Stamps hold tough against scrappy Riders
CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders control their own destiny.
Win their final three games, and the Stampeders will finish in first place in the CFL’S West Division.
The Stamps (10-5) earned themselves that opportunity by surviving a rough-and-tumble West Division classic.
Up against a Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-5) team that was leading the division coming into Friday night’s matchup, the Stampeders played like a team that had been preparing all week for a heavyweight fight and came out with a 30-28 win.
The Stamps were without their top offensive lineman, Derek Dennis. His partner-incrime on the o-line, Shane Bergman, was ruled out of the game at kickoff, too, although he eventually returned.
The Stamps also lost Tre Roberson, arguably the best boundary corner in the CFL, on their first drive, and had starting defensive end Chris Casher disqualified near the end of the first half.
Stamps running back Ante Milanovic-litre had the best game of his career, rushing for 43 yards. Hergy Mayala continued his recent rise and had two touchdowns. Jamari Gilbert filled in for Roberson heroically — the whole defence was outstanding, really.
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell did everything that could have been asked of him, too, completing 23-of-29 passes for 298 yards.
The Riders opened the scoring with a punt-single on their opening drive. They easily could have scored a touchdown two plays earlier, but QB Cody Fajardo overthrew to Shaq Evans in the end zone.
The Stampeders then marched downfield on their next drive and took the lead when Rene Paredes hit the first of his three field goals.
On their ensuing kickoff, things got weird.
Paredes’ kickoff went short, and Riders returner misread the trajectory of the ball. It bounced off his hands and the Stampeders’ Jamari Gilbert reacted quickly, retrieving the ball and taking off downfield for a 28-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
The next time Calgary got the ball, Mitchell badly misjudged a pass and threw an interception right into the hands of the Riders’ Nick Marshall, who was gone as soon as he caught the ball for a 62-yard TD.
Neither team had scored a touchdown, but it was 10-8 less than 10 minutes into the game.
The Riders then benefited from a questionable spearing penalty on Lorenzo Jerome and gave William Powell the ball on the next play to punch it in for a three-yard score.
The Riders would add a field goal to make it 20-18 at halftime.
After halftime, the pace didn’t let up.
Mitchell found Mayala for their second touchdown connection of the game nine minutes into the third quarter, and the teams proceeded to exchange field goals until Fajardo found William Powell for a 34-yard strike with 2:38 left on the clock.
The Stampeders’ Terry Williams is tackled by the Roughriders’ Derrick Moncrief last night in Calgary.