By Mike Hardiman
Special to Stampeders.com
The Calgary Stampeders travel to the West Coast to take on the defending Grey Cup champions — the BC Lions — in the CFL’s West Division final.
Calgary earned a berth in the final with a thrilling 36-30 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at home last week in the West semifinal. The Stamps snapped a five-game losing streak against the Riders in the playoffs with the win and — including the regular season — ran their current overall winning streak to five games.
The last team to defeat the Stamps was the Lions, who beat Calgary two times in 2012 — 34-8 at McMahon in Week 5 and 27-22 at BC Place in Week 15.
Calgary exacted a measure of revenge against the Lions with a 41-21 win at McMahon in Week 18.
The Lions finished first in the West (and the CFL) with a 13-5 record and this marks the second straight season they have hosted the West final.
Calgary has played in 16 West finals since 1978 and has a 7-9 record. The Stamps are currently on a two-game losing streak in the final after losses in 2009 and 2010 to the Riders and are 2-2 in the four finals played against BC since 1978.
The Stamps beat the Lions back in 2008 by a 22-18 score and also won the only final played in BC between the two clubs since 1978 — a 26-24 decision in 1999.
This is Calgary’s fourth trip to the final under head coach John Hufnagel and the Stamps have a 1-2 record in the previous three games.
The West final will get under way at 2:30 p.m. MST on Sunday, Nov. 18 at BC Place in Vancouver. The game will be televised on TSN as part of a playoff doubleheader with the East final between Toronto and Montreal directly preceding it.
The game can also be heard on the radio at QR77 (AM 770 on the radio dial and www.qr77.com on the Internet) and on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, channel 157 and channel 160 for XM subscribers.
Fans in the U.S. can catch watch the game on NBCSN and via webcast on ESPN3 (www.espn.go.com). The game will also be seen the next day at www.tsn.ca on TSN’s video-on-demand page.
The Stampeders offence is coming into the game against the Lions on a high after rolling up 486 yards of offence and scoring 36 points in the win over the Riders last week.
The Stamps rushed the ball for 123 yards, had 26 first downs and won the time of possession battle with 33:22. Calgary was also plus-2 in the turnover ratio and was perfect in field-goal attempts as well.
RB Jon Cornish had 109 yards rushing in the win (his first 100-yard game since Week 14) while QB Drew Tate passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns.
Tate suffered a wrist injury in the contest and will not play in the West final, which means Kevin Glenn — who was 10-5 as a starter during the regular season subbing for the injured Tate — is back at the controls.
SB Maurice Price continued his hot hand with six caches for 117 yards (his third straight 100-yard game) while WR Romby Bryant had the game-winning touchdown on a 68-yard TD catch with less than a minute to go in the game.
SB Marquay McDaniel returned to the lineup with five catches for 63 yards after missing three games due to injury.
Calgary’s offence found it tough sledding against the Lions in the regular season, averaging 23.6 points and 303.6 yards of offence in the three games. Calgary scored six touchdowns and averaged 15.3 first downs against BC. The Stamps lost both the time of possession and turnover battles in the two losses, averaging just 22:40 of possession and serving up six giveaways to just one takeaway.
In the Week 18 win over the Lions, Calgary set series bests in all offensive categories including 364 yards of offence, four touchdowns, only one turnover and a season-high eight sacks.
Calgary’s statistical leaders against the Leos this season were Cornish, with 146 rushing yards (no TDs), Glenn — 660 yards passing, three touchdowns, two interceptions — and SB Nik Lewis, who hauled in 17 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Calgary’s defence continued the playmaking trend established during the four-game winning streak that closed the regular season. The Stamps defence collected two sacks and caused three more turnovers in the win, including a key convert block that was returned 96 yards by CB Fred Bennett for a two-point play, preventing the Riders from taking the lead late in the first half.
CB Keon Raymond had a big game with four tackles, the blocked convert, a sack and an interception. Bennett led the team with five tackles while CB Quincy Butler had the other interception.
The Stamps defence did give up 466 yards of offence and four touchdowns, both numbers being cause for concern heading into the final. Calgary surrendered more than 400 yards in both losses to the Leos as well as six touchdowns.
The win over the Lions in Week 18 was part of the recent surge in the defence’s big plays with three turnovers and eight sacks registered but, in the two losses, Calgary managed just one takeaway and two sacks.
Calgary’s leaders on defence against BC were MLB Juwan Simpson with 16 tackles and one sack, LB Malik Jackson with 14 tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery, and DB Brandon Smith with 19 tackles, a sack and a fumble return.
DE Charleston Hughes had 10 stops and a sack while DE Anwar Stewart led the team in sacks with four, all in the Week 18 win. The Stamps failed to register an interception against the Lions in the regular season.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
K Rene Paredes was perfect in his field-goal attempts against the Lions in 2012, connecting on nine of nine attempts including four kicks of more than 40 yards (two 46-yarders). Paredes booted a 50-yard field goal in the win over the Riders and was once again perfect in his two attempts.
P Rob Maver averaged 42.4 yards in 16 punts against BC while LB Karl McCartney and DB Tad Kornegay each had three tackles on special teams. Calgary ran back kick returns for a total of 336 yards in the three games (a 33-yard punt return and a 56-yard kickoff return were the long returns) and allowed one punt return for a major.
The Lions will prove to be a formidable foe for the Stamps in the West final as they finished the 2012 CFL season with 13 wins, tops in the league.
The Lions went 8-1 at home this season — the best home record in the league — and finished the season with the No. 1 offence and defence in the CFL in terms of total yardage. The Lions scored an average 26.6 points per game overall (fourth best), scored an average of 29.3 points per game at home and an average of 27.3 against Calgary.
BC scored more than 27 points six times at home and allowed fewer than 20 points five times.
The Leos allowed an average of 19.7 points per game (best in the CFL) and gave up only 18.2 points per game at home and 23.6 against the Stamps. BC averaged 397.6 yards of offence against the Stamps in three games and totaled 54 first downs in the two wins.
The Lions’ leaders against the Stampeders on offence were RB Andrew Harris (#33), QB Travis Lulay (#14) and SB Shawn Gore (#85). Lulay was 2-0 as the starter, passing for 583 yards, five TDs and no interceptions.
Harris and Gore led the team in catches against Calgary with 12 while WR Akeem Foster (#88) led the team in yardage with 174.
SB Geroy Simon (#81) and SB Arland Bruce (#1) will both be in the lineup this week after each missed game action against the Stamps during the regular season. Harris led the team in rushing with 158 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Defensively, MLB Adam Bighill (#44) is the man to watch for the defending champs. Bighill had 19 tackles, two sacks and a pick in the three games against Calgary. DE Keron Williams (#9) also had two sacks while DB Ryan Phillips (#21) had two of the Lions’ four picks against Calgary as well as five tackles.
KR Tim Brown (#35) tallied 436 return yards in the three games and scored a 56-yard punt-return touchdown, the only return major given up by the Stamps all season.