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PRINT EDITION
Masoli, Mitchell scoop division nominations for outstanding award
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Quarterbacks for Hamilton and Calgary emerge as finalists for the CFL's top award after turning in banner years despite injuries to their supporting casts
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By DAN RALPH
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Friday, November 9, 2018 – Page B21

TORONTO -- As the individual accolades pile up for Jeremiah Masoli, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback is quick to give credit to those who help make him look good.

Masoli was named the East Division nominee for the CFL's Outstanding Player Award on Thursday. It came a day after Masoli captured his first-ever division all-star nomination.

"I feel like this about any individual awards in football, it's obviously a huge team deal," Masoli said. "I can't do all these things without the line blocking for me, the receivers getting open and all that stuff.

"It's a true team game and I just give all the props to my coaches and teammates."

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is the West Division nominee. Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and nine CFL head coaches with the winner being honoured at the league's awards banquet on Nov. 22 in Edmonton.

Masoli, 30, had 5,209 passing yards (second-most) and 28 TDs (third over all) in his first full season as Hamilton's starter.

The 5-foot-10, 220-pound San Francisco native registered a league-high 12 300-yard passing games in helping lead the Ticats (8-10) finish second in the East Division.

Masoli was also the league's second-leading rusher among quarterbacks with 473 yards. He anchored the CFL's top offence (405.6 yards a game) despite an ever-changing receiving corps as veterans Shamawd Chambers, Chris Williams, Jalen Saunders, Terrence Toliver and Brandon Banks all suffered seasonending injuries during the campaign.

Even if Hamilton doesn't reach the Grey Cup, Masoli will have company in Alberta. Ticats linebacker Larry Dean (defensive player) and guard Brandon Revenberg (top lineman) also received East nominations.

But of more importance to Masoli is Hamilton's East Division semi-final showdown Sunday against the BC Lions.

"For those honours, you can feel pride for sure, but I think that's a postseason type of deal," Masoli said. "We've got to be locked in on B.C. right now.

"Those things are definitely nice to look back on after you're done, but right now we can't let it be a distraction."

Mitchell, the 2016 award winner, registered his second career 5,000-yard season (5,124) and had a league-high 35 TD strikes. Like Masoli, Mitchell played through many injuries to Calgary's receiving corps in leading the Stampeders (13-5) atop the West Division.

Mitchell, 28, has a 69-15-2 (.814 winning percentage) record as a CFL starter, the best in league history.

Dean had 105 tackles, finishing tied for third over all with West Division nominee Adam Bighill of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Hamilton had the East's top defence, allowing the fewest offensive yards (334.3 a game) and rushing yards (110.6).

"Larry, to me, is just a true leader and what I think of as a middle linebacker," Hamilton coach June Jones said. "All the great ones have the leadership that he has and the ability to make plays and get guys lined up.

"He's like a coach on the field. He's a special guy."

The other finalists include: running back Andrew Harris of Winnipeg and Ottawa receiver Brad Sinopoli (top Canadian); tackle Stanley Bryant of Winnipeg (top lineman); kickers Ty Long of B.C. and Ottawa's Lewis Ward (special teams); Ward and Saskatchewan receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert (rookie); and Saskatchewan's Chris Jones and Ottawa's Rick Campbell (coach).

Harris and Bryant are trying to win their respective honours for a second straight season.

The 6-foot-4, 301-pound Revenberg, a native of Essex, Ont., completed his third season with Hamilton. Taken third over all from in the 2016 draft from Grand Valley State, the 25-year-old anchored an offensive line that protected Masoli and contributed to the CFL's second-best passing attack (310.7 yards a game).

"It's one of those things, you feel very honoured to be in this position," he said. "It means all the hard work has been paying off.

"The way [Hamilton] transitioned me, they made sure I didn't lose my head at all, I kind of focused and understood along the way. It started with some reps now and then, kind of rotating sometimes, and at the end of it, starting."

The 5-foot-10, 230-pound Bighill has enjoyed a banner first season with Winnipeg. In addition to 105 tackles, Bighill had four sacks, two interceptions and league-best four forced fumbles in becoming the first Bomber nominated for this award since Jovon Johnson in 2011.

Harris led the CFL in rushing for a second straight year, running for a career-best 1,390 yards.

The Winnipeg native also had 58 catches for 451 yards and scored 11 TDs this season.

Sinopoli posted a record-setting campaign with Ottawa. The 30-year-old native of Peterborough, Ont., had a league-high 116 catches - a single-season record for a Canadian - with 1,376 yards and four TDs and was a finalist to Harris last year.

Bryant led another solid season for Winnipeg's offensive line. Not only did Harris top the rushing race but the Bombers scored a CFL-best 53 offensive touchdowns and allowed 36 sacks, tied for third-fewest in the league.

Ward's two nominations come following a dominant first season. The former Ottawa GeeGee made 51-of-52 field goals (a CFL-record 94.7 per cent), including his past 48 straight, an alltime pro-football mark.

Long led the CFL in punting (48.8 yards) and net punting (38.5), averaged 65.3 yards a kickoff while converting 43-of-49 field goals (87.8 per cent) He also made all six attempts from 50-plus yards.

Williams-Lambert was Saskatchewan's receiving leader with 62 catches for 764 yards and four TDs.

Campbell and Jones first squared off for top coach honours in 2015 when Campbell earned the honour. Ottawa (11-7) finished atop the East Division while Saskatchewan (12-6) was second in the West Division.

5,209 Passing yards for Hamilton Tiger-Cats pivot Jeremiah Masoli in his first full season in the starting role.

The 30-year-old added 28 TD strikes on the year, the third-most in the league.

5,124 In the West, the Stamps' Bo Levi Mitchell surpassed the 5,000 yard mark for the second time in his career, adding a league-high 35 scores.

Associated Graphic

Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli passes down field during a game against Edmonton in Hamilton on Aug. 23. Masoli has been named the East Division finalist for the CFL's Outstanding Player Award.

MARK BLINCH/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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