As the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats prepare to renew hostilities on Thursday evening at the Rogers Centre, history hangs in the balance for two of the most prolific stars in the Canadian Football League.
Wide Receivers/Kick Returners, Chad Owens and Chris Williams have provided fans with electrifying performances over the course of this 2012 CFL season and it is fitting that both men will meet for one last occasion with numerous records on the line.
These two individuals, similar in stature, possess a unique skill-set that many professional football players wish to replicate. Chris Williams is undoubtedly the most dangerous kick returner in the CFL. Williams’ six return touchdowns in 2012 set a CFL-record for the most return touchdowns in a single-season. The 24-yard also recorded his second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season as a member of the Tiger-Cats. Williams’ 79 receptions and 1,194 yards rank fourth amongst receivers in the Canadian Football League in 2012. His fifteen total touchdowns lead the league heading into the final week of the regular season. Williams, much like Owens, has been the main beneficiary of a new signal-caller in 2012. Nine of Henry Burris’ thirty-nine touchdown passes so far this season have come with the assistance of his sophomore playmaker.
Williams is also looking to lift the Ticats to their fourth consecutive playoff appearance dating back to the 2009 CFL season. Williams has already familiarized himself with a questionable Argos’ Special Teams unit that surrendered two return touchdowns to the Tiger-Cats phenom in the first “Battle of Ontario” matchup of this 2012 season. With just one punt return touchdown on Thursday evening against the Argos, Williams will surpass former Tiger-Cat, Henry “Gizmo” Williams’ single-season record of five punt return touchdowns set back in 1991.
His counterpart, Chad Owens has developed into more than just a returner in 2012. The 30-year old has set career high’s in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns this season. Owens currently leads the Canadian Football League in receiving with 91 receptions and 1,289 yards receiving. Owens also became the first professional football player to ever record three consecutive 3,000-yard season’s. Owens’ best performance of the 2012 season happened to come against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Labour Day. In the final Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium, Owens recorded 402 all-purpose yards in a thrilling Argonauts victory. The 402 yards set a league record for the most yards accumulated by any player in a single game.
Owens enters the final week of the regular season in search of recording his very first 4,000-yard campaign. He is just 72 yards shy of Michael “Pinball” Clemons’ yardage record and is 232 yards away from becoming the first-ever professional football player to have a 4,000-yard season. However, with a playoff spot already secured for the Argonauts, it remains a mystery regarding how long the starters will play on Thursday evening. Head Coach, Scott Milanovich has already announced that Ricky Ray will be absent from the Argonauts regular season finale, likely resulting in less offensive touches for Owens. In his first season as a member of the Boatmen, Ray has built a tremendous rapport with the “Fly’ in Hawaiian”. When Ricky Ray was sidelined with a knee injury, Owens managed to record just eight receptions for 52 yards.
The value that each of these men have to their respective team’s is incomprehensible. They have been the driving force to their team’s success thus far in 2012. Owens and Williams are definitely MOP candidates and will likely battle for the league’s Special Teams award. Fans will have one last opportunity to see Owens and Williams go head-to-head prior to the beginning of the 100th Grey Cup playoffs. With a Tiger-Cats victory and an Eskimos loss, we may be poised for another Owens – Williams showdown in the Eastern Semi-Final at the Rogers Centre on November 11.
– Daniele Franceschi –