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September 8, 2018

Stamps Fall Just Short

Calgary Stampeders Micah Johnson (4) grabs Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly (13) during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday September 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

They never ran out of belief. Just out of time.

On a late afternoon into early evening, the Calgary Stampeders found themselves chasing, chasing, chasing.

They just couldn’t, in the final analysis, catch up.

“They started out on fire,’’ said defensive end Ja’Gared Davis, in the wake of a 48-42 Labour Day Week-ending loss at Commonwealth Stadium. “We knew we were coming into a lion’s den.

“They were firing on all cylinders. The turnovers were going their way. The calls were going their way. The ball was bouncing their way.

“On top of that, they were out there making plays. Play after play after play.

“They executed better than we did. We’d claw our way back and then shoot ourselves in the foot. We’d claw our way back again and then shoot ourselves in the foot.

“We shot ourselves in the foot so often we were running out of toes. But we had plenty of time to lay down, pack it up and say: ‘There’s always next week.’

“But we didn’t. We fought.

“That’s just who we are.”

Oh, the loss certainly couldn’t be hung on any lack of try.

At one point late in the third quarter, Calgary trailed by the homesteading Edmonton Eskimos as much as 20 points, 48-28.

But an eight-yard Bo Levi Mitchell to Romar Morris touchdown hook-up pulled them, almost unbelievably to within six points, an unconverted TD, with 2:19 remaining in the fourth quarter.

And following a subsequent defensive stop, Mitchell and Co. got their mitts on the ball one last time, scrimmaging from their own 12-yard-line and 48 seconds remaining.

But the comeback died on a final play Hail Mary pass attempt into the Edmonton end zone, targeted to Juwan Brescacin.

“You play a game that you’re not at your best, giving the other team a lot of opportunities,’’ sighed . “And you’re playing a team that played really well.

“We didn’t lay down. We had a lot of fight. We had a chance. I want to see that last play (again). I really do. I think he had a chance on that, a great play made by Bresc, it would’ve been an unbelievable win.

“We probably should’ve lost by 20 but to fight like that says a lot about our team.”

Eskimo quarterback Mike Reilly, per usual, provided the emotional and competitive impetus for the green-and-gold, throwing for three touchdowns and plunging for three more from in close.

The 48 points are the most given up by the Stampeders since a 55-36 loss at Hamilton on Sept. 25, 2011.

Particular bright spots for the CFL pacesetters were slotback Reggie Begelton and tailback Morris. Begelton, the man entrusted with picking the slack in the absence of Kamar Jorden certainly did his bit, latching onto seven passes for 153 yards.

“When you fall behind, you have to dig deep,’’ said Begelton. “You have to realize this game is 60-plus minutes and it’s not over until there’s zeroes at the end.

“I’m happy do see our team has some fight. When we were down 20-something points, a lot of teams would’ve given up. But this team shows it has the tenacity to keep fighting and I love every bit of it.

“One the sidelines, you’ve could’ve been looking, saying: ‘We just can’t get a break.’ But that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

Morris, subbing for the nicked-up Don Jackson, broke a 77-yard TD romp caught two major-score tosses from Mitchell, of 32 and eight yards.

“I’m proud of the guys, the way they fought,’’ said Mitchell, whose 491 yards passing is a career best and the fifth highest total in franchise history, “but obviously you never want to put yourself in the position where you’ve having to play that way at the end of the game.

“To be truthful, they created a lot of turnovers, took the ball away from us. There’s times we can have better leverage and protect it but when it comes down to it, they’re tackling and ripping the ball out, they’re making a play. Hats off to them, man, they way they played tonight.

“They were physical and getting after it.”

During a first-half that virtually defied description, Mitchell and Reilly combined for 492 passing yards, four touchdowns, two picks and a pair of rushing TDs (both courtesy the Eskimos’ reigning MOP).

That the Stamps were hanging around at all heading into the intermission seemed the height of improbability, given that one interception of Mitchell and a Terry Williams punt-return fumble had been transformed into quick-strike Edmonton touchdowns, while two costly penalties on one drive – a face-mask infraction by interior D-lineman Micah Johnson and roughing the passer call against DB Brandon Smith – directly set up another.

Next up for Calgary, a date at Tim Hortons Field in Steeltown next Saturday.