November 14, 2013

Stamps-Riders playoff memories

The Calgary Stampeders’ first-ever game was against the Regina Roughriders on Oct. 27, 1945. Fast-forward to 68 years, minus one day, and you have the most recent clash between the bitter rivals — an Oct. 26 contest at McMahon Stadium which saw the Stamps knock off the Roughriders to clinch first place in the West Division.

On Sunday, it’s Red vs. Green all over again as the clubs battle at McMahon for the right to represent the West in the 101st Grey Cup at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field.

There have been some classic Stamps-Riders clashes over the years. In chronological order, here are five playoff games against the Green Riders that stand out for the Red and White:

Oct. 27, 1945 at Taylor Field in Regina — Stampeders 3 Roughriders 1:  

The final score — 3-1 in favour of Calgary — sounds more like a hockey result but this game is nevertheless historic because it was the very first in Stampeders history.

Because of WW II, there was no regular season in 1945 and so the Oct. 27 clash in Regina was the first of a two-game, total-point West semifinal series. Calgary won the second game 12-0 — with Paul Rowe scoring the first touchdown in franchise history — to allow the Stamps to advance to the West final.

The Stampeders-Roughriders playoff rivalry had just begun.

Nov. 11, 1948 at Mewata Stadium in Calgary — Stampeders 17 Roughriders 6:  

Any history-minded Stamps fan will be able to tell you that 1948 was a big year for the Red and White — Calgary was undefeated that season (no CFL team since has been able to match that feat) and the Stamps won their first Grey Cup championship.

The only blemish, if you want to call it that, in the season was a single tie — a 4-4 draw with Saskatchewan in the first half of a two-game, total-point West final series as a fourth-quarter field goal by the Riders’ Gabe Patterson erased a 4-1 Calgary lead at Regina’s Taylor Field.

Five days later, in Game 2 of the series at Calgary’s Mewata Stadium, the Roughriders took a 6-0 first-quarter lead and suddenly it seemed as though the Stamps’ 12-0 regular-season record would go to waste.

Not to worry — the Red and White roared back to life, scoring a touchdown in each of the final three quarters — including two by Keith Spaith — to claim a 17-6 win and a 21-10 decision in the total-point series.

A couple of weeks later, the Stamps would beat Ottawa 12-7 to hoist the Grey Cup for the first time in their short history.

Nov. 22, 1970 at Taylor Field in Regina — Stampeders 15 Roughriders 14:

The late ’60s and early ’70s were a remarkable time in the Stampeders-Roughriders rivalry. From 1967 to 1971, Calgary and Saskatchewan dominated the West as one team or the other finished first all five years and represented the West in the Grey Cup all five years.

In each and every case, one rival’s playoff path to the championship game went through the other.

The most famous game in the five straight playoff meetings was the third contest of the best-of-three West final in 1970. The Riders had finished a remarkable 14-2 during the regular season with the Stamps were a relatively pedestrian 9-7 and needed a road win over Edmonton in the West semi just to get a chance to meet heavily favored Saskatchewan in the final.

Unexpectedly, the Stamps shocked the Riders 28-11 in the first game of the series on Nov. 14 in Regina. However, Calgary failed on a chance to wrap up the series at home — the Riders prevailed 11-3 at Mewata — and few gave the Stamps a chance to steal another win in Regina when the deciding game was played at Taylor Field on Nov. 22.

However, in one of the most memorable and improbable finishes in CFL history, Larry Robinson kicked a 32-yard field goal into a howling wind to give the Stamps a 15-14 come-from-behind victory and the upset series triumph.

“Right into that north wind,” Stamps quarterback Jerry Keeling recalled years later when asked about Robinson’s game-winning kick. “I’ve got to tell you, I didn’t think there was a chance in the world of him making that field goal. I doubt if anyone thought he could. I know the Regina players and the crowd were just stunned when he made that. It was an amazing kick and Larry was an amazing kicker.”

Nov. 17, 1971 at Taylor Field in Regina — Stampeders 23 Roughriders 21:

The fifth straight playoff meeting between Calgary and Saskatchewan was the 1971 West final. After winning the first match of the best-of-three series 30-21 at home, the Stamps went into Regina looking for a clinching victory and a berth in the Grey Cup.

The Riders, however led 14-9 in the third quarter and the Red and White was in desperate need of a big play to turn the contest around. They got two.

First, Hugh McKinnis went on a 42-yard scoring gallop to give the Stamps a 16-14 lead. Jerry Keeling then hooked up with Rudy Linterman on a 71-yard TD pass to extend Calgary’s advantage to 23-14.

The insurance proved valuable as the Riders scored a touchdown midway through the final quarter to set up a white-knuckle finish. The Stamps hung on for the 23-21 win and would beat Toronto 11 days later to capture the second Grey Cup title in franchise history.

Nov. 11, 2012 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary — Stampeders 36 Roughriders 30:

The final minute of the first half of the 2012 West semifinal was a sign this would not be a normal game.

With 12 seconds to go until halftime, Saskatchewan’s Kory Sheets scored a touchdown to give the visitors a 16-14 lead. The extra point would have made the Riders advantage three points, but instead Keon Raymond blocked the kick and Fred Bennett took the ball 96 yards for two Calgary points and a 16-16 tie. Then, a big return by Larry Taylor on the subsequent kickoff set up a 50-yard Rene Paredes field goal on the final play of the half as the Stamps took a 19-16 lead into the locker room.

That was just a sample of the drama to come.

Calgary took a 26-16 lead into the final quarter, but a pair of touchdown receptions by Greg Carr gave the Riders a 30-29 lead with less than a minute to play. That set the stage for Drew Tate’s deep pass down the right sideline to Romby Bryant and Bryant’s dash to paydirt for Calgary’s game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left on the clock.