Tanner Doll experienced the thrill of lifetime at the 104th Grey Cup in Toronto.
The high school football product of the St. Albert High Skyhawks celebrated the ultimate achievement in the Canadian Football League with the championship-winning Ottawa Redblacks.
The 39-33 overtime thriller against the heavily-favoured Calgary Stampeders at BMO Field left Ottawa’s long snapper in shock and awe.
“It’s beyond crazy,” a tired-sounding Doll told the Gazette on Tuesday morning, before joining the Redblacks for the victory parade down Bank Street in Ottawa.
“As clichĂ© as it sounds, there is no word or group of words that can describe the feeling, especially in the fashion that we won with it going into overtime and going down as one of the better Grey Cups in history.
“It’s been kind of a surreal couple of days and I’m just trying to soak it in every step of the way.”
The Grey Cup marked the 10th career game for Doll after making his CFL regular-season debut Sept. 17 against the Stampeders in Calgary, where he rose to prominence with the Dinos in university football.
“With how this year has unfolded and rolling into a Grey Cup, it’s been crazy so far,” said the fourth round, 28th overall, selection by Ottawa in the 2015 CFL draft.
The game for the ages was too good to be true with more twists and turns than a roller-coaster ride at West Edmonton Mall.
Doll, 23, was able to keep his emotions in check as the 10-point underdog Redblacks stunned a Calgary team that came within one win of establishing a new CFL regular-season record.
“When my name gets called to contribute, I’ve got to have a level head. Through the game I always just try and stay engaged. I’m better at playing the game than watching it. I’m a terrible fan. I get way too anxious,” said the 2015 Canada West all-star linebacker with the Dinos. “Of course, there is going to be ups and downs through the entire game when we make plays or when they make plays and at the end of the day the team that doesn’t hurt themselves through penalties and put themselves in a position to win the game will come out victorious and that’s what happened I believe.”
The third-year Redblacks, with 41-year-old quarterback Henry Burris leading the charge, tacked up 13 unanswered points after Calgary tied it at seven, as Ottawa ended the first half in front 20-7. Burris was 20-for-24 passing for 266 yards and a TD while converting 15 of 17 second downs.
The Grey Cup MVP finished with 35 completions out of 46 attempts for 461 yards and ran for one-yard TDs in the first and fourth quarters.
His third TD pass was the dramatic 18-yard reception by Ernest Jackson, a juggling act in the endzone during overtime.
In the third quarter, Calgary outscored Ottawa 10-7 and with five minutes remaining in regulation time the Stampeders were down by 10 before closing the gap with a converted TD and then recovered the on-side kick at the Calgary 49 with 1:38 to play.
The Stampeders eventually tied it at 33 with a 10-yard field goal after Andrew Buckley was tripped up by Ottawa’s Abdul Kanneh in front of the goal line.
In overtime, after the go-ahead TD by Ottawa, Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the CFL’s most outstanding player, fired three incomplete passes and the Redblacks started popping champagne corks.
“At that moment, you’ve got to do a double check and triple check and then you realize, OK, there’s no flags on the field and that’s when you just get hit with emotion and you run on to the field with all your buddies. It was awesome,” Doll said. “Afterwards, when we got back into the locker room, they had it all set up and all tarped up so it was a good time, a really good time.”
The post-game party hasn’t stopped for the Redblacks, according to Doll.
“Yeah, it’s been crazy so far.”
Players on the Redblacks will each receive $16,000 as Grey Cup winners and those on the losing Calgary side will pick up $8,000 apiece.