CALGARY — Defense stole the show on Saturday night at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium, where the hometown Stampeders defeated the Toronto Argonauts 23-7.
Calgary (7-1-1) created pressure on Toronto (4-6) quarterback Ricky Ray throughout the night, limited its visitors to just three first-half first downs, and simply dominated the line of scrimmage en route to sole possession of first place in the West Division.
Stamps D-end JaGared Davis had a pair of sacks in the winning effort, and played — along with the rest of Calgary’s pass rush — a key part in Ray’s sub-standard 256-yard outing.
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns in the win, with DaVaris Daniels — final line: 114 receiving yards, two touchdowns — being his target of choice on the night.
Defense was the story of the first quarter, as the two squads combined for just four first downs and 101 net yards.
A strong punt return from Roy Finch late in the first quarter set the Stamps up with good field position; Bo Levi Mitchell then marched the Calgary offense down inside the red zone.
Once there, Mitchell was picked off by Cassius Vaughn in the Toronto end zone; Vaughn then motored for a 115-yard pick-six, which was initially flagged for pass interference but corrected to stand upon review. Lirim Hajrullahu’s convert gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Calgary would respond later in the quarter, as Mitchell found receiver DaVaris Daniels just inside the end zone on a 21-yard connection for the latter’s third touchdown of 2017. Rene Paredes missed the convert, so Toronto’s lead temporarily stood at 7-6.
The Stamps defense took over on the following series, as Alex Singleton and Micah Johnson combined to bring down Ray for a sack. Ja’Gared Davis then broke through on the following play for his second sack of the night.
Rene Paredes handed his Calgary team the lead on the final play of the first half, drilling a 40-yard field goal to send the Stamps to the locker room with a 9-7 lead.
Early in the third quarter, Mitchell found Daniels for the pair’s second touchdown of the night — a 38-yard bomb. The ensuing Paredes convert pushed the hosts’ lead to 16-7.
The Calgary kicker then made it a 10-point lead on the following kickoff; with the help of a Shawn Lemon roughing-the-kicker penalty on the convert, Paredes forced the Argos to concede a single in their end zone.
Paredes, a Concordia product, extended the Stamps’ advantage to 20-7 with a 24-yard field goal.
Ray and the Argos offence then saw their ensuing drive early in the fourth quarter stall near midfield due to penalty trouble.
Coordinator DeVone Claybrooks’s Calgary defense continued to dominate through the fourth quarter, forcing a two-and-out and, later, a critical turnover on downs near midfield.
A 32-yard Paredes field goal inside the final two minutes rounded out the night’s scoring.
Brandon Smith led the Stamps defensively with seven tackles, while standout linebacker Alex Singleton was also a force. Brandon Harris led the Argos with seven tackles in a losing cause.
On the special-teams front, Calgary return man Roy Finch ripped off a number of sizeable returns, while diminutive Toronto speedster Martese Jackson was held largely in check (7-yard average).
Receiver DeVier Posey caught five passes for 60 yards in his return to the lineup for Toronto.
Both the Stamps and Argos now enter crucial weeks in the run-up to Labour Day weekend rivalry contests.
Mitchell and the Stamps will now prepare for a long-weekend Monday showdown at McMahon Stadium against provincial rivals Edmonton (7-2) on Sept. 4 (3 p.m. ET), while Ray and the Argos will look to bounce back in the second game of the Monday doubleheader against Hamilton (0-9) at Tim Horton’s Field (6:30 p.m. ET).