Stamps D knocks Lulay’s Lions off balance
Limiting vaunted B.C. offence to dink and dunk passing key for Calgary
Back home in Montreal as spring faded into summer, when he still looking for work, Anwar Stewart had a lot of free time for leisurely flights of fancy.
“I had about 100 dreams of hoisting that Grey Cup again while I was on the couch,” the rush end confessed. Pause. “Well, not literally on the couch.” A conspiratorial wink. “I was trainin’.
“But honestly, I had these visions and just continued to train and work hard to get that opportunity and when Thanksgiving came around I was able to choose where I wanted to go. And I made the right call.
“We didn’t leave anything out there. The tank’s on E. We just have to fill ’er back up by the time we get on that plane for Toronto on Tuesday.”
If Stewart and that Calgary Stampeder defence proves to be as much of a nightmare for Ricky Ray as it was Sunday for Travis Lulay, those visions might just be more than mere whimsical flights of fancy.
In a place where the Lions have ruled supreme of late, they magnificently stifled Lulay, the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Player, and his enviable arsenal of attack options. And, more to their credit, they accomplished the feat with their starting middle linebacker and acknowledged leader, Juwan Simpson, reduced to spectator status on the sidelines nursing an ankle injury. Deron Mayo filled in admirably.
“It’s over,” said interior defensive lineman Corey Mace. “And we’re happy as s---. Enjoy today and tonight and wake up with Toronto on our mind.
“You could tell (Lulay) seemed a little flustered, a little confused, out there today. We threw a mixed bag at him. Hats off to Rick (Campbell, defensive co-ordinator), the rest of our coaches and my teammates for going out there and executing.”
The Stampeders’ stronghold didn’t surrender a major until 59 seconds remained on the game clock — even then, Lulay and his pals had to work hard, running down the time in their season — and by then the defending champions seemed all out of ideas.
“Sure I’m proud of them. But I’ve been proud of them all year,” said Campbell. “They battle all game long. Some people have called it luck that we win the close ones, but I think you put yourself in position to win those games.
“We didn’t want Lulay running around. He can wreck the game if you let him scramble. He’s done a great job of creating first downs for them when plays aren’t there, with his feet. So that was definitely a point of emphasis.”
For safety Eric Fraser, a sentinel in the middle of the field, the ability wrap up, to limit, was what kept the tide surging in Calgary’s favour, and the Lions from getting revved up.
“The defence just played awesome. The key was making our tackles. They weren’t catching balls and getting extra yards. I think that was the difference in the game. There was one or two yards after a catch and that was it. There was no explosion plays for them. It’s hard on teams when they have to continue to work their way all the way down the field.
“That was our plan: Make them chip away. They like to throw the ball deep, get some big splash plays. To not let them do it, to make them do it five or 10 yards at a time is tough, not something they’re used to.”
No one characterizes this group more than Stewart, Uncle Stew, the reclamation project who has knitted together the strands into a cohesive whole. His contagious enthusiasm, his resume of success, his appetite for the hunt, has all factored into what the Lions faced Sunday.
“I just thank God for this opportunity,” he said, savouring yet another divisional title win. “How this year has gone for me, from gettin’ cut to gettin’ married. I have a beautiful, pregnant wife that I get to see this week. God’s been so good to me and my family.
“I think I’m going to change my name to Mr. Grey Cup.
“This is my ninth, right now I’m .500, and I’m so excited about it. Not too overwhelmed because we’ve got some unfinished business.
“I came here for a reason. Next Sunday we get the opportunity for everything I dreamed while I was waiting to come to pass.”
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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