Calgary finally won the CFL title in its third straight appearance; the Stampeders lost 39-33 in overtime to Ottawa in 2016 before dropping a 27-24 decision last year to the Toronto Argonauts. It's the franchise's eighth Grey Cup and its first since 2014.
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell — the CFL's most outstanding player this season after tossing a league-best 35 TDs — was the game MVP with two touchdown passes but also two interceptions.
"It feels surreal," Mitchell said. "I know we talked that [the two previous losses] didn't mean anything but we couldn't make the game bigger than it was. We had to understand that this was one game and you can only win one game and win only one Grey Cup.
"I think the guys who were on those two teams, even on the team last year, the emotions at the 30-second mark kind of hit. It wasn't about redemption against anybody else or the league … it felt like as an organization we've been at the top too much not to finish the job. It feels amazing to get it done for the city of Calgary."
Stampeders receiver Lemar Durant was named the outstanding Canadian with four catches for 30 yards and a TD and a 22-yard run.
"It's huge, it's like a 100-pound weight lifted off me," Durant said. "Growing up, all you want to do is be a champion and to have those chances and let them slip out of your hands and think like you might not get a shot at this. There's been people in this league 10-plus years and never get a chance. To be able to come back and just get that is huge."
Mitchell finished 24-for-36 passing for 253 yards. Redblacks counterpart Trevor Harris had a rough night, going 20-for-38 for 288 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
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Ottawa — in its third Grey Cup in four years — appeared to score on Greg Ellingson's acrobatic one-handed grab in the fourth quarter but replays showed the ball hit the turf. The Redblacks ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Calgary seven-yard line with just over eight minutes remaining.
In the dying moments of the second quarter, the Ottawa Redblacks punted the ball away trailing 14-11. Williams, the Stampeders running back who hadnt played since November 3rd, returned the punt for a 97-yard touchdown.
After Ottawa turned the ball over on downs again, Calgary's Jamar Wall and Tre Roberson followed up with interceptions on consecutive Redblacks possessions. Roberson's pick came with 1:22 to play.
The implications the touchdown had on the game was paramount. Rather than heading into half-time up by a field goal, Williams effort broke the game open and turned it into a two-score contest.
A Commonwealth Stadium gathering of 55,819 watched the opening kickoff in 1 C conditions with an 11 kilometre-an-hour wind. But the field in Edmonton proved to be the story of the game.
On Saturday, several Calgary players said the turf was hard and slippery and footwear would be important. During the pre-game warmups, many Stampeders wore shoes featuring short, traditional turf cleats or those with a flat rubber sole.
"It's alright, it is what it is," he said before the game. "It's the CFL."
The release also states that an estimated 500,000 CFL fans from coast to coast arrived in Edmonton to take in the big game, festival, awards and other fantastic events. It is expected to bring an economic boom of approximately $80 million to the local economy by the end of the festivities.
But it became apparent early footing would be an issue. That was especially clear with 38 seconds left in the first quarter when Williams had both feet slip from beneath him while returning a missed 47-yard Lewis Ward field goal try.
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Rene Paredes put Calgary ahead 27-14 with a 29-yard field goal at 2:54 of the fourth. It was set up by Wynton McManis's recovery of Diontae Spencer's fumble on a punt return at the Ottawa 25-yard line.
Calgary went into the fourth leading 24-14 thanks to Paredes's 34-yard field goal at 11:24 of the third. It came after Ward's 41-yard boot at 7:56.
Julian Feoli-Gudino had Ottawa's touchdown. Jean-Christophe Beaulieu added a two-point convert while Ward booted two field goals.
Williams provided the first half's biggest play, a Grey Cup-record 97-yard punt return TD at 14:59 of the second. After taking the ball, Williams nearly slipped heading upfield but an Ottawa defender engaged with a blocker slid on by, allowing Williams to hit the open field, then run past punter Richie Leone to put Calgary ahead 21-11.
"I thought I was gonna bust my butt for a second but I caught myself, saw an opening and hit it full speed," Williams said. "It was big, we needed the spark. We were battling all game and needed to make it happen and that we did."
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Williams provided the entertainment factor in an otherwise sloppy opening half. The two teams combined for four turnovers (three picks and a fumble), some ugly drops and eight punts.
The team from the East is the Ottawa Redbacks (must be in the top 10 for worst names for a sports team, I liked it better when 2 of the leagues 9 teams were named Roughriders. I mean it works in the Premiership, where many of the teams are called United), who are playing in their third Grey Cup in the past four years. And they won it in 2016, over the Stampeders.
