Battle of Alberta QBs Becomes Battle of Ontario

The CFL East final takes place on Sunday between Toronto and Hamilton. Winner advances to the Grey Cup.

The CFL East final takes place on Sunday between Toronto and Hamilton. Winner advances to the Grey Cup.

Hamilton holds edge 165-146

BY: Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime

Everyone in these parts is no doubt familiar with the Battle of Ontario when it comes to the NHL, well how about the Canadian football version of it that is going to take place in two days’ time?

One of the oldest rivalries in sports will add a new chapter to its already long story as the first place Toronto Argonauts host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in what will be the first meeting in the Eastern Final since 1986.  Hamilton took two of three from Toronto and will be looking to book their ticket to Regina.  Meanwhile, the Argos are looking to defend their championship title on the turf where they captured it at SkyDome.

The Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats are about to play in the most important meeting in 27 years as they meet in the Eastern Final for the first time since November 1986.

However, within the Battle of Ontario sits another battle that originated in Alberta.

Ricky Ray and Henry Burris faced each other many times while  members of the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders before both headed East in off-season moves in 2012.

“It’s so ironic that here we are both being moved to the same province to get after each other again”, Burris said Wednesday when asked about the two being reunited in the East Division last year.  “It’s kind of one of those things where you hope you don’t have to see him as much as possible because you are with another team but at the end of the day the rivalry is still here.  He’s a great guy and a great competitor and I always enjoy games against him.”

Ray promptly led his team to a Grey Cup championship while Burris is in his second year of trying to get the Ticats to do the same.

While many anticipate the normal fireworks that come with a Ticats/Argos game, they are too expecting a shootout featuring two of the league’s premier pivots.


Spearheaded by Ray, Toronto had a CFL-record 77.2 per cent completion average. Granted, Ray missed seven games due to injury and was a healthy scratch in another, but when under centre the 34-year-old Californian has shown a deft passing touch that’s very difficult to defend against.

Hamilton counters with an offence that features a three-headed monster at quarterback.

The veteran, Burris, threw for a CFL-high 4,725 yards but head coach Kent Austin wasn’t afraid to give snaps to youngsters Dan LeFevour and Jeremiah Masoli.

“They’re unselfish guys. Team-first guys,” insists Coach Austin.

Burris has always been deemed the starting QB in Hamilton and when he played in Calgary. He is taking on a somewhat different role in Hamilton where he has been taken out of the game at any given point.

“Henry is as good a guy as I have ever coached,” explains Austin. “He understands why we do it, he understands the value of it, like everybody else does. There is no quarterback controversy. Do I expect him to like it all the time? (shrugs shoulders) No. And that’s okay. But what I expect him to do when he’s in the game, is perform.”

Henry is our guy. Henry is our starting quarterback. That’s never changed, just because we have a package for Dan (LeFevour) or Jer (Jeremiah Masoli).”

See Austin’s full interview here:

“Your mindset is always to anticipate being an offensive guy. You always want to play your best game and put up as many points as you can playing a veteran quarterback like Henry,” Ray said. “You go in with that mindset and then once the game starts you get into the flow of that mindset and then just adjust to how it is working out.”

As for the rivalry itself, some of the newcomers on both teams have only had a small taste — especially with Hamilton playing in Guelph this season — but are quickly being brought up to speed by veterans and local media.

“Hamilton being right down the road I am pretty sure they are going to bring a lot of fans, so we just have to come with our A-game and be ready to play.,” said Argos first-year running back Jerious Norwood. “I’m kind of new to this (rivalry), but I’m starting to get that feel.”

Battle of Ontario By The Numbers:

•  Football teams from Hamilton and Toronto have played each other a stunning 321 times since 1907 in one format or another with Hamilton holding an edge of 165 wins to 146, along with 10 ties.
•  Counting the 1914 playoff in the Big Four, a predecessor of the CFL, Hamilton and Toronto will meet in an Eastern Final Sunday for only the ninth time in 99 years of play.
•  The last time they met in the Eastern Final was in 1986, when the Tiger-Cats won (the last divisional final that featured a two-game format) on their way to a Grey Cup victory.
•  From 1907 to 2013, the Argos have played a Hamilton club (the Tigers, Wildcats or Tiger-Cats) 299 times in the regular season and 22 times in the playoffs.
•  Hamilton leads in regular season match ups, 158 wins to 132, with nine ties. In playoff action, the Argos hold the upper hand, winning 14 times to Hamilton’s seven, with one tie.
•  Since 1950, the Argos and Ticats have met seven times in the Eastern Final, with Toronto winning four times and Hamilton winning three.
•  They last met in the playoffs in 2010 and 2004 but in semi-final games.
•  From 1907 to 1949, in the era of the Hamilton Tigers, Toronto and Hamilton met in the post season only once: 99 years ago in a 1914 playoff to break a first place tie. (The first game was called on account of darkness and the Argos won the rematch 11-4 to move on to face the Hamilton Rowing Club.)
•  In regular season play, the Tigers and Argos met 73 times between 1907 and 1947, when the Hamilton club departed for the ORFU, then a rival league. The Wildcats took their place and played Toronto eight times in 1948 and 1949.
•  Since 1950, the Argos and Ticats have faced each other in 218 regular season games.



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