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August 17, 2019

TOUGH TO SWALLOW

As he prepared to head out for the bye week, Reggie Begelton should have been walking on air, levitating out of the dressing room and into what remained of a night that he had bossed.

Instead …

“Bittersweet. Very bittersweet,’’ he murmured disconsolately. “Doesn’t matter what your stats are when you lose.

“When you lose, nobody’s happy.

“And when you lose like that …?

“Who would be happy? Who could be happy?

“I know I’m not.”

On even a half-normal night, Begelton would’ve been heading home to Beaumont, Tex., for 10 or so days of schedule-mandated R&R feeling like the king of the world.

After all: Nine catches for 173 yards and four touchdowns, tying the legendary Herm Harrison for most among receivers in a single-game and one off the franchise best of five set by fullback Earl (the Earthquake) Lunsford, set back in 1962.

So much home-run-hitting brilliance overshadowed by a hard-to-wrap-their-heads-around 40-34 overtime loss by the Stampeders to the Montreal Alouettes.

An eleven-point lead evaporating over the closing two minutes – a six-play, 66-yard drive and two-point convert surrendered followed by a successful Als’ onside kick that set up Boris Bede’s 27-yard field goal to knot the score 28-28 and send matters to OT.

There followed by a pair of one-yard TD plunges from Als’ quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. in the two-possession-aside OT that took an eternity to verify which proved to be the difference.

“Honestly,” said Stampeder offensive tackle Derek Dennis, “if I told you how I really feel I’d probably get in trouble.

“I don’t know … something seemed off … tonight. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. You saw what happened. You can make your own judgements.

“I’m disgusted. Let’s just leave it at that.”

The whole thing had a decidedly Twilight Zone-ish feel to it.

“It was so close. So many close plays, close calls,” said Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson. “Very disappointed. Obviously they got the onside kick, made the plays they needed to.

“We didn’t play well enough.

“I feel like it was stolen, though. No doubt. I would expect anyone not living in Montreal would think there’s some things that went against us.

“Not one call or one play can determine a game. But there were numerous plays we thought we were on the wrong end.

“Our coaches thought Eric (Rogers)’s foot was down at the end. I thought we stopped them on third down: You call a touchdown and then you can’t overturn it because there’s a mass of humanity. I did not see the ball cross the line and I don’t think they did, either.

“Those are tough calls.

“This one’s going to sting. But it’s Game 9. Game 9 isn’t going to necessarily make or break your season but it makes it tough because a lot of people are winning in the West and it would’ve been nice to keep pace with them.

“But we weren’t able to do that.”

The game ended bizarrely, players from both sides out on the field, halfway to their respective dressing rooms, staring up the scoreboard replay of the final snap, slotback Rogers reaching to snag a pass at the back of the endzone on third and that would’ve provided the Stamps at least a tie, even a win with a successful ensuing two-point convert.

“They reviewed it for a long time,’’ shrugged Rogers afterwards. “I thought they were going to overturn it. But it doesn’t matter what I think. And they didn’t.

“They stick to original calls. There has to be something conclusive for them to overturn a call. Kinda like the one they made on the Montreal third-and-short.

“I thought I dragged my foot enough. But there was a ref right there. A tough call for him.

“Looking back, I could’ve kinda tried to kill my momentum a bit to keep both feet so it’s not an issue. But the first thing you’ve got to do is catch the ball. That was foremost in mind. Worry about the catch and then drag my feet.”

The loss drops the Stampeders’ record to 5-4 and drops them four points behind the division-pacesetting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“A tough way to go out on the bye week,’’ acknowledged Begelton.

“This tested our resilience, our perseverance. Can we come we back when it doesn’t go our way?

“We’ll bounce back.

“That’s what sport’s all about – bouncing back. What is football without adversity, right?”

When it was then suggested that maybe he and his mates had just experienced enough of that over a three-hour span to last at least a couple of lifetimes, Begelton smiled, chuckled softly.

“Yeah. Pretty much.”