Late surge saves pride

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

Six months of retooling and for most of the night the only thing that appeared to have improved at McMahon Stadium were the hotdogs.

Setting the tone in one of the most anticipated season openers in recent Stamps history, Henry Burris' first toss was an overthrow, the team's first punt was a shank and the Toronto Argos' first two scoring drives came courtesy of Burris fumbles.

Even the Outriders botched their opening dance routine, prompting half the squad to flee the field.

That said, a gutsy second-half surge turned what looked like one of the most embarrassing openings in Stamps lore into a respectable effort on which the retooled Stamps should actually gain confidence from.

Still, everything that could have gone wrong did early on for the Stamps in a 22-16 loss.

Burris agrees.

"That first half was nasty -- ugly," said Burris, whose first 30 minutes featured two fumbles, one of his three interceptions and 12 completions for a paltry 98 yards.

"Emotions were high early on and I think you could see that with the way I threw my first few passes. I made a lot of mistakes you won't see again."

Pre-game cheers for the marquee free-agent signing turned to boos from 34,102 following the quarterback's second coughup of the half as the ageless Damon Allen once again turned Burris' gaffe into a Tony Miles TD. Just before the score, play was delayed due to a bizarre sideline fight between Argos kicker Noel Prefontaine and teammate Robert Baker they claim was prompted by a spitting incident involving Stamp Rahim Abdullah.

It was the only embarrassing episode that wasn't provided by the Red & White, who went into the locker-room down 14-3.

Somehow, the Stamps made a game of it late in the third with a spurt during which Burris found a streaking Ken-Yon Rambo for a 57-yard touchdown, followed by two more DeAngelis field goals.

However, with 1:13 left and the Stamps driving for the winning score, Burris threw another easy interception to send the crowd home grumbling.

A fitting end, said coach Tom Higgins.

"It was poetic justice we ended the game with a turnover when we had a chance to go ahead for the first time," said Higgins, whose inexperienced secondary was picked apart all first half.

"That first half was as bad as it can get because we had a chance to score points and we turned the football over. I look forward to this being the benchmark from which we move forward."

And so, the wait will continue for the massive turnaround the city so eagerly anticipated.

To be fair, a Stamps team made up of 21 new faces got better against the Grey Cup champs as the night progressed. DeAngelis made good on all three field-goal attempts, the defence shut the door most of the second half and Burris combined with Joffrey Reynolds to rush for nearly 150 yards. Burris' 275-yard passing effort was erased by four turnovers that cost the Stamps every time.

At least no one threw a punch at a teammate. Then again, Jude Waddy and Joey Boese probably felt like it midway through the third after they collided while chasing an easy interception. Two plays later, Allen found Baker for the winning score.

"I'm very proud of this football team for climbing out of the first-half hole those three turnovers got us in," said Higgins.

And so, the Stamps start off as they have the last four years in a row, with a home loss.

Hey, it could have been worse.

It could've rained.


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