Ottawa's most consistent offensive weapon was William Powell, who ran nine times for 58 yards while sporting bring neon orange shoes before changing to white ones at halftime. But the CFL's second-leading rusher also had a costly fumble at the Calgary 28 in the second to end a Redblacks' scoring threat with the team trailing 14-3.
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Ottawa pulled to within five at 14-9 on Harris's 55-yard TD strike at 12:45 to Feoli-Gudino, who broke two tackles after the catch. Harris then found Beaulieu on the two-point convert.
Mitchell put Calgary ahead 14-3 with a 17-yard TD strike to Durant at 6:50. It came two plays after Durant dropped a wide-open screen pass.
Ward — the CFL's top rookie and special teams player this season — connected from 30 yards out at 2:28 after a rare miss from 47 yards out in the first. Ward made 51-of-52 field goals this regular season, including a record 48 straight that will carry over into 2019.
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Jackson's 21-yard TD catch opened the scoring at 10:46 of the first. With Ottawa coming on a blitz, Jackson took Mitchell's screen pass and scored easily.
“This is a situation where words cannot express how we feel,” said Edmonton Eskimos president, CEO and 2018 Grey Cup co-chair Len Rhodes. “Edmonton and the entire nation have set a new standard of how to celebrate the Grey Cup together.”
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Jada Allibhai, 10, left, helps carry the Grey Cup into Commonwealth Stadium with Jeff McWhinney from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame prior to the start of the Grey Cup, in Edmonton Sunday November 25, 2018. Photo by David Bloom David Bloom / Postmedia
It was the goal when the organizers announced the event months ago and now the 2018 edition of the Grey Cup is officially sold out.
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Moments after the Calgary Stampeders emerged as Grey Cup victors Sunday evening, defeating the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16, jubilant Stamps fan Schell put aside the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry for a moment to concede the host city had showed him a good time.
“I was worried right to the end, because until the last couple seasons, they’ve choked right at the end,” he said of his team.
“Oh my God, it was so awesome,” said Sharron, who travelled from Whitecourt for the bash. She was walking down the street, ready to find other fans to celebrate with.
CFL fans proudly displayed their devotion for their teams in Commonwealth Stadium stands, including the Grey Cup “Fun police,” who sported matching helmets and badges to ensure merriment standards were upheld.
Football fans hoist a homemade cup topped with a toy horse before first half CFL football action between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Calgary Stampeders at the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS
EDMONTON — Vancouver native Lemar Durant has been named the Most Valuable Canadian in the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.
Stampeders fans hoisted a tin foil replica Grey Cup with a toy horse on top, a Redblacks fan wore plaid face paint in team colours, and a man dressed in an inflatable football costume ambled around the stadium.
Partway through the second quarter, Bo Levi Mitchell connected with Durant to extend the Stampeders early lead to ten points.
At a tailgate party Sunday afternoon where the crowd walked the Grey Cup from the Expo Centre to Commonwealth Stadium, Manitoba resident Phil Paulicelli was a standout in his Winnipeg Blue Bombers gear.
Paulicelli, who says he’s been to 10 Grey Cups since 1982, said the hospitality in Edmonton was warm, and he found the LRT to be a handy way to get around. Paulicelli also thought the weather was an improvement on past cups he’s attended — notably, a particularly chilly cup in Winnipeg in 1991, when the mercury plunged to -16 C.
That year, while outside, he and his friends had painted their bodies red for the Calgary Stampeders, but when they went inside for a pre-game event, the paint wouldn’t dry.
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A Calgary Stampeders fan prior to first half CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks at the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Bound to be disappointed is Paul Andrusek, who travelled to Edmonton from Ottawa with his family to cheer on the Redblacks.
On Sunday afternoon, he said the pre-game festival events have been “fantastic,” but the best part of the day would be when the Redblacks win the cup. They didn’t.
“I’ve been to 14 Grey Cups and it’s the best setup I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Calgary fan Brian McCue and Ottawa fan Keith Graves ham it up prior to the start of the 106th Grey Cup between the Ottawa Redblacks and Calgary Stampeders at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. David_Bloom David Bloom / David Bloom/Postmedia
Sharron said she was surprised by the variety of activities for different ages that were offered at the Grey Cup Festival on Jasper Avenue.
Peter and Leanne Hughes, who brought their infant son Wyatt, said the celebration was worth the trip from Westlock, even though they’re Eskimos fans. They’d met people from across the country and around the world, Peter Hughes said.
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“I’ve been to Grey Cups in Toronto, and this one, it’s a lot friendlier. A lot more community,” he said.