Veteran comes in handy

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

It took almost 500 CFL snares for Jeremaine Copeland to finally master the art of the grab.

But last night, with reception No. 492, he may finally have made the perfect catch.

Not surprisingly, the 32-year-old Stamps receiver waited for the Labour Day Classic to do it.

"All my teammates are saying, 'It's the sickest catch of the year, without question,' " beamed Copeland of a one-handed endzone grab he held onto while falling.

"You're going to have to go into the archives to tell me if that was my best catch ever -- I don't know. It happened so fast. I didn't even see it.

"I saw the faces of everyone in the endzone saying, 'Oh my God.' What I know is it felt real good."

On a day in which Calgary's defence came up big, good ol' Cope came up even bigger with a catch that won't take long to be on every weekly highlight reel north and south of the border. Heck, young Mexican and Chilean children might soon gasp at the sight of a miraculous grab that was by far the most memorable moment of an otherwise boring, Labour Day dud.

Make no mistake, the record crowd of 40,729 left happy given the fact their boys in black annihilated the Eskimos 32-8 in a game that may prove to be the first major stepping stone to turning the Stamps' season around.

However, the drama that has peppered Labour Day lore was surprisingly absent and Copeland certainly had a hand in that -- a big, strong steady right hand that hauled in a grab that had many turn to the scoreboard screen to see how the heck he held on.

After setting up the hosts' first two scores with catches of 30 and 33 yards, he saved his best for early in the second half with the Stamps up 17-2. That's when a Henry Burris bomb was directed Copeland's way despite the fact Kelly Malveaux was draped all over the ninth-year veteran.

As the ball descended from a 35-yard heave to the back of the endzone, Copeland turned and used his right arm to make contact with the ball as he fell backwards.

Unable to use his left hand to secure the ball upon impact, he crashed to the turf and somehow managed to keep the rock in his right hand. The crowd exploded.

"I've seen a lot of catches in my day, and that's got to be in the top three of catches I've ever seen," said injured receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, who was one-upped by Burris.

"That's definitely up there, No. 1 or 2," added Burris who has hooked up with Copeland 43 times this year.

"He played high school basketball so he's so good at using his body to get position and make plays. He knew I was coming to him and he held his ground. Wow."

It was Copeland's fifth touchdown in the last three games, giving him a league-leading nine on the season, which is one short of his best season as a Stampeder.

Not bad for an old guy the Stamps forced to take a big pay cut a few years back or face being released.

The only guy who had a better night was Jason Miller who hauled in $44,932 in 50/50 proceeds.

"Was I surprised? No. I'm never surprised," said Copeland, whose five-catch, 99-yard effort moved him into second in CFL receiving yards with 642.

"That's what I'm supposed to do. We work on one-handed catches sometimes and it's a matter of whether you hang on or not."

He did, and because of it, so did the host Stampeders.

Convincingly.

Someone forgot to tell him such heroics aren't supposed to be authored by a 32-year-old on the verge of being put out to pasture after turning 30 a couple years back.

"That's what they say, but I'm not even the oldest -- (Ryan) Thelwell is 36 and he's still doing it," said Copeland, who has 69 CFL majors.

"It's not so much about being old, I think it's more of a mature state."

Or state of euphoria, which is what the crowd was in when he made that catch.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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