The Calgary Stampeders’ mid-season report card would leave even the strictest parents beaming with pride.
The Stamps lead the Canadian Football League in scoring and have proven they are equally capable of grinding away the clock with steady carries by backs Jeffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish, and exploding downfield with big gains through the air.
Quarterback Henry Burris’ pearly-white smile has been on display all year long, as the run-and-gun pivot has dissected defence after defence.
And on the receiving end of Hank’s precision passes have been the more than capable hands of Ken-Yon Rambo — who returned from a devastating injury five weeks into the campaign and quickly reasserted himself as one of the league’s best — as well as the ever-intimidating Nik Lewis and relative newcomers to the red-and-white, Romby Bryant and Arjel Franklin.
Outside of the team’s superstars, Calgary’s many role players have quickly transformed the offence from a small cache of weapons into a full-blown arsenal. Even role players like backup quarterback Drew Tate, fullback Rob Cote and young pass-catcher Deon Murphy have had their respective moments in the spotlight.
Opposing defences could throw everything, even the kitchen sink, at the Stamps offence and still find themselves looking at a 30-point deficit when the dust settles.
Even teams willing to simply trade touchdowns with the Stamps are running into a world of hurt, because possibly the only thing better than the horsemen’s offence is their defence.
Again ranked No. 1 in the league, Calgary’s defence is fast, fierce and ready to make the opposing offence pay for crossing the line of scrimmage.
The impressive presence of battle-hardened defensive end Mike Labinjo has garnered an almost cult-like following by local media and fans alike, while Juwan Simpson has padded an impressive stat line as the team’s anchor at middle linebacker.
In coverage, Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson have developed into a terrifying cornerback tandem and numerous other members have also proven they have the capability to provide a safety net should the Stamps defensive containment break down.
Special teams: A-
The kick return coverage has had a few hiccups, but nevertheless the unit has played well enough to put the Stamps in position to score points and generate turnovers.
Freshman kicker Rob Maver has filled the big shoes left by Sandro DeAngelis quite well and punter Burke Dales remains consistent when called upon.
Quite a report card indeed; however, class is still in session and many lessons await the Calgary cavalry in the weeks and months ahead.
Sitting pretty atop the league standings, Calgary will play in the post-season without question, but poor outings against legitimate contenders in the weeks ahead could significantly harm much-needed playoff momentum.
The Stamps still have a home-and-away series against the East Division-leading Montreal Alouettes and must make two trips to Mosaic Stadium to battle their only real threat in the West, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Nevertheless, this season seems to be the Stamps’ to lose, and they have yet to show even the slightest of cracks under the pressure.
As long as Hank and the boys stay the course and utilize the amazing depth accumulated by head coach John Hufnagel and his dedicated staff, don’t be surprised if the Stamps’ standout leader flashes us the brightest smile of all as he hoists another Grey Cup high over his head.
Jeremy Nolais is a Calgary-area sports columnist whose column appears in the Advocate every second Wednesday