‘I don’t think I got any sleep’

Ec­static, re­lieved Stam­ped­ers re­turn to Cal­gary with Grey Cup

Tillsonburg News - - SPORTS - Donna Spencer

CAL­GARY — Tired but happy, the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers filed off the buses at McMa­hon Sta­dium with the Grey Cup in tow Mon­day.

The Stam­ped­ers de­feated the Ot­tawa Red­blacks 27-16 for the CFL’s cham­pi­onship tro­phy less than 24 hours ear­lier in Ed­mon­ton.

Af­ter two straight Grey Cup losses to un­der­dog teams, Stam­ped­ers head coach Dave Dick­en­son’s emo­tions were a mix­ture of joy and re­lief.

“It felt good, but I have to ad­mit there was so much pres­sure and un­easi­ness you know,” Dick­en­son said.

“If you didn’t get it done for the third year, can you over­come that as an or­ga­ni­za­tion, as a team, as a coach? I just tried to re­ally keep the guys fo­cused.

“We stuck to­gether, we be­lieve in each other and guys did what they had to do to win. It’s great to win a cham­pi­onship. Even bet­ter to win it in Ed­mon­ton.”

The coaches pulled into McMa­hon’s park­ing lot just af­ter noon. Dick­en­son stepped off the bus with the cov­eted tro­phy and hoisted it in the air for about 70 fans and me­dia.

The for­mer quar­ter­back won his first Grey Cup as a head coach. Dick­en­son was the team’s of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor when Cal­gary won it in 2014.

Sev­eral play­ers trav­elled separately with fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back and Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell, and were re­turn­ing to Cal­gary later.

“I know the pres­sure Bo was un­der,” Dick­en­son said. “Ev­ery­one one was talk­ing about how this game will de­fine his legacy. I felt I had a lit­tle bit to do with that. I’m glad, be­cause he wins me a lot of foot­ball games.”

A cel­e­bra­tion of Cal­gary’s win is sched­uled for Tues­day at noon in front of city hall.

Run­ning back Terry Wil­liams, whose 97-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down late in the sec­ond half was a game-changer, said he’d been asked about that play more than he’d thought about it.

“We’re Grey Cup champs and that’s the most im­por­tant thing,” Wil­liams said. “I don’t think I got any sleep to be hon­est.

“That’s why I’ve got my sun­glasses on. I’m tired. I’m ready to go home, take a hot shower and just re­lax for awhile.”

Cal­gary was the heavy Grey Cup favourite over the Toronto Arg­onauts in 2017 and the Red­blacks in 2016, but lost both games.

With a re­ceiv­ing corps dec­i­mated by in­juries and three straight losses in Oc­to­ber, the Stam­ped­ers seemed more vul­ner­a­ble head­ing into Sun­day’s game.

“It’s prob­a­bly the most re­ward­ing sea­son in my ca­reer, not re­ally in­di­vid­u­ally, just as a team,” re­ceiver Eric Rogers said.

“The ad­ver­sity we had to go through this year, es­pe­cially this year at the re­ceiv­ing po­si­tion and es­pe­cially com­ing off two Grey Cup losses ... fac­ing all that ad­ver­sity and then finishing the sea­son as a Grey Cup champ is prob­a­bly the most re­ward­ing.”

Next-sea­son talk hap­pens quickly in pro­fes­sional sports. Dick­en­son and the play­ers wanted a few days to savour the cham­pi­onship be­fore deal­ing with the busi­ness of sport.

Both Mitchell, named the CFL’s Most Out­stand­ing Player this sea­son, and star mid­dle line­backer Alex Sin­gle­ton just played the fi­nal sea­son of their con­tracts.

“Not wor­ry­ing about noth­ing un­til Thurs­day,” Sin­gle­ton said. “I’m cel­e­brat­ing a Grey Cup.”

The col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment be­tween the CFL and its play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion ex­pires in May. The league in­structed teams not to give play­ers sign­ing bonuses un­til a new agree­ment is reached.

“I know we can’t sign guys and pay them sign­ing bonuses,” Dick­en­son. “There’s go­ing to be tons of work. We just don’t know when that time is go­ing to be.”

The slip­pery con­di­tions that had play­ers fight­ing for foot­ing at Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium was a talk­ing point of Sun­day’s game.

The 2019 Grey Cup will be held in Cal­gary at McMa­hon.

“We have a dif­fer­ent turf. It’s more foot­ball-re­lated,” Dick­en­son said. “They have more of a soc­cer turf so the soc­cer ball rolls smoothly. There’s not as much pel­let in the bot­tom.

“We just couldn’t get any foot­ing when the ice got in there. It was like a road right af­ter a snow­storm.

“I’ve got no prob­lems play­ing the game in Cal­gary. We’ll put on a great show and I just hope we’re in it.”

Dar­ren MaKoWIcHUK/POST­MEDIA NET­WORk

Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers head coach Dave Dick­en­son car­ries the Grey Cup off the team bus as the team re­turned to McMa­hon Sta­dium, in Cal­gary, on Mon­day.

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