Stamps roll over Esks in Labour Day Replay
EDMONTON — It’s been less of a Battle of Alberta than a Coronation of Calgary.
At least in terms of provincial dominance on the CFL field.
Three times, the Calgary Stampeders (7-4) have matched up against the Edmonton Eskimos (6-6).
And all three times, the Stampeders have emerged victorious.
The third and final win for the Stamps came Saturday night in the Labour Day Replay when the Calgarians rolled to a straightforward 33-17 victory.
The result moves Stamps into second place in the CFL’s West Division and sets them up for a three-way dogfight with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers for first-place at season’s end.
The Eskimos will not be involved. Not after Saturday’s loss. They’re far from mathematically out-of-the race, but the three losses to the Stamps make a run at first-place seem almost inconceivable.
The Stamps, meanwhile, are right where head coach Dave Dickenson wanted them to be at this point in the season. They’re within striking distance of the division leaders and starting to look like a team that is capable of making a real run.
“We got a win in the division on the road. That’s the biggest thing you can ask for to continue to build towards first place,” Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said. “We’ve got a long road to be able to try to get there and just continue to focus on each game, but it means a lot to be able to sweep these guys after the season they’re having right now, but we’ve got to look forward to the next one and try to get another.”
The Stampeders were dealt a break Saturday, to be sure, when Eskimos QB Trevor Harris suffered an upper-body injury after attempting only five passes. Backup Logan Kilgore was serviceable in relief, but never really threatened to get the ball in the endzone.
That was the story of the Labour Day Classic for the Eskimos, who couldn’t score a touchdown on Monday. With Harris in, they were better right off the bat on Saturday.
After Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell threw an interception — his first of three in the game — on his second pass of the game, Harris connected three plays later with Tevaun Smith in the endzone to put the Eskimos up 7-0.
It might have felt at the time like the 40,113 fans at Commonwealth Stadium were in for a shootout, but that’s just not the way things played out.
The Eskimos would add one more field goal early in the second quarter, but otherwise, it was all Stampeders until late in the game when the visitors in Edmonton had the game completely under control and the hosts picked up some consolation points.
They were far from perfect, though.
After an explosive showing in the Labour Day Classic, the run-game struggled to get going. Ka’Deem Carey finished with 20 yards on nine carries, a far cry from the 143 yards he had five days earlier. The Stampeders haven’t had many huge rushing games this season, and they’re going to need to get more down the stretch if they’re likely to catch the Bombers.
“(The Eskimos) were downhill, they took it to us a bit,” Dickenson said about the run game. “We weren’t playing as fast, maybe not as many calls, either, but they did a better job. They made a conscious effort to hit the gaps, we have to be better.”
With the exception of his three interceptions, Mitchell was generally pretty effective and finished having completed 24-of-39 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He also became the winningest quarterback in Stampeders history with the win, which was his 72nd and pushed him ahead of Henry Burris.
The targets of Mitchell’s passes were usually either Eric Rogers or Reggie Begelton, who each scored a touchdown and remain tied for the CFL lead in receiving TDs, with seven apiece.
Begelton also took over the league-lead in receiving yards, as the 88 yards he picked up on Monday brought his total to 930 on the season.
They were far from alone, though, as first-time starter — and lifelong Stampeders fan – Colton Hunchak made a real contribution, with five catches for 53 yards.
It was the defence that really shone, though. A few late drives when the game was already well out-of-reach helped make the Eskimos’ offensive numbers look better than they probably deserved to be — Kilgore completed 21-of-28 passes for 242 yards — but the Stamps D largely dominated.
DaShaun Amos had a pick-six, Jamar Wall had 10 tackles, Cordarro Law shook off a painful-looking injury and picked up a sack, and Anthony Johnson forced a fumble in his second CFL game. We could go on, there were a lot of impressive performances from the Stampeders’ defensive players.
It should be noted that kicker Rene Paredes was perfect as well, hitting all four of the field goals he kicked.
This was an encouraging win for the Stampeders, especially because it felt so routine. Harris’ absence made it easier than it might have been, but the Stamps still outscored their provincial rivals 82-45 in their three head-to-head games this season and essentially knocked the Eskimos out of the race for first place.
There are other fights ahead, but for now, the Stamps own Alberta bragging rights — and it’s not even close.