thirteenth man or ‘too many men on the field’ entered CFL folklore.
With that ending it easy to forget that the underdog Riders had dominated the game early. A Fantuz TD catch from Duval and a field goal saw them taking a 10-0 first quarter lead.
2 Field Goals and a single to a lone Field Goal for Montreal saw Saskatchewan 17-3 up at the half.
Montreal fought back with their own touchdown in the third but with 10:52 left in the fourth Saskatchewan had a 16 point lead at 27-11 and looked in control.
Antony Calvillo hit a 43 yard pass that led to running back Avon Cobourne powering in a 3 yard touchdown. A 2 point convert followed and now the score was 27-19.
With 2:34 left the Als converted a 3rd down try before Calvillo hit Ben Cahoon for a touchdown on the same drive. The 2 point convert was missed meaning the Als were 2 down with the end in sight.
Duval came out to try the 43 yard to kick to win it with 5 seconds on the clock. The rest, including ‘too many men n the field’ and an Als Grey Cup win is history.
WHAT CAME NEXT
The 2010 CFL season would see a repeat final with the same result. The Als wold win the Grey Cup once more with a 21-18 win over the Roughriders.
Although Montreal made the playoffs the next few season (2011-2014), they didn’t make it back to the Grey Cup.
The Als went into a slump after that going 21-51 over the next four years. However they recently qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
After their second successive Grey Cup loss to Montreal the Riders went into a two year slump. They more than made up for that however when they won the franchise’s fourth Cup in 2013 with an emphatic 45-23 win over Hamilton.
Since then they have had an up and down few seasons but are currently on a three year run of playoff appearances and looking to make their way back to ‘the big one’.
Banner Image: The Alouettes celebrate their remarkable win. Image from the Toronto Star.