Stamps put on defensive show

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders started the Labour Day Classic without their defensive captain then quickly had to replace his replacement.

It was a common theme on both sides of yesterday's Labour Day Classic at McMahon Stadium.

Midway through the second quarter of a 35-24 Stampeders victory over the visiting Edmonton Eskimos, Rob Rodriguez was knocked out with a shoulder injury.

It was tough news to a defence already without middle linebacker Brian Clark, who is a leader suffering from an infection on his knee.

In Rodriguez's only other start for the Stamps -- the 2006 West semifinal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders-- he also left with a shoulder problem.

"It's unfortunate, Rob gets his chance and isn't able to finish," said Stamps head coach Tom Higgins. "He may have a streak of bad luck."

After some shuffling, Stampeders sophomore Matt Grootegoed stepped in and helped plug the hole.

"I was well-prepared going in," said Grootegoed, who moved to an outside position because Cornelius Anthony moved inside. "For it to happen because an injury to someone, I didn't want that. I just tried to go out there and work hard on short notice."

The first player to go down was backup defensive lineman Mike Labinjo, who was slated for plenty of action with Anthony Gargiulo on the shelf with an ankle sprain.

After allowing 21 points in the first half, the defensive replacements helped plug the holes and hold the Esks to just a field goal in the second half.

It also helped that Anthony and Tearrius George were able to record two sacks each in the game and pressure Ricky Ray heavily in the latter stages.

"In the second half, we were more lively and focused," Grootegoed said. "The main thing was we didn't make mistakes that we made early.

"We then stepped up with a great pass rush and made it a lot easier. The coaches did a good job switching up the front, and we did a good job listening to what they changed."

The offence was affected by injury as well when centre John Comiskey was forced to leave with an arm problem. He was replaced by veteran Rob Lazeo, who did an admirable job of putting the ball in Henry Burris' hands.

"I told our guys to enjoy the evening but not too much because we're playing Friday," Higgins said. "It's a tough turnaround."


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