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Way Back Wednesday: 1976

12/02/2020, 10:00pm PST
By Ryan Watters (@ryan2tswatters)

The Year of the Dragon...and the Rams

What a year for sport in Canada in 1976 as Montreal became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Games in July.

The year was a leap year, which began on a Thursday and the CJFL kicked off with four Conferences and 31 teams.  The Ontario Conference itself had three divisions and 13 teams, the Manitoba Conference had four, the Alberta Junior Conference tallied eight and had teams from Saskatchewan and the BC Conference had six strong.  It’s interesting to note only one team finished the season undefeated; the Ottawa Sooners were 8-0 but lost in the Conference semi-final.

In the “Year of the Dragon” the road to the Canadian Bowl featured four Conference champions:

Ontario Football Conference – Hamilton Hurricanes defeated the Verdun Maple Leafs in a best of three series.

Manitoba Junior Football Conference – St. Vital Mustangs also beat the Winnipeg Hawkeyes in a best of three series

Alberta Junior Football League – Regina Rams beat the Edmonton Wildcats 62-28

Big Four Football (BC Conference) – Vancouver Meralomas shutout the North Shore Cougars 24-0

During the 1976 playoffs the CJFL featured a pair of Inter-Conference semi-finals to determine who would play for the Armadale Cup (known today as the Canadian Bowl).  The Ontario champion Hurricanes pounded the Manitoba champion Mustangs 23-8 to advance, then the Alberta champion Rams dominated the BC champion Meralomas 48-0 to set a date with the Hurricanes.

The national championship Armadale Cup was played on November 13, 1976 in front of an incredible 10,000 fans in Regina.  The Rams used the big crowd energy to perfection and crushed the Hurricanes 45-23.  The victory marked the second straight season defeating the Hurricanes in the national championship game.  In four 1976 playoff games the Rams’ defence pitched a pair of shutouts.

Off the field in 1976 the Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  The CN Tower in Toronto opened its doors in June and Rocky was the top grossing movie of the year, knocking out the competition with $55,900,000 earned at the box office.

The first laser printer was also introduced in 1976 by IBM and Wings had the top song on the Billboard Charts with “Silly Love Songs.”

Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister watching the Montreal Canadians sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in four games to win the Stanley Cup.  The Toronto Blue Jays were created in ’76, then played their first game the following season.    

Back on the gridiron it was a battle of the Roughriders in the 64th Grey Cup when the Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 23-20 in Toronto.  Some experts still say this was the most thrilling Grey Cup.    Meanwhile down south the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl 10.

That was the year of 1976!

Canadian Bowl Classics

11/26/2020, 8:15am PST
By Ryan Watters (@ryan2tswatters)

Hilltops-Rams Part 1 - 2012

Photo courtesy of AllSportMedia.ca

The Saskatoon Hilltops and Langley Rams have met four times this decade in the Canadian Bowl, the Hilltops winning all four meetings including back to back in 2018 and 2019.

The first time they went head to head was in 2012 and the game became a CJFL Canadian Bowl Classic.  It was played in Langley on November 10th and with a massive second half the Hilltops came back to win 23-21.

After a scoreless first quarter the Rams would break the tie in the second frame as quarterback Greg Bowcott hooked up with Malcolm Williams on a 16 yard strike.  However the lead was short lived as the Hilltops would come right back on their next drive finished off by Zach Schmidt and an 18 yard field goal. 

Eight minutes later Schmidt again would kick another field goal, this time from 32 yards out to bring the Hilltops within one.

Before the end of the half Bowcott connected with Michael Patko for a 73 yard catch and run for a touchdown and the Rams led at halftime 14-6.

Coming out of half the Rams kept pouring it on, just four minutes into the third running back Daniel Xavier would punch it in from a yard out to extend their lead to 21-6.

On their next possession however the Rams started to come unglued.  Nick Downey fumbled which completely changed the momentum of the game.  Mike Waldron recovered the fumble and returned it to the five yard line before Hilltops running back Andre Lalonde scored their first touchdown on the very next play making the score 21-13.

Then in the fourth, Schmidt connected on his third field goal from 30 yards out before quarterback Matt Karpinka found Graham Unruh for a 40 yard catch and run for a touchdown.  That gave the Hilltops their first lead of the game, one they would not relinquish.

Unruh made six catches for a game high 208 yards and a major and was named the Offensive Player of the Game.

Karpinka finished with just six completions for 123 yards and a score.  He would platoon with rookie Jared Andreychuk who finished 4 of 11 for 69 yards.

Defensively the Toppers were led by the Defensive Player of the Game Dylan Kemp. He tied a Canadian Bowl record with 11 solo tackles.  Prairie Conference Defensive Player of the Year that season was Ben Cressman who finished the title game with five solo tackles and had an interception.

The victory was the Hilltops 16th national championship which at that time moved them one head of the Regina Rams for the most national titles in Canadian Junior Football League history.

Each of the next three Hilltops-Rams national title games has been equally exciting, but the game in 2012 stands out as a Canadian Bowl Classic.

Way Back Wednesday: 1987

11/25/2020, 9:00am PST
By Ryan Watters (@ryan2tswatters)

The Regina Rams captured their second straight title

At the beginning of the 1987 season, there were 29 teams across five different Conferences in the CJFL.

Incredibly of those 29 teams, seven of them finished with just one loss.  It showed just how well balanced the CJFL was in the “Year of the Rabbit.”

The road to the Canadian Bowl started with the Conference winners, who were:

BCFC – Okanagan Sun
PFC – Regina Rams
MJFC – St. Vital Mustangs
OFC – Windsor AKO Fratmen
QMJFC – North Shore Broncos

To determine the final two teams to play for national gold, three Inter-Conference playoff games need to be played.  The Rams were the first team to punch their ticket to the Canadian Bowl, which they would host after a 45-23 win over the Sun.  

Meanwhile the Ontario champion Fratmen disposed of the Quebec champion Broncos 24-6, but then were pounded by the Manitoba champion Mustangs 52-14.  That victory advanced the Mustangs to face the Rams in the national championship game.

In 1987 the CJFL trophy was called the Armadale Cup, which was played in Regina on November 15th in front of 7,492 screaming fans.  The Rams made sure they would continue to scream with a 31-23 victory to claim the national title on home soil.  It was the Rams second straight championship and fourth of the decade.

The night before the big game the CJFL handed out some hardware at the Banquet of Champions.  David Wheeler of the Winnipeg Hawkeyes was named the Offensive Player of the Year while Ian Gordon of Victoria Payless was named the Defensive Player of the Year.

Off the field in 1987, Three Men and a Baby was the top grossing movie at the box office collecting $167,780,960.  It starred Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg.  Meanwhile The Bangles, Walk Like an Egyptian was at the top of the Billboard Charts.  Speaking of music, U2 released Joshua Tree while Michael Jackson released “Bad” and Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In the 75th Grey Cup in Vancouver, Edmonton scored 17-fourth quarter points and beat Toronto 38-36.  As a matter of fact the City of Edmonton celebrated another sports championship in ‘87 when the Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games to win the Stanley Cup.  Down south the New York Giants took down the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl 21.  

Finally, there was an animated television showed that made its debut as a short on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, and you may recognize this show as it still airs new episodes here in 2020; The Simpsons.

That was the year of 1987!

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