Stamps firsting for more offence

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:17 AM ET

REGINA - Say this about the current edition of the Calgary Stampeders, these guys certainly have a flair for the dramatic.

For the second consecutive week, the Stamps engineered a last-minute, game-winning drive, this time celebrating a field-goal at the buzzer for a 33-31 pre-season triumph over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in what is always hostile territory.

Meaningless game? Not for a group of guys fighting for full-time employment at McMahon Stadium.

“Fourth quarter men,” grinned star slotback Nik Lewis. “Playing these two tough games, we could’ve just said, ‘OK, it’s pre-season,’ and lost ‘em. We came back and we won.”

Former NFL journeyman and current Roughriders quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan made the most of a broken play with less than a minute remaining, hurling a 28-yard touchdown strike to rookie receiver Ismael Bamba to give Gang Green a late lead much to the delight of the Mosaic Stadium masses, but the out-of-towners didn’t go quietly into the night.

After a bad punt, Stamps signal-caller Bo Levi Mitchell managed to move the yardsticks with a pass to slotback Marquay McDaniel and kicker Rene Paredes finished the job, booting his sixth field-goal of a flawless night from 42 yards out.

Mitchell seems to have the edge over Brad Sinopoli — the man at the controls for a game-tying and then a game-winning drive against the Edmonton Eskimos last week — in the battle to be third-string quarterback and Friday’s performance certainly didn’t hurt his chances.

The Stamps must finalize their roster for Week 1 against the Montreal Alouettes prior to Saturday’s 8 p.m. deadline.

“When you’re up by 40, it’s easy to go in there nonchalant and just throw the ball around. But when you’re down and you’ve got to make each and every throw count because you’ve only got 50 seconds left to tie things up, I think that’s really what (the coaches) want to see,” Mitchell said.

“It’s huge for the locker-room — I think you see how excited we get — but it’s big for the starters mainly because it keeps giving them the confidence that they can say no matter what, no matter how much we’re done, we can come back and make the win. I think that’s something they’re going to feel in their heads.”

If there’s a last-minute drive to be pieced together on Canada Day against the Alouettes, it’ll be Drew Tate taking the snaps at quarterback.

Although the Stamps had to settle for field-goals on a couple of woulda-shoulda-coulda drives in the first half, Tate finished 13-of-21 for 174 yards with one touchdown toss and one interception, a forced — and ill-advised — throw that bounced off Lewis’ fingertips in the first quarter.

Tate and Lewis made up for it just before the break, connecting on three straight passing plays, including a 22-yard touchdown strike less than a minute before the break. Lewis, looking like his usual feisty self, racked up 121 yards on seven catches against the Riders.

“Not saying that pre-season is regular season — we know it’s a different level of play — but I think we’re going in the right direction,” said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel. “We’ve still got a long ways to go, obviously.”

Former University of Calgary Dinos star Matt Walter had a four-yard rushing major for the Stamps in the second half, while Rob Maver scored a single.

On the Roughriders’ sidelines, shifty running back Kory Sheets scored on a dozen-yard rushing play, while quarterback Drew Willy hooked up with a wide-open Chris Getzlaf on a sequence that rookie safety Keenan MacDougall would love to have a mulligan on. Christopher Milo booted three field-goals.

Extra points

Stamps R Johnny Forzani (leg) made the trip but was scratched just before the game ... Stamps S Eric Fraser (undisclosed) left just before halftime and returned after the intermission in street clothes ... Stamps DL Ameet Paul (foot), their first-round selection in this year’s draft, made an early exit and was using walking crutches after the game.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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