Bo Levi Mitchell and his Calgary Stampeders teammates led a West Division sweep at the CFL awards banquet Thursday night.
Mitchell led the Western march as he was named the league’s outstanding player. The other winners included Calgary teammates Jerome Messam (Canadian), Derek Dennis (lineman) and DaVaris Daniels (rookie) along with Dave Dickenson (coach), B.C. Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian (defensive player) and kicker Justin Medlock of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (special-teams player).
The East Division finalists included receiver Earnest Jackson (outstanding player), centre Jon Gott (lineman), offensive lineman Jason Lauzon-Sequin (rookie) and Rick Campbell (coach) of the Ottawa Redblacks, slotback Andy Fantuz (Canadian) and kick-returner Brandon Banks (special-teams player) of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes linebacker Bear Woods (defensive player).
Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and nine CFL head coaches.
The West Division dominated the CFL in 2016, with four of its five teams making the post-season. Fourth-place Edmonton (10-8) earned the crossover by accumulating more points than third-place Montreal (7-11) but actually finished with a better record than East-leading Ottawa (8-9-1).
West Divison teams were an emphatic 28-11-1 this season versus their Eastern rivals.
Familiar territory for Mitchell
Mitchell, a finalist to Ottawa’s Henry Burris for last year’s outstanding player award, enjoyed a stellar 2016 campaign. He led Calgary to a 15-1-1 record in his 17 starts — he didn’t play in the club’s season-ending loss to Montreal — and anchored the CFL’s most potent offence.
Mitchell, 26, was second overall in passing with 5,385 yards but threw a CFL-high 32 TD passes. He has amassed a stellar 43-7-1 regular-season record as Calgary’s starter and Sunday will look to become the first Calgary starter to win two Grey Cups when the Stamps face Ottawa at BMO Field.
Mitchell guided Calgary to a 20-16 victory over Hamilton in 2014.
Jackson was seventh in CFL receiving yards with 1,225 and recorded 88 catches with 10 touchdowns. Jackson, Greg Ellingson (1,260 yards), Chris Williams (1,246) and Brad Sinopoli (1,036), all cracked the 1,000-yard receiving plateau, the first time in CFL history the same four receivers had over 1,000 yards receiving in consecutive seasons.
The six-foot-three, 254-pound Messam led the CFL in rushing with 1,198 yards. He averaged a solid 5.8 yards per attempt and also ran for 11 TDs in capturing the top Canadian for the second time (2011).
Fantuz, the CFL’s top Canadian in 2010 while with Saskatchewan, had a club-record 101 catches this season for 1,059 yards and five TDs before the Chatham, Ont., native suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The six-foot-one, 341-pound Dennis was a versatile performer for Calgary, making 15 starts at left tackle, two at left guard and one at right guard. The second-year player was a big part of an offensive line that allowed a CFL-low 20 sacks and helped pave the way for Messam.
The six-foot-three, 294-pound Gott, an Edmonton native, has been at centre for all of Ottawa’s regular-season and playoff games since the franchise began play in 2014.
The six-foot-one, 207-pound Daniels, who played collegiately at Notre Dame, had 51 catches for 885 yards and nine TDs in 11 games with Calgary.
Ottawa selected the six-foot-four, 300-pound Lauzon-Seguin in the first round, seventh overall, in the 2016 CFL draft. The former Laval star, a native of Pointe-Claire, Que., contributed immediately, playing at both guard and tackle as the Redblacks dealt with injuries along their offensive line.
Season to remember for Dickenson
It was a rookie season to remember for Dickenson, whose 15 victories was a CFL single-season record for a first-year head coach.
The 2016 campaign was a comeback for the six-foot, 227-pound Elimimian. The CFL’s outstanding player and top defensive player in 2014 suffered a career-threatening Achilles injury last year but came back to post a league-high 129 tackles with eight sacks and an interception.
The six-foot, 245-pound Woods — a finalist as top defensive player to Elimimian in ’14 — finished second overall in tackles with 126 with five sacks and two interceptions.
Medlock hit a CFL-record 60 field goals this season, his first with the Blue Bombers. The 33-year-old Californian was also the league’s scoring leader (club-record 227 points) and made all 40 converts he attempted.
Winnipeg also improved to 11-7 to make the playoffs this season after posting a 5-13 mark in 2015.
Banks, who served a two-game suspension this season for violating the CFL’s drug policy, returned 61 punts for 588 yards (9.6-yard average) with a TD, had 55 kickoff returns for 1,245 yards (22.6-yard average) and took two of his three missed field-goal returns back for touchdowns.