Stamps' chance at salvation slips away

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:48 AM ET

Unlike the rest of the Stampeders football community, Wes Lysack insists he won’t be haunted by the golden opportunity he and his club squandered late in Sunday’s West final.

Despite the fact an entire city will bemoan the Stamps’ lost opportunity as time ticked away on a Grey Cup berth, the classy veteran insists the game didn’t hinge on the loose ball he inadvertently booted into the endzone with three minutes to play in a four-point game.

At no point did he feel the excitement of almost grabbing what would have clinched a West Division title, nor was he devastated when the ensuing scramble in the Roughriders endzone wound up in the hands of a greenback.

“Every now and then, I give you (media) guys some credit, but if you are going to think that’s the Grey Cup bouncing down the field for us, then maybe I give you a little too much credit,” said the Stamps safety with eyes as red as his jersey.

“Throughout the game, we had opportunities to make plays, and if we’re going to rely on people to bobble a punt return and get that for us to win a game, then we’re not the football team we think we are.”

Turns out they aren’t.

They thought they were a disciplined team.

Not Sunday.

They thought they had the league’s best running game.

Not Sunday.

They thought that, for the first time in four playoff outings against Saskatchewan, they’d come out on top.

Not Sunday.

Still, with three minutes left in a 20-16 game, the Stamps had their shot at erasing an afternoon of miscues and questionable penalties by pouncing on a rock-hard ball bobbled by punt returner Ryan Grice-Mullen on his own 25-yard line. Randy Chevrier piled into the scrambling returner to send the ball hurtling towards the endzone with a mess of Stamps in chase. And while such ball hunts are essentially coin flips, Lysack had the best shot at it before it bounced off his leg and, eventually, into the arms of Riders game-saver Jerrell Freeman.

Be clear: No one is blaming Lysack for the loss or for being unable to corral the wildly-bounding ball. But since he had the best shot at it, he’s the logical man to ask about it.

“The ball was all over the place,” recalled Lysack of the play that had 35,000 frozen hearts aflutter in the stands.

“I slid out for the ball and it was sliding and it slid into the endzone and it was kind of like the story of the game — there were three of us around the ball and one of them, and they get the football. It happens pretty fast. Before you know it, they have the ball in the endzone, and it’s a weird call on top of it — I didn’t understand how they got it on the 25. I thought we’d at least get a couple points out of it.”

Lysack’s questioning of the call — which was correct, as the Stamps never had possession of the ball during the scramble — was the most diplomatic approach to one of the many calls that had the room filed with zebra rage afterwards.

“A lot of calls didn’t go our way today,” said Lysack. “Obviously, you’ve got to give credit to Saskatchewan, but they got a little bit of help along the way.”

Especially on the game-deciding scramble.

“When the ball was scooting along in the endzone, that would have been a big play,” said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel, exhaling following the loss.

“But you’ve got to create your luck, and you’ve got to create your opportunities.”

Despite a frigid afternoon of mistakes from a heavily favoured home team, everything could have been erased had someone wearing red been able to grab a ball that would have sent them to next Sunday’s Grey Cup in Edmonton.

“I think you guys are making a bigger deal out of it than anyone else,” insisted Lysack.

“Maybe I had a chance — I would love to have it back and make that play, but we never should have been in that position. We should have been up a couple touchdowns because of how good a team we are.”

They weren’t. They didn’t. They’re done.


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