Work in progress

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

The Canada Day fireworks that ended last night's game were set off before the sky was dark enough to really enjoy them.

So too were early season expectations of the Stampeders a little premature, crashing to the ground in Game 1 against the Argos.

But the Stamps home-opening performance fizzled before falling to the ground, a tad disappointing.

It's understandable many Calgary fans were anticipating something more from the rebuilt team on opening night.

More polish, more production, more points.

But against the defending Grey Cup champions, all they got was a dose of reality in a 22-16 loss and what else could you expect?

While many of the 34,102 fans on hand were breathlessly awaiting a miracle to appear at McMahon Stadium, there are obviously no quick fixes for what has ailed this franchise the last three seasons.

Real progress will take time, although the Stamps showed tons of promise in the dying minutes against the Argos.

Stampeders starting quarterback Henry Burris, 30, will continue experiencing growing pains as shown last night by his four turnovers, including an interception in the game's dying minutes to end their comeback.

While completing 22 of 34 passes against one of the CFL's best defences, Burris fumbled twice and threw a costly pick in scoring position while trailing 7-0 and again in the final minutes trailing by just six points.

A fitting end to the game, according to Stamps head coach Tom Higgins.

"It just seemed like it was poetic justice that we would turn it over there because turnovers really were the key to this football game," Higgins said.

"Don't take anything away from Toronto because they were earning them, putting pressure on Henry to throw the football up and they got their interceptions. When he was running the football, they were able to strip it from him and we're just going to have to be better securing the football."

While Burris would have benefitted from stronger pass protection, he needs to tear a page out of the playbook of veterans such as ancient Argos legend Damon Allen, who demonstrated again last night why he's one of the best to ever play three-down ball.

He protects the football like a bag of money and isn't afraid to swallow the pigskin and take a sack instead of whipping the ball downfield on a prayer or risking a fumble.

Allen has had two decades as a CFL starter to hone his craft, learning the patience that made him one of the game's greats.

"Damon just has a great field presence," Higgins said. "He never loses his cool, he just continues to go out and do his job."

Burris suggested during training camp it would take half a season for the Stampeders offence to begin scaring opposing defences and he may be right.

Down 22-10 in the fourth quarter, Burris overthrew Mike Juhasz, wide open in the Toronto endzone.

Yes, Smilin' Hank may have been down when officials ruled on his second fumble and maybe Tony Miles was out of bounds on the Argos' second touchdown but Calgary authored most of their own troubles with five turnovers. Joey Boese and Judy Waddy missed a sure intercpetion, crashing into each other on a play that would have prevented the Argos' third score.

The Stamps now get to take their show on the road for two weeks, facing Winnipeg and Ottawa. When they return July 23 to face Saskatchewan -- Burris's former team -- expectations should be even higher.

By then the Stampeders might be able to live up to them.


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