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October 31, 2019

BETTER THAN EVER

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 19, 2019: The Calgary Stampeders won 37-33 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium on Saturday. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders)

The ‘Better Than Ever’ tag is, naturally, purely a relative thing when you’re already acknowledged as the best.

“There are times on the field right now,’’ Bo Levi Mitchell confesses, “where Dave (Dickenson) is like: ‘Hey, what do you like? What do you want to call?’

“And I tell him: ‘Call whatever you want. I feel unstoppable.’

“There are times, stretches, playing this game when things just lock in, when it all seems to come together: When you feel confident, when you’ve done the work, when your body feels good and your arm’s at its best.

“Man, when my arm feels good, there’s not a throw one the field I can’t make.

“And it feels good now.

“That’s when football is so fun.”

In October, the two-time MOP averaged 362 yards passing a game, a 72.3-per cent completion rate for 1,449 yards and 10 TDs as opposed to three interceptions.

So, no, Mitchell can’t repeat as player of the year in 2019.

Thursday, though, he was recognized with CFL Player of the Month laurels.

“And I want to be player of the playoffs, too,’’ chimes in Mitchell. “Especially Nov. 24th, that last game.”

If he is, the odds are prohibitive that the Stamps will be celebrating a third Grey Cup, and a franchise first at the cozy confines of McMahon Stadium.

There remains a decidedly tricky piece of road to travel before reaching that destination.

Heading off to B.C. on Friday, all playoff possibilities are in play for the Stamps: First, and the bye; second, and home field next weekend; or third, and an unsettling West semi-final junket to the land of the Golden Boy, Confusion Corner and Salisbury House nips. Winnipeg.

“I told Bo that the last three games,’’ points out Calgary Stampeders’ QB coach Ryan Dinwiddie, “are the highest he’s graded out in my four years here.

“And he’s been pretty high a few times before, of course.

“We obviously don’t have to throw on every down, like we’ve been doing lately. We want to establish more of a run game. But obviously we have that faith, that trust, in our leader.

“He’s going to have to carry us a little bit and be really efficient. Take care of the football, make the big throws without any turnovers. We’ve got to be on the field, making first downs. Which is what he does so well.

“This, from now to the end, is when you need your top guys to shine.”

Mitchell feels he and his group are on the cusp of shimmering.

“We’re definitely pushing in the right direction as an offence,’’ he says. “The last couple of years we’ve had things locked up or close to earlier and started being a little more conservative as an offence because we had this great defence that wasn’t giving up more than 10, 15 points every week.

“So as an offence we were just trying to find ways to hold our position, not be too daring, and it’s really hard to operate that way for me. That’s not the way my mind works.

“You want to be going full throttle. I know I do.

“The last four or five games I’d be averaging, like, 200 yards a game. That seemed crazy low because it felt like we were playing so well last year.

“This year’s been different. It’s been more of a fight, right down to the end here. And as an offence right now I think we’re playing as well as we ever have reaching the end of a season.”

At the moment, however, the Stamps are contending with a rash of nicks and knocks while making final preparations for the junket west.

“We’d like to be a healthier group,’’ admits Dickenson. “But it’s Game 18. That’s what it is. Whoever’s number’s called, go play a good game.

“I want the best lineup but I have to be smart. I have to be sure the guys out there can finish the game, play while, win the game but I need as many guys feeling as good as possible for next week.”

Or the week after, depending.

Whenever, wherever, with Bo Levi Mitchell in his present form, everything is possible.

“For a few games after coming back from that injury he was maybe a little rusty but now he’s at his old form,’’ says Dinwiddie.

“Back to being the best Bo.

“Couldn’t have come at a better time.”

We’ve reached Halloween, when the frost is literally on the pumpkin. What lies ahead is mere speculation.

The immediate, unswerving aim is Saturday and securing home-field for either the divisional semi-final or final.

“Right now,’’ says Mitchell, “all that’s on my mind is that we’ve got a football game this weekend to win.”

Nobody, it says here, there or anywhere, does that better.