It's another edition of our Three Stars series, focusing on those who stood out in Sunday's playoff clashes.
First star: Keon Raymond, linebacker, Calgary Stampeders: It was another great week for Raymond, the Stamps' versatile threat who was in the first-star slot ">as recently as Week 17. He didn't take an interception back 100 yards this week, but Raymond recorded four tackles and a sack and made the game-clinching interception on Darian Durant's final Hail Mary, sealing Calgary's 36-30 win. It happened on special teams, but he also came up with one of the weekend's most pivotal plays, blocking an extra-point attempt that teammate Fred Bennett returned the length of the field for two crucial points.
(Honourable mentions for defensive star: James Patrick, DB, Saskatchewan; Damaso Munoz, LB, Edmonton; Marcus Ball, DB, Toronto.)
Second star: Jon Cornish, running back, Calgary Stampeders: There were plenty of outstanding players on the Stampeders' offence, including quarterback Drew Tate (who threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns despite concussion concerns) and receivers Maurice Price (six catches, 117 yards) and Romby Bryant (four catches, 102 yards and the game-clinching touchdown). The most consistently dominant may have been Cornish, though; against an excellent rushing defence (heading into Sunday's action, the Riders conceded just 97.3 rushing yards per game, third-best in the league), he rushed 18 times for 109 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. He also made one of the most critical plays of the weekend. Deep in their own territory with nine seconds left in the first half, a situation where many teams would have just taken a knee, the Stamps elected to give Cornish the ball, and he made something amazing happen:
That scamper to the Saskatchewan 45 set up a long Rene Paredes field goal, and that gave the Stamps a three-point lead heading into halftime, which may have played a critical role in how this game unfolded.
(Honourable mentions for offensive star: Weston Dressler, SB, Saskatchewan; Maurice Price, WR, Calgary; Ricky Ray, QB, Toronto.)
Third star: Chad Owens, slotback/returner, Toronto Argonauts: Owens had an incredible season, breaking Pinball Clemons' famed all-purpose yards record, and he followed that up with an excellent playoff performance. Owens had seven punt returns for 96 yards and a touchdown Sunday in the Argonauts' win over Edmonton, and he also added three kick returns for 61 yards. Owens' success in the return game can force teams to alter their game plan, and he'll be worth watching in next week's East Final.
(Honourable mentions for special-teams star: Rene Paredes, K, Calgary; Grant Shaw, P/K, Edmonton; Rob Maver, P, Calgary.)
Bonus star/Top Canadian: Jon Cornish, running back, Calgary Stampeders. Cornish is an easy choice here given his aforementioned dominance. He's a finalist for the league's Most Outstanding Player award (facing off against Owens), and deservingly so; when he's on his game, he's one of the best players in the CFL regardless of nationality.
(Honourable mentions for Canadian star: Rene Paredes, K, Calgary; Andre Durie, SB, Toronto; Nate Coehoorn, WR, Edmonton.)
Want to nominate a player for inclusion in next week's Three Stars? During this coming Sunday's games, send your submissions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @AndrewBucholtz.