Stamps comeback falls short

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

The annual matchup deserved a classic finish but all the Calgary Stampeders could muster was Labour Day pain.

The Stamps lost 25-23 yesterday to the Edmonton Eskimos in front of a packed McMahon Stadium crowd after a comeback attempt fell just short.

Calgary was primed to tie the game with a two-point conversion try after a Henry Burris one-yard TD plunge.

But the quarterback couldn't get the play called correctly and took a time-count violation, moving the ball back to the 10. When the ball was finally snapped, Burris was caught and sacked by defensive lineman Cedric Scott.

A steamed head coach Tom Higgins couldn't believe his team came back from a 19-point deficit only to mess up the last play.

"We have a bunch of different formations we send in and send out," Higgins said. "It was a lack of awareness and a lack of execution on our part. This wasn't good enough."

The loss drops the Stamps to 4-6 and into a tie with Saskatchewan for third spot in the West Division. Edmonton improves to 7-3 with a firm grip on second place.

The two teams meet again in four days at Commonwealth Stadium and the Eskimos can all but kill Calgary's chances at hosting a playoff game with a victory.

Burris engineered what would have been the game-tying drive, hitting Jeremaine Copeland and Nik Lewis for long receptions to get down to the two-yard line.

But the game was lost long before that.

In a lacklustre first-half performance by Calgary, the Eskimos built a 20-1 lead, highlighted by a Ricky Ray TD strike to Trevor Gaylor and a blocked punt by Tim Fleiszer that was recovered by Mike Bradley.

With those two big plays and the lack of Stampeders offence, the Eskimos were rolling. Even though the Stamps completely shut Ray down in the second half, Calgary couldn't carry the momentum.

Said Copeland: "I have no idea what's wrong. It's something we have to work on. I'm not the type of guy who likes to lose a lot. I'm tired of it. All the guys around here are tired of losing.

"We're beating ourselves. We have the potential of being one of the best teams in this league."

Burris finished 18-of-36 passing for 313 yards with two rushing touchdowns. Brett Ralph caught a 61-yard TD reception in the second half to help make it close.

And the defence did its part, holding the Eskimos to seven straight two-and-outs in the second half and limiting them to 30 yards net offence.

"At the end of the game, we were still executing offensively and defensively," Burris said. "We knew the mistakes we made and we know what we can do to correct those mistakes. Now we'll get better at those things. We have to get ready to go. We know we can beat this team.

"The bottom line is we're the best team in this league and we keep beating ourselves. As long as we stop hurting ourselves, we'll win games."

Hayden Epstein kicked field goals of 45-, 9- and 22 yards for the Eskimos

Copeland had a chance to make an outstanding long reception at the end of the first half but couldn't get a handle on it. He refused to make the excuse that the ball was tipped or that the Stamps were rusty from an 11-day layoff.

"Our excuse is we just played like crap," Copeland said. "We didn't play well in the first half and let them run away with it. This makes it a hard comeback at the end of the game."


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