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Redblacks stamp out terrific Calgary season in Grey Cup

By David Song, November 29 2016 —

Last weekend, the Calgary Stampeders were upset by the Ottawa Redblacks on Canadian football’s greatest stage. The Stamps were unable to overcome a shaky first half and, despite fighting to the end, lost the Grey Cup in a 39–33 overtime thriller.

Although the game was an instant classic, the result is little consolation to Stamps players, coaching staff and fan base. Doubts and questions are abound and many view the 2016 campaign as a tragic waste. However, there are still are still many moments of reflection for the historic, if ultimately disappointing, season.

New head coach Dave Dickenson led his team to a 15–2–1 performance in the West division, proving he can pick up where John Hufnagel had left off. Running back Jerome Messam rumbled for 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the league in rushing, a feat that retired CFL All-Star Jon Cornish accomplished three times. The Stamps’ defence was an iron wall, allowing fewer yards of offence in the regular season than any other unit. 

As well, Calgary redefined the notion of “home field advantage.” McMahon Stadium was a graveyard for visiting teams — the Stamps won all 10 games at home, including a 42–15 rout of the B.C. Lions in the Western Final. Calgary Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell led the league with 32 touchdown passes, shredding defences with his arm strength, accuracy, and football IQ. The fifth-year quarterback was humble in defeat, shouldering responsibility for his team’s failure at the end of the hard fought battle against the Redblacks in the Grey Cup.

In the receiving corps, veteran Marquay McDaniel posted his third 1,000-yard season as a favoured target on second down, while receiver Davaris Daniels contributed 885 yards and nine touchdowns in only 11 games played. Throw in the rushing attack of the 254-pound Messam, and Calgary’s offence was nearly impossible to stop.

None of this would have been possible without the offensive line. Despite being riddled with injuries all year, Calgary’s frontline allowed only 20 sacks — yet another league-leading effort — protecting Mitchell and clearing the way for Messam to run rampant. The Stamps’ defence tied for first in the league with 52 sacks, including 16 by defensive end Charleston Hughes. Rookie middle linebacker Alex Singleton made 65 tackles, showing the poise of a grizzled veteran.

Calgary has possessed remarkable depth up and down their lineup. Receiver Joe West, defensive tackle Junior Turner, linebacker Deron Mayo and offensive lineman Dan Federkeil are just a few examples of starting players who have missed significant time with injury. Each time, someone else has stepped up to replace them.

All of these facts make Calgary’s Grey Cup defeat harder to stomach, but they also represent a tremendous foundation that the team has to build on. The Stamps organization must take a glass-half-full approach going into next year, reloading and resetting for another deep playoff run. Fans should take heart. If Calgary uses its latest setback as a learning experience, it will be playoff-bound once more.

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