Grey Cup - 1989 - Skydome - Saskatchewan 44 - Hamilton 40
Destiny Finally Arrives for long-suffering Franchise - By Allan Maki - Calgary Herald November 27, 1989
Toronto - Bob Poley was never worried. Not with 44 seconds left on the game clock and the score tied 40-40. The Grey Cup, he told his team-mates, was in the bag and bound for Regina. Kent Austin was at quarterback. Dave Ridgway was on the sidelines. What could be better than this.
"I knew the way Kent was playing we'd get in field-goal range for Ridgway, or even close enough for him to kick a single," said Polley, the veteran lineman. "we didn't want overtime. We wanted the win and I had a feeling we'd get it."
What a feeling it was. Austin marched his Saskatchewan Roughriders against Hamilton in the final seconds of a screaming game to set up the winning field goal. Poley made the snap. glen Suitor made the hold. And, Ridgway, the best pressure kicker in the game, drilled the points that put an entire province into green heaven.
There may never be a Grey Cup to rival Sunday's. Not for drama or scoring or drop-dead excitement. This was the wildest ever played between two football teams who thought they were the Lakers and Celtics.
Up and down the court they flew, slamming 80 (it was tied 40-40) points on the Skydome scoreboard until Ridgway hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. It was at that very moment when Saskatchewan exploded into ecstasy. Twenty-three years of frustration blown away in a single evening.
"Pinch me!" shouted defensive back Richie Hall. "I'm on cloud nine. Our team is the champion of the CFL, and could anyone have picked a better finish than this?"
There were 100 moments to remember from yesterday's game, but in the end there was only one - the 'Riders doing what they had to do to win their first title since 1966. Strangely, they had struggled early on, losing games and confidence, before beating Calgary with a fourth-quarter touchdown and then crushing Edmonton in the West Division final.
It was then that Saskatchewan came to the Grey Cup intent on winning and winning like champions.
"You have to applaud their effort," said Tiger-Cats' Grover Covington. "It was like they never thought they were going to lose."
This was a league final scripted by Disney. The last seconds were jammed full of irony and action. There was Hamilyo coach Al Bruno yelling for a pass interference penalty against Saskatchewan. There was Bruno clapping his hands when he got exactly that call on the very next play. There was Ticat receiver Tony Champion ignoring his broken ribs and catching a pass to knot the score at 40-40.
And then there was Austin completing three passes for 48 yards, including two to unheralded Mark Guy, to move his club to Hamilton 26-yard line, where Ridgway came and put everything in the bag.
"When we got in the huddle on offence for that last drive, I told the guys to concentrate block out the noise," Austin said later. "I knew if we just got close enough we'd win. What makes this so sweet is that everybody on this team came up with a big play when the situation called for it."
Sweeter still was the Grey Cup trophy presentation to a club and its people who have fielded nothing but nothing for more than two decades. The University of Saskatchewan lost in the national football final two weeks ago, but now it has the pro game's crown jewel. Pinch us. Saskatchewan is the football capital of our world.
We've laughed and had our fun with the "riders and their hayseed fans. What other football team would have a gopher for a mascot? Yet there has always been something admirable in the way Saskatchewan fans have supported a club that once skipped the playoffs for 12 years.
In any other city, the 'Riders would have been left for dead. In Regina, they have always been nurtured and loved. Like champions.
So when Al Bruno took to crying over bad calls and lucky breaks after yesterday's game, it all seemed so wrong. The 'Riders never moaned when they were losing. They didn't complain. They took their lumps and waited for the day when destiny called and the Grey Cup would be delivered to their door.
"I think back over all the years I've played in this league and the times I was with this team and we couldn't make the playoffs, and then I think, 'We're the Grey Cup champions,'" said a smiling Poley. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It's just incredible."
He looked and sounded
like a winner.
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