The Edmonton Eskimos will meet the Ottawa Redblacks in the 103rd Grey Cup after both clubs won their respective division finals on Sunday.
Edmonton will be making its 25th appearance in the Grey Cup and first since winning it in 2005 after downing the defending champion Calgary Stampeders 45-31 in the West Division final. Ottawa, meanwhile, beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 35-28 in the East final to book its spot in the title game — just one season after their inaugural campaign.
The Grey Cup is next Sunday at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.
The last time an Ottawa team was in the Grey Cup was 1981, when the Rough Riders lost to the Eskimos 26-23. That was Edmonton’s eighth of 13 Grey Cup victories.
Ottawa, which won nine Grey Cups as the Rough Riders, ceased operations after the 1996 campaign. The organization was resurrected as the Renegades in 2002 but only lasted four seasons before coming back as the Redblacks in 2014.
“I know it’s a big deal and I have a lot of respect for it,” Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell said after defeating Hamilton. “We’ll be happy for a few more hours and tee it up one more time.
“Then after that game we can discuss more things about Ottawa football history.”
Campbell was only 10 years old when Ottawa lost in 1981 to an Edmonton squad coached by his father, Hugh. Rick Campbell watched the ’81 championship game on TV back in Alberta and said his dad did the same Sunday from San Diego.
Ottawa went 12-6 this year to finish the regular season in first place in the East after posting a 2-16 record in 2014. Edmonton secured the West with a 14-4 record.
Much of the Redblacks’ success came from veteran quarterback Henry Burris, who is the East nominee for the CFL’s outstanding player award. Edmonton QB Mike Reilly missed almost half the regular season due to torn knee ligaments, but came back to lead the Eskimos to nine consecutive wins, including Sunday’s victory.
“We got one more to go and that’s the ultimate goal,” said Reilly.
— With files from Dan Ralph and Dean Bennett