CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders are a confident bunch heading into the CFL’s West Division final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
After losing the final game of the regular season 30-14 to Saskatchewan in Regina on Nov. 7, Calgary rebounded the following weekend at home to defeat the Edmonton Eskimos 24-21 in the conference semifinal.
Now, the Stamps have confidence that they can make a return trip to Mosaic Stadium on Sunday (TSN, 2:30 p.m.) and come away with a victory.
“All I know is that we’re 1-0 in the post-season and they’re 0-0,” said Stampeders linebacker Tim Johnson, while downplaying the fact that the Stamps went 0-2-1 against the Riders in the regular season. “Nothing matters what happened prior to now. Ask Hamilton.”
Johnson was referring to the fact that the Tiger-Cats finished second in the East before losing at home 34-27 in overtime to the B.C. Lions, who advanced to play in the East final on Sunday against the Montreal Alouettes.
In his first season with the Stamps, Johnson is confident that Calgary’s defence can go into enemy territory and get the job done.
“We know who we’re playing, we’ve got a good grasp on what they’re trying to do and furthermore we know what we want to do,” said Johnson, noting that the Stamps would like nothing more than to start the game with a big defensive stand against Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant and his offensive unit.
“Heck yeah, that would be a great start to the game. To get a two-and-out early, it would just set the tone.”
Defensive back Dwight Anderson echoed Johnson’s assessment that the Stamps will have to ramp up their intensity level to thwart Saskatchewan’s offensive attack.
“You’ve got to come out and set the tone right now,” Anderson said. “You don’t want to be sitting back, sitting back and letting Durant get into a rhythm. We want to keep them off balance. They execute their assignments soundly, so if we don’t come out and do the same thing, we’re going to get abused.”
While Johnson will play a big role in stopping Wes Cates, Chris Szarka and the Saskatchewan running game, Anderson and fellow cornerback Brandon Browner will have their hands full with the likes of receivers Andy Fantuz, Rob Bagg, Chris Getzlaf and Jason Clermont.
Calgary defensive backs coach Corey Chamblin has confidence in the abilities of Anderson and Browner to make big plays. Both Anderson and Browner were named to the West Division all-star team, while Browner also earned accolades as a CFL all-star.
“Those guys, they play with so much energy and they play with so much passion for this game that it reminds me so much of the same thing that the Saskatchewan receivers do,“ Chamblin said.
Browner said the entire Calgary defence will have to be wary of Durant’s ability to scramble and turn what looks like a broken play into a first down.
“With a mobile quarterback, he buys time for his guys,” Browner said. “We need to get pressure up front, bring him down but also get hands on the receivers to slow them down.”
As the West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player in the CFL, Stampeders running back Joffrey Reynolds appreciates the job Calgary’s defence does to continually get the ball back in his hands.
“This week, I think they’re really going to have a breakout game because they have all the tools,” said Reynolds, who was also named as a CFL all-star on Wednesday.
“If the defence is getting at the opposing offence, that’s like the greatest thing. Aside from being an offensive player, I’m a football fan and it’s definitely great to see guys get pressure on the quarterback and guys getting interceptions.
“When you get those types of things, those definitely change the game.”