Strong start for Stamps quarterbacks

RANDY SPORTAK , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:33 AM ET

EDMONTON — So if Henry Burris is injured, it would appear the Calgary Stampeders could rely upon Drew Tate.

Is it a certainty? No.

But it’s likely.

The club’s No.-2 quarterback — a perch solidified last week with Barrick Nealy’s abrupt retirement — didn’t shoot out the lights in Calgary’s 23-21 preseason win over the Edmonton Eskimos Sunday night, but Tate did assert himself in about three quarters worth of action.

Tate took over after Burris ran the offence for two series and completed 18-of-29 passes for 249 yards at Commonwealth Stadium.

“I liked how the quarterbacks played,” GM/head coach John Hufnagel said of his pivots. “They executed the offence, made some good throws, moved the ball.

“We need to finish the drives.”

That could be about the only knock on Tate’s game.

The completion percentage, as well as the yardage, are on the mark, especially when you consider the Stamps didn’t dress a starting receiver or star running back Joffrey Reynolds.

Plus, there were a few drops by young receivers.

Still, Tate, who ascended to the No.-2 spot late last season, put in the kind of performance teams look for at this stage of the season.

“It’s the first time I’ve got to play that much in four years.

I had a great time. I had a ball,” Tate said.

So did Zac Champion, who engineered the go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter when Calgary trailed 21-16.

Looking at second and 17 at the Calgary 44, Champion hit rookie Canadian slotback Ron Kelly for 36 yards to reach Edmonton territory. A few players later, and an Edmonton pass interference infraction in the endzone, led to Champion’s one-yard plunge for the winning points.

A week ago to the day, Champion was at home wondering whether he had any future in football, but Calgary signed the former B.C. Lion Tuesday.

The winning drive may not have been textbook, but it worked.

“We’ll take it. Any touchdown’s good with me,” Champion said. “I don’t mind if it’s pretty or not. I was excited about it. The guys did a great job, and that catch over the top was an awesome catch.”

Champion was 4-for-6 for 75 yards.

“We hung in there,” Hufnagel said. “We didn’t give up. We slugged away and found a way to win.

“Our defence was able to keep us in the game when our drives were stalled. We had a lot of bad field position offensively and didn’t move the ball.

Key to that was Johnnie Dixon’s timely interception and 82-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

“I was watching the quarterback and the receiver, and when I saw the quarterback took his left hand off (the ball), I just broke down to the ball,” the cornerback said. “The rest, see it on film. Right to the house.”

The Stamps have one more preseason game Sunday afternoon at McMahon against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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