Stamps receivers ready to step up

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

The hottest storyline heading into Thursday’s season-opener with the Argos was the homecoming of former Stampeders fan favourite Jeremaine Copeland.

Turns out, there are still plenty of playmakers wearing Red & White.

“All we ever heard this whole pre-season was about what we lost,” said slotback Nik Lewis. “Don’t get me wrong, we lost some great guys, but in this league, every year teams lose people and new guys step up. So don’t count us out before you see what we’ve got to step up.

“That’s the only point I was trying to get across. I’m still here. Hank’s still here. Joffrey’s still here and Romby is here. With guys like that, we’re going to be alright.”

Although it wasn’t the most polished effort, the Stamps receivers were mostly reliable in Thursday’s 30-16 victory over the Toronto Argonauts at McMahon Stadium, helping the hosts rack up 500 yards of total offence.

Lewis, who counts Copeland as a mentor and a close friend, fielded a seemingly endless stream of questions this week about the return of his former roommate and current Argos captain.

And over and over again, the seventh-year Stamp insisted the biggest challenge would be replacing Copeland’s leadership skills in the locker-room.

On the field, Lewis was optimistic the current crop of pass-catchers could pick up the slack. Looks like he was right.

Soft-spoken speedster Romby Bryant racked up 113 yards on six catches against the Boatmen, while Lewis traversed 74 yards on seven receptions.

Copeland’s replacement, Jermaine Jackson, hauled in four passes, with Canadian Arjei Franklin and Deon Murphy each counting three catches.

Ball-carrier Jon Cornish was targeted twice. Fullback Rob Cote got his hands on one. Same goes for dual-threat running back Joffrey Reynolds, who also had 17 carries for 116 yards.

Talk about spreading the wealth.

As Lewis said after Thursday’s victory, “We lost a lot. But hey, we still have a lot.”

Perhaps now, the Stamps have heard the final questions about who’ll replace Copeland.

On Thursday night, before 29,333 witnesses, they answered them.

“You can’t replace Jeremaine, but the thing is, we’ve got some special players here that we have to build relationships with now,” said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. “And those guys made some big plays for us. We’re only going to get better from here. There were a lot of kinks in the wheel (against the Argos), but we were consistent enough, kept the ball, moved the chains and made plays when they needed to be made.

“It just shows you the potential we have on offence this year.”

No laughing matter

After committing three fumbles against the Argos, receiver/returner Deon Murphy had a football tucked under his arm as he ran light sprints at Friday’s rundown.

Defensive line coach Cornell Brown took an occasional swipe at the pigskin, while several of Murphy’s teammates cracked jokes at his expense.

Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel also garnered some guffaws — when asked about the sight of the former Kansas State Wildcat holding the ball, he replied “I like to see the ball in his hands, not the ground” — but he made it clear the turnovers are no laughing matter.

“It’s a great concern and he understands that,” Hufnagel said. “He knows it’s a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.”

The Stamps had no major injuries to report after Thursday’s victory.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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