Stamps keen to stop Har­ris, win West

Cal­gary de­fence fo­cused on solid tack­ling against Win­nipeg’s all-star run­ning back

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - DANNY AUSTIN [email protected]­media.com www.twit­ter.com/Dan­nyAustin_9

The Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers make it sound so easy.

Stop­ping An­drew Har­ris, of course, is any­thing but sim­ple.

The rest of the CFL knows that all too well, as the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers run­ning back has proven him­self to be a gen­uine game-breaker this sea­son en route to rush­ing for 1,269 yards — sec­ond in the league be­hind Wil­liam Pow­ell of the Ot­tawa Red­blacks.

When the Stamps hosted the Bombers at McMa­hon Sta­dium in Au­gust, how­ever, the de­fence turned Har­ris into a non-fac­tor, hold­ing him to only 13 rush­ing yards on seven at­tempts.

So how did they do it? If the Stam­ped­ers have some deeply-guarded se­cret, they cer­tainly weren’t about to re­veal it to the me­dia on Wednes­day, two days be­fore they at­tempt to clinch first place once and for all by beat­ing the Bombers in a Fri­day night tilt in Win­nipeg (6:30 p.m., TSN).

“It’s just get­ting af­ter him,” said Stam­ped­ers de­fen­sive line coach Corey Mace. “Don’t let him get yards, wrap him up. He’s a good back, he breaks tack­les. If we can stop his feet at first con­tact, that’s what you hope for.”

For a Stamps team that des­per­ately wants to clinch a home game in the West Di­vi­sion Fi­nal this week­end, their past his­tory against Har­ris is a rea­son to feel op­ti­mistic.

The Bombers rely heav­ily on the run game, but with the ex­cep­tion of a mean­ing­less reg­u­lar sea­son-end­ing matchup at McMa­hon Sta­dium last year, Har­ris hasn’t had much suc­cess against the Stamps.

Har­ris was named as the CFL’s Most Out­stand­ing Cana­dian last sea­son, but he rushed for only 32 yards on 10 car­ries in the only game in which he faced the Stam­ped­ers starters in Week 3.

In 2016, the Stam­ped­ers held him to 13 yards and 28 yards in the two con­tests against the Bombers.

They’re aware they’ve had suc­cess in stop­ping Har­ris, although they’re down­play­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of that fact head­ing into Fri­day’s game.

“We’re aware, but ev­ery game is dif­fer­ent,” said Stamps line­backer Alex Sin­gle­ton.

“You just want to tackle, and it’s some­thing we’ve done re­ally well early in the sea­son. I think last week, the rea­son we didn’t con­tain (the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers) as well is be­cause we didn’t tackle as well. That’s what we hang our hats on. It’s just fun­da­men­tal tack­ling.

“If you can make ev­ery one-onone tackle, you’re go­ing to win a lot of games.”

If there’s a seed of doubt sur­round­ing the Stamps’ abil­ity to shut down the Bombers ground game, it likely comes from the de­fence’s un­char­ac­ter­is­tic strug­gles against the run over the past two weeks.

Against the B.C. Lions on Oct. 13, the Stamps strug­gled to con­tain Tyrell Sut­ton. The Lions run­ning back ram­bled for 106 yards on 22 car­ries.

Then last week, the Roughrid­ers’ Cameron Mar­shall ran for 76 yards on 11 car­ries, and he wasn’t alone, as the vis­i­tors from Saskatchewan to­talled 140 rush­ing yards at McMa­hon Sta­dium.

Mar­shall and Sut­ton are both dan­ger­ous run­ning backs, but they’re not con­sid­ered to be the same cal­i­bre as Har­ris, so the Stam­ped­ers de­fence is go­ing to need to be bet­ter, plain and sim­ple.

First place in the West may de­pend on it.

“(Stop­ping the run) is al­ways im­por­tant when you play Win­nipeg,” Stam­ped­ers head coach Dave Dick­en­son said.

“They have a lot of weapons in their re­ceiv­ing corps and can do a lot of dif­fer­ent things. They have a lot of mis­di­rec­tion, and all that, but I do think An­drew is one of their best play­ers. If you’re go­ing to have suc­cess against their of­fence, you’ve got to be able to try to limit his (yards af­ter catch). He catches a lot of balls, he doesn’t just run.

“I do think Win­nipeg runs the ball more than any­body in the league, so for our de­fen­sive line, big chal­lenge.”

AL CHAREST

The Stam­ped­ers be­lieve the key to stop­ping Blue Bombers run­ning back An­drew Har­ris is to wrap him up and not let him break tack­les. Har­ris hasn’t en­joyed great suc­cess against Cal­gary.

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