All that cloak and dagger heading into the debut seems to have paid off for the 2008 Calgary Stampeders.
With a swarming defence that recorded four sacks and created two turnovers, and a steady offence led by star quarterback Henry Burris, the Stampeders beat the B.C. Lions 28-18 last night in front of 30,159 spectators at McMahon Stadium.
Burris went 22-of-32 passing for 274 yards, threw touchdown strikes to Chris Jackson and Ken-Yon Rambo and ran one in from seven yards out as the Stamps put up 471 yards offence.
On the other side, the Stampeders defence, rebuilt under new co-ordinator Chris Jones, used everyone dressed and kept constant pressure on Lions quarterbacks.
In the third quarter, the Lions couldn't manage a single first down and were held to 295 total yards overall.
The Stamps closed practice to the public all week in an effort to hide the defensive starters and it seemed to work.
"Those guys answered a lot of questions," Burris said of his defence. "We're going to have to prove ourselves week in and week out, but hey, this is a great start.
"We've just got to continue to build from here."
Things looked to be falling apart for the home side in the fourth quarter, even though the Stamps were up 14 points. Lions defensive lineman Brent Johnson dropped back into coverage and picked off a Burris pass intended for Nik Lewis.
But on the next play, Stampeders linebacker Dwaine Carpenter got the ball back by picking off Jarious Jackson, who came in to replace starter Buck Pierce.
Twice, while the B.C. offence was threatening in the first half, the Stamps defence came up with sacks to push them out of scoring range.
In the first half alone, Howard Hodges, Miguel Robede, Eddie Freeman and Juwan Simpson recorded their first sacks of the season.
Late in the game, the Stamps held the fort after the team lost linebacker Saleem Rasheed and defensive linemen Simpson and Funtaine Hunter to injuries.
"Our team responded very well the injuries we had on defence," said Stamps coach John Hufnagel, who picked up his first win as a CFL head man. "We plugged the holes and played sound football. Offensively, we did a good job of staying on the field in the second half."
Rambo picked up right where he left off last season, getting wide open for a 32-yard touchdown bomb from Burris in the second quarter to build a 17-1 lead.
Rambo, who tied for the team lead with 10 touchdowns last season, seemed comfortable in an outside spot as the Stamps played in several five-receiver sets.
He caught a 36-yard pass in the fourth to set up Jackson's touchdown and finished with eight catches for 136 yards, although Rambo fumbled the ball away twice to dampen his effort.
Both of his fumbles were reviewed on challenges by Hufnagel, but both held up. On each ensuing possession, the Stamps defence stopped the Lions from scoring.
"We had trouble holding onto the football and that put our defence in a hole, but we reloaded and kept them out of the end zone," Hufnagel said.
Pierce started the game, but left before halftime with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. He returned later, but wasn't as effective.
Pierce did hit Cory Rodgers on one of the receiver's two touchdowns, while Paul McCallum had a 58-yard single for the Lions and the Stamps conceded a safety to round out the scoring for the visitors.
Sandro DeAngelis hit from 40 and 12 yards out, but missed from 32 and 47 and settled for a single to round out Calgary's scoring.