Stampeders stomp on Lions early en route to 41-21 victory in Calgary
B.C. spots Calgary a 34-0 lead before getting involved in cold, one-sided game
CALGARY -- Even a fashion klutz knows you shouldn’t wear white after Labour Day — a classic faux pas.
Clad in strange winter white football strip from head to toe, the B.C. Lions looked like ski troops in full withdrawal in the first quarter of Friday’s Canadian Football League game against the Calgary Stampeders at snowbound McMahon Stadium.
And it was a retreat of epic proportions.
The Stampeders took a 24-0 lead after the first quarter — the largest deficit after 15 minutes in Lions’ history — and Calgary went on to a 41-21 victory that meant little for two teams already locked into playoff positions.
“It was different,” said Geroy Simon, remarking on the Lions’ unaccustomed look. “For us, this is the first time in all-white. It’s something we’ve been trying to do for a long time. But I don’t think we’ll be doing it again.”
Simon said it with a chuckle, and the Lions can afford to laugh it off, having already clinched first place in the CFL’s West Division.
In some respects, the embarrassment was reminiscent of a game at almost this same juncture a year ago, Week 17, when the sassy Lions were humbled 42-10 by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It brought an eight-game win streak to a screeching halt, and reminded the Lions that the basic requirement of football is to first show up. The team never lost another game that season en route to the Grey Cup.
“That game (Oct. 22, 2011) was a wake-up call, because we had been on such a winning streak,” Simon recalled. “We’d been going so well. It kind of opened our eyes that we can’t just show up and win games. We have to work at it. And we can’t make mistakes like we did tonight.”
The loss was costly to the 12-5 Lions, only that it denied them the opportunity for a possible franchise record 14 wins. B.C. closes out the regular season next Saturday at BC Place against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The 11-6 Stampeders have a chance to tie the Lions with a victory in their final regular-season game, against Edmonton.
With a 2-1 record against the Stampeders in head-to-head meetings this season, however, the Lions will play host to the West Division Final at BC Place Stadium on Nov. 18, regardless of outcomes on the final weekend of regular-season play.
Like the frozen turf on which they played, the Lions seemed immobilized and anesthetized in the first quarter. Just 2:02 into the second quarter, they trailed 34-0 and seemed headed to a defeat of monumental proportions.
The fact is, they didn’t. Lions scored three straight touchdowns and closed within 13 points after a spectacular 55-yard punt return touchdown by Tim Brown in the third quarter. But Calgary kicker Rene Paredes booted a pair of field goals — his third and fourth of the game — to blunt any notions of a Lions’ comeback.
Mike Reilly, making his second start at quarterback for the Lions, seemed, like a James Bond martini, shaken not stirred. He was blitzed by an unblocked Malik Jackson on just the Lions’ second play from scrimmage, sacked and fumbled. Jackson recovered his self-created turnover and ran the ball in for the Stampeders’ first touchdown. Barely three minutes had been played, and the Lions were down 10-0. And then it got much worse.
“It’s not a good start, not only scoreboard-wise, but it gives them a feeling of momentum,” Reilly said. “It lets them feel like they can attack, and they’re in control. We talked about ball security all week. That one’s on me.”
It was indicative of the pressure Reilly felt and tasted most of the evening. He was sacked seven times, four of them by 36-year-old Anwar Stewart, a free-agent pickup cut loose by the Montreal Alouettes. Stewart had joined the Stampeders only two weeks ago. Calgary recorded an eighth sack late in the fourth quarter, when Lions’ backup Thomas DeMarco was given his first CFL game reps.
The Lions rested first-string centre Angus Reid, replacing him with Dean Valli. Jesse Newman, in turn, took over Valli’s vacated spot at guard. The short of it was, Reilly didn’t get a lot of accustomed protection, and he was throwing off his back foot on a number of occasions. Still, he completed 19 of 26 passes for 261 yards, and authored a pair of soul-affirming touchdown drives just before halftime. With the Stampeders ahead 34-0 in the second quarter (the Lions’ largest deficit at halftime in their history is 35-0) Reilly staunched the hemorrhaging with a nine-play drive which he finished off with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Simon, the 100th touchdown reception of his career.
“Getting a win would have been better than any milestone touchdown,” admitted Simon, making his first start since Sept. 29.
With seconds left in the first half, Reilly then lofted an eight-yard pass to an uncovered Akeem Foster for another touchdown, cutting the Stampeders’ lead to 34-14. It seemed like something of a victory to be within three touchdowns, after being physically and mentally in another time zone.
“We had some opportunities, had we not played so terrible in the first quarter,” Reilly said. “It would have been a whole different game. We appreciate the need to come out quickly, and we’ve done that the past few weeks.”
Kevin Glenn completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Price. Drew Tate, who hadn’t played since July 7, hooked up with Nik Lewis for another 44-yard touchdown play as the first quarter ended with the Stampeders ahead 24-0, representing a new low for the Lions. Not to be outdone, third-string quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell tossed a one-yard pass to Corey Mace, a defensive tackle by trade, to put Calgary in front 31-0.
Glenn summed up the wipeout thusly: “We came out fast, and I think the weather was something that they (Lions) didn’t want to play in.”
Winter white definitely is not their best look.
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