One of the more unusual plays possible in the CFL happened in Sunday's West semifinal between the Calgary Stampeders and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and it proved pivotal. Late in the first half, the Riders notched a touchdown and led 16-14 before the convert, making it likely they'd go into the break with a three-point lead. Then, this happened:
As you can see there, the snap from Riders' centre Dominic Picard was a bit high. Holder J.T. O'Sullivan (yes, the former NFL quarterback and famed Kissing Suzy Kolber target) managed to get it down for kicker Sandro DeAngelis, but Stamps' all-everything linebacker Keon Raymond was able to get there and block the kick, and Calgary defensive back Fred Bennett then recovered the loose ball and raced the length of the field to the Riders' end zone. In the CFL, that's worth two points (reasonable, as the most the offensive team can get on a convert is two points, so levelling the stakes seems logical), and it created a three-point swing, creating a 16-16 tie instead of a 17-14 Saskatchewan lead.
That swing proved rather critical, especially considering what happened next. There were only 12 seconds left on the clock at the kickoff (the clock doesn't run during conversion attempts), nine after the return (to the Calgary 37), and normally many teams would take a knee in that situation and get to the half. Perhaps the Stampeders were emboldened by Bennett's play, though. Here's what they did next:
Yes, star Stamps' RB Jon Cornish raced to the Saskatchewan 45 and went down with one second left, and that allowed kicker Rene Paredes to come out. Paredes led the league with a 93 per cent success rate on field goals this year, but his season-long make was from 46 yards. This was from 50, and into the wind. Here's what happened:
That barely made it through (Riders' slotback/returner Weston Dressler was on hand to prevent a single if it missed, and he caught the ball just after it went through the uprights), but it did, and that gave Calgary a 19-16 lead heading into the half. Combine the three points from the field goal with the three-point swing on the convert and you get six points, the Stampeders' eventual margin of victory (they won 36-30). Of course, Romby Bryant's late touchdown was critical too, as was Calgary's strong play throughout, but it's not difficult to make the case that their victory started with Raymond, Bennett and the blocked conversion. It was a great highlight, and it proved to be a pivotal moment, one that determined that the Stampeders would move on to next week's West Final against B.C., while the Riders' season would end despite their valiant efforts. (It's also notable that Raymond came up with an interception on Saskatchewan's final-seconds Hail Mary. Good day for him.)