By Maggie Hsu, October 13 2022—
The Calgary Stampeders’ campaign for their 9th Grey Cup had a fiery start as they went undefeated through the first five weeks of the season. Their first loss came on their sixth week of play at the hands of the two-time defending league champions, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Stampeders have some important games coming up if they want to maintain their dreams of making their 18th Grey Cup appearance after a summer full of tough matches have put the Stampeders at third in the West Division. Calgary will need to pull into second, above the BC Lions, if they want home field advantage in the West Division Semi-Finals.
Despite a difficult summer, there were plenty of lessons that could be learned for the last leg of the regular season. The Stampeders are one of the top scoring teams in the league and boast one of the best defensive lines but have shown that discipline and penalties have been major issues for them, as every loss came from very few points.
As the only team that is undefeated when playing teams outside of their division, the Stampeders are looking like a strong contender for the Grey Cup finals. However, in order to play in November, they must first battle the two teams they have not been able to defeat this season — the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Despite having a 12–2 record going into week 17 of the season, many of their games have been tight, with Winnipeg only winning by a margin of a touchdown or less. Their first loss came in week 10 in which the Montréal Alouettes edged out the Bombers in overtime, exposing a flaw in Winnipeg’s armour. Their second loss came at the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who managed to put a dampener on the almost perfect-looking Winnipeg offense, headed by quarterback Zach Collaros. Both losses are examples that with a strong and disciplined defense, the Bombers could fall just like any other team this season.
The season series against the BC Lions was highly anticipated as the Stampeders would look to see how they face off against the Canadian quarterback making waves in the headlines, Nathan Rourke. Rourke has put up incredible numbers that are now deemed the league standard with a 79.2 per cent completion rate and has been the de facto starter for the Lions ever since June 11. When Rourke suffered an injury during a game on Aug. 19 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Stampeders felt like this may be a chance for them to take the second spot in the standings while the Lions’ star quarterback was out.
Going into the Sept. 17 game, the Stampeders were looking to pull a win off in a rematch of the close game on Aug. 13 in which the Lions won by a single point. This game would prove to be equally as competitive and dramatic as the rivalry was taken up another notch. Ultimately, BC took home the win in overtime despite a strong effort to extend the extra quarter by Dinos football alumni, Jalen Philpot. Philpot went on to be a big player for the final matchup of the season between the two teams on Sept. 24 in which the Stampeders learned from their past mistakes and kept the powerful Lions’ offense at bay, shutting out the Lions until the last minute of the third quarter. The Lions tried to make a comeback in the fourth but the effort came too late as the Stampeders added to their lead, topping the Lions by a score of 25–11 and tying BC again for second place on the West Division standings.
With three games remaining in the season and a playoff appearance secured for the 17th straight season, the Stampeders will need to be at the top of their game in order to edge out the Lions for that coveted home field advantage for the first round. They will now be challenged by one of the only two teams that have defeated the defending champions, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, on Oct. 14. Afterwards, they will round off the season with a home-at-home with their perennial divisional rivals, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, on the last two Saturdays of October. All will be difficult and important games for the Stampeders in order to prepare for the post-season and challenge them to improve in time for the Grey Cup.