The start of the CFL season brings many familiar Mountaineer names with it. In the first week of the CFL Preseason, two names stood out while others made nice contributions.
Steve Slaton and the Toronto Argonauts kicked off preseason action last Monday with a 24-22 win over Winnipeg. Slaton scored twice in his Canadian début: once on the ground, once in the passing game. He finished with 19 yards on three carries and 23 receiving yards off two catches. You can read more about that game here.
The competition to start at running back for the Argos is wide open. Putting two TDs on the board in his first game should certainly help Slaton’s cause.
Joining Slaton with the Argos is DB Kent Richardson. He was named the Arena League Defensive Back of the Year two seasons ago, and has since worked his way into the CFL. He did not break into the stat sheet in the first game.
The CFL waited until Saturday to play again, and they did so with a triple-header. Last season, Jock Sanders helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders on their way to a Grey Cup title. His combination of being a solid kick returner and a weapon on offense caused him to became a sought-after free-agent and signed with the Calgary Stampeders.
On Saturday afternoon, he quickly showed why several teams pursued him in free-agency. His appearance on Saturday was brief, but he made the most of it. His first touch on special teams: a 49-yard kick return to open the game. His first touch on offense: an 18-yard jumping, juking, slashing TD run through an obstacle course of defenders.
“I really wanted my first touch as a Calgary Stampeder to be a touchdown — and it wasn’t because of the kick return,” Sanders said of the opening kickoff that he brought back 49 yards. “I wanted to take that to the house.
“But my first touch as a running back was a touchdown, so it played out good for me.”
Pat White was the third QB to see action in the Edmonton Eskimos opener against the B.C. Lions. The learning curve for any American player joining the CFL is steep due to the different set of rules and field dimensions. For a quarterback, that curve looks more like a sheer cliff face. The Esks like what they’ve seen from White thus far, and are committed to developing him as shown by the release of QB Jacory Harris over the weekend. White went 3 for 9 passing in the game for 23 yards and one INT, but also had 11 yards on four carries.
Joining White with the Eskimos are OL Selvish Capers and Robert Sands who they have playing corner. Capers joined the roster after spending time with the New York Giants. The team lists him as a backup at left tackle. They see Sands as a new-wave big, tall athletic corner made popular with Seattle’s Legion of Boom. He had three tackles in the game.
The Roughriders began their defense of the Grey Cup with a game against the expansion Ottawa Redblacks. LB Mortty Ivy looks to start at middle linebacker for the Riders, and had a nice game in the open. Combining for four tackles and one sack. Ivy showed his versatility on the sack by lining up as a down lineman on the play. His sack led to a Redblacks’ punt.
The Riders were also breaking in a new running back’s coach in the game. That would be WVU’s all-time leading rusher Avon Cobourne.
The action for the second a last week of the preseason gets underway on Thursday night when Slaton and the Argos clash with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats