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October 25, 2018

ANSWERING THE BELL

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 20, 2018: The Calgary Stampeders lost 29-24 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium on Saturday. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders)

When opportunity finally does knock, reckons Markeith Ambles, a fella’d best waste no time in turning the porch light on and answering the door.

“Being ready when your time comes,” says the ever-improving slotback of the Stampeders. “That’s football. Life, too, right?

“I’ve never been on a team, seen a team, go through something like this, so many (receivers) hurt. That’s always tough to see.

“I just wanted to be ready to step in whenever they needed me. That’s always been my focus.

“You don’t know when that moment is gonna come so be prepared every day, every week.

“Waiting might be tough for a lot of guys, I guess, but not for me. I’ve had my share of ups and downs so I’ve learned to be patient, to let life come to you and then, like I said, try to make the most of an opportunity when one arrives.”

It’s here.

Over the past two starts, Ambles – a 26-year-old May free-agent signing out of Houston – has come into prominence within the Stampeders’ attack, snaring 13 passes for 125 yards and a pair of majors.

During Saturday’s scrappy loss to Saskatchewan at McMahon Stadium, he wound up being quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell’s target of choice, catching eight balls for 85 yards, 13 of them on a TD hook-up that pulled the Stamps to within 29-24 six minutes into the fourth quarter.

With Mitchell and Ambles becoming more and more simpatico, expect him to continue being targeted throughout Friday’s skirmish in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.

“Markeith is a guy we’ve really liked since Florida, at our rookie camp at IMG,’’ says receivers coach Pete Costanza. “Just his skill set was impressive.

“He’s been really versatile for us. He’s played four of the five spots on the offence and done a really nice job learning those spots. When we had the injuries to K.J. and Reggie, we had to bounce him inside there.

“That’s probably the hardest spot to learn. That’s where Nik (Lewis) played and Marquay (McDaniel).

“But he’s building every week, getting better, understanding how to play in there.”

The Stampeder receiving corps has, of course, has undergone more cast changes over the past few months than an anniversary national touring company of the musical Cats.

Juwan Brescasin. Lemar Durant. Eric Rogers. Richard Sindani. Reggie Begelton. DaVaris Daniels. Kamar Jorden. Marken Michel. Julan Lynch. Chris Matthews. Ambles.

All have played a part, caught at least one pass, in the injury-fuelled revolving door at the receiving positions.

“Me and Pat (O-line coach) Del Monaco, the two Italians, we’ve been joking around,’’ confesses Costanza. “Last year, when his group was going through their injury carousel, I’d be teasing him: ‘Oh, c’mon, stop! It’s not that bad. You five block those five.’

“Well, now it’s on my plate.

“So about a week ago, I told him: ‘Hey, I’m never going to bust your balls if that ever happens again.’

“It’s unfortunate. Hard on the coaches because you’ve got to mix and match guys around. But there’s no time to sulk. You’ve just gotta roll up your sleeves, pull up your socks and get to work.”

The work continues, with Calgary still one win away from clinching first place in the West, the bye and hosting privileges for the division final the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 18.

“We’ve gone through a lot of players but we’ve just got to keep working at it,’’ sighs Costanza. “A positive out of this is that a lot of talented kids are getting some valuable experience under fire.

“If you could look at your crystal ball and predict the future, that’d be great. But seeing the guys we have playing now and the others injured now who, fingers crossed, come back healthy, I’d think we should have a solid, deep, talented receiving corps moving forward.

“As for the here and now, well, none of the guys we have out there would be out there if we didn’t believe they could play winning football.

“Markeith Ambles can definitely play winning football.”