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Stamps vs. Ti-Cats: Offence vs defence

The Calgary Stampeders are poised to have three receivers with over 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in a decade.
Nik Lewis
Calgary Stampeders Nik Lewis celebrates his touchdown during second quarter CFL football action against the B.C. Lions in Calgary

CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders are poised to have three receivers with over 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in a decade.

Nik Lewis (1,151) is already there, while Romby Bryant (980) and Ken-Yon Rambo (968) could get there today as the Stampeders host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (TSN 8 p.m.).

They would be the first Stamps trio to accomplish that since Allen Pitts, Marc Boerigter and Travis Moore in 2000.

“To me, it’s a huge accomplishment to see three guys reach that plateau,” said Calgary quarterback Henry Burris, who is the man in charge of distributing the ball to them.

But getting all three into the 1,000-yard club Friday might be difficult against what has suddenly become the toughest defence in the CFL.

Hamilton (9-7) has given up just 17 points, including one touchdown, in their last three games which were all wins.

The Tiger-Cats signed defensive end Stevie Baggs on Sept. 16. He has 18 tackles, four sacks, one interception and three fumble recoveries — two for touchdowns — in the four games he’s played for Hamilton.

Baggs played for Saskatchewan last year and was released from a tryout with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals in early September. Baggs was key in Hamilton’s 40-3 shock of the Montreal Alouettes last week, with four tackles, an interception, one pass knock down and returned a fumble recovery 80 yards for a touchdown.

The man Burris calls Mr. Shakespeare, because Baggs has a talent for prose, and the rest of the Ticat defence will test a Stampeder offence that has run hot and cold lately.

“He was a big pickup for those guys and it’s going to make things that much tougher for us as far as the passing and running game on Friday,” Burris said.

Calgary (11-5) clinched the West Division last week, but not with a win.

The day after the Stamps lost 36-31 to the B.C. Lions at home, the Roughriders fell to Edmonton and conceded the division’s top seed to Calgary.

The Stampeders are 2-4 in their last six games and Friday’s game, as well as their regular-season finale against Winnipeg, is meaningless in the standings. But it’s a chance for Calgary to sharpen their execution for the post-season.

“We lost two games at home this year and that’s embarrassing enough, but the thing is: our next biggest game will be the West final here at home,” Burris said. “We need to re-establish our dominance here. What better test than against probably the hottest team in the league right now being Hamilton?”

Calgary squeaked out a 23-22 win at Ivor Wynne Stadium when the two clubs met July 10.

The Ticats can clinch second in the East and thus host the semifinal with a win Friday. Montreal has already nailed down first in the East, but Hamilton’s first win over the Als in two years has put the Ticats on a roll as the post-season approaches.

“You’re in the tournament part of the year and we call that the money part of the season,” Baggs said.

“One thing I tell the guys is ’the man who becomes content becomes replaced,’ so we have to stay humble and hungry and come to work with the same mindset of getting better. It’s very important for us to be playing at a high level at this time.”

Hamilton’s Arland Bruce, the CFL’s leading receiver, will not play Friday due to what the Ticats have called a lower body injury.

“Him being such an impact player for us we felt it was in our best interests not to press him this week,” Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said.

“The important thing is to have him 100 per cent for the playoffs.”

Among the other subplots today is the return of former Stampeder kicker Sandro DeAngelis to McMahon. DeAngelis is fourth all-time in points after five seasons in Calgary.

He was named the top Canadian player when the Stamps won the 2008 Grey Cup.

“I’m glad this game came later in the season,” DeAngelis said. “Playing them the first time was probably the hardest because it was so soon in the season. I’m kind of grinning from ear to ear since I’ve been here because of so many great memories.”

Notes: Calgary has activated receiver Landan Talley in an attempt to improve its return game, which ranks second-last in the CFL . . . Hamilton linebacker Shannon James, a Stampeder for four years, will also play his first game in Calgary since he was released in the off-season.