HAMILTON — It hardly resembled the dominance of their 59-point win back in July but the Calgary Stampeders scrapped out a 28-25 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a defensive battle at Tim Hortons Field Friday night.
A 17-yard Rene Paredes field goal – set up by a pass interference penalty on Hamilton – with zeros on the clock helped lift Calgary to a victory that was tough-sledding throughout.
With the win, Calgary is one step closer to hosting their second consecutive Western Final – the win Friday combined with a Winnipeg loss Saturday will clinch the West Division.
As for the Tiger-Cats, despite the loss, Hamilton still has an outside chance of making the playoffs in the East but will have to do so by leapfrogging Ottawa as there will be a crossover from the West Division.
The last time these clubs met, the Stampeders scored early and often in a lopsided 60-1 tally. They would once again race to an early lead in this one with special teams coming up with a big play to set the tone out of the gate.
Following Hamilton’s first possession, newcomer K/P Kenny Allen set up to punt but had his boot clocked by Stampeders RB Terry Williams. The loose ball was scooped up at the two yard line by FB William Langlais who tumbled into the endzone for the score. The Sherbrooke product’s major, combined with a single point on the previous drive gave the Stamps an early 8-0 lead.
The ever-precise Calgary offence sputtered a bit in the first quarter as they tried to stretch the field with three different deep routes falling just short.
The defense did their part when the second quarter began when CB Ciante Evans picked off a Masoli pass and took it down to the Hamilton 39-yard line but the Stamps were forced to come away with a Rene Paredes field goal from 38 yards out.
With the Hamilton defense hanging in tough, their offense started to find their rhythm after getting great field position from KR Willie Quinn. Masoli connected with receivers Jalen Saunders, Luke Tasker and Shamawd Chambers to help set up a 1-yard touchdown run by RB Alex Green. The drive lasted just over six minutes and cut into the Stampeders lead which was now at 11-6 after a missed two-point convert.
With momentum on their side and the defense giving Mitchell problems, Masoli’s next possession was set up inside the Calgary 25-yard line – aided by a 22-yard Rob Maver punt and 25 yards in Stampeder penalties. The Ticats quarterback promptly found Tasker on a crossing route for a 21-yard gain before punching it himself from a yard out to give the Ticats a 12-11 lead.
Held silent for the majority of the first half, Mitchell looked to answer with halftime looming. First, he found WR Marken Michel over the middle on a pair of plays to get the Stamps deep inside Hamilton territory but once again settled for a Paredes field goal.
Halftime would arrive with Calgary clutching a 14-12 lead.
When the third quarter began, the Ticats seemed poised to build momentum after DB Don Unamba returned a Marquay McDaniel fumble down to the Calgary 12-yard line but the Ticats turned the ball right back – on downs – when Masoli lined up in shotgun on third-and-one and threw an errant pass to Tasker in the flat.
The result of the turnover however, was field position on the Calgary side of half once they got the ball back and a completion to WR Brandon Banks helped set up an Allen field goal from 26 yards out to give Hamilton 15-14 lead.
Banks was coming off a pair of 100-yard games as he turns the corner on what was a slow first half of the season.
The only success the Stamps offense seemed to have heading into the fourth was over the top and when Mitchell needed it most, he went to his veteran in McDaniel. The former all-star made a pair of receptions in traffic over the middle to set up a 36-yard Paredes boot to restore the Stampeders two-point lead 17-15.
The field goals kept on coming, as the Ticats drove down the field to put up another one from 27 yards out to retake the one-point advantage.
The Stamps scrimmaged from their own 35 and once again, Mitchell leaned on McDaniel for a 35-yard gain on a crosser. That reception helped open up the ground game which had been relatively silent for most of the evening as Williams took a speed sweep 20 yards into Hamilton territory.
Those two big plays helped the Stampeders finally break the ice because with 4:36 remaining, the Stampeders posted their first major. Flushed out of the pocket, Mitchell rolled right and heaved a ball to the front of the endzone where Kemar Jorden out-jumped his defender and came down with a highlight-reel touchdown.
Jorden’s touchdown – and ensuing two-point conversion – not only gave Calgary a 25-18 lead but highlighted his return to the lineup after being out of the lineup since July.
The Ticats looked to send the game to OT and on the strength of a 14-yard gain from Green, got into Stamps territory. Masoli then threw a strike to Saunders to put the ‘Cats at the Calgary 4-yard line but a pitch to was fumbled and recovered by Green at the Stamps 12. But a pass interference call put the Cats at the one and they tied the game with a major with 38 seconds left.
With 11 seconds left, Mitchell heaved the ball in desperation down the field and WR Anthony Parker drew a PI call of his own to set up the Paredes boot.
Next week the Stampeders return home to host the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders while the Ticats try to keep their playoff hopes alive against the Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium.