Stamps lock up home playoff date
By SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency
|The Calgary Stampeders will have a friendly crowd behind them in the upcoming CFL West Division semifinal after beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Saturday. (QMI Agency)
CALGARY - The Stamps can start selling playoff tickets.
Saturday night’s wild 34-32 win over the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats locked up home-field advantage for the West Division semifinal.
Veteran receiver Nik Lewis said hosting a game in November makes the path to the Grey Cup much easier.
“It’s huge,” Lewis said.
“We had a little stint (early in the year) when we lost a few at home.
“But since then, we’ve been playing well at home.”
The Red & White will face either the Edmonton Eskimos or Saskatchewan Roughriders in the west semi.
The Stamps have gone 1-1 against the Eskimos at McMahon Stadium in the playoffs since 2000.
Not exactly stellar, but it’s better than their record against the Riders, who have won both post-season tilts in Calgary over the past dozen years.
“We haven’t beat Saskatchewan in the playoffs,” Lewis said.
“I feel comfortable with where we’re at.”
Running back Jon Cornish, who cracked the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career Saturday, said he’s looking forward to the home playoff tilt following two somewhat meaningless regular-season games to finish off the season.
“It means a lot,” said Cornish, who had seven catches for 108 yards, both team highs. It means we get to sleep in our own beds before the game, which is huge.
“A lot of guys say it’s easier to remain focused at home. It’s easier to play here.”
Head coach John Hufnagel coached his 87th game on the Stamps sidelines, equalling Jim Duncan for second on the franchise’s all-time list. Wally Buono, of course, sits atop the charts at 234 ... Stamps KR Larry Taylor (knee) could be ready to return as early as next week. But after watching Jason Armstead’s performance Saturday night, the Stamps certainly don’t have to rush Taylor back before he’s 100% healthy ... The Tabbies defence, which watched helplessly as Jon Cornish ran over them to the tune of 170 yards in their first meeting, seemed determined not to give the CFL’s leading rusher a repeat performance. They held Cornish to four yards on eight first-half carries. The Stamps running back did, however, haul in two catches for 55 yards and a TD in the opening 30 minutes. He ended up with more than 100 yards through the air.
Ball security becomes even more important in inclement weather. The Stamps didn’t appear to be prepared for the city’s first serious snowfall, coughing up a trio of fumbles in the opening quarter ... Talk about a bad play. The Stamps lined up for a third-down gamble in the second quarter, but Ticats LB Markeith Knowlton went offside. If that wasn’t bad enough, he then ripped the ball away from QB Bo Levi Mitchell and then threw it in the Stamps pivot’s face for another 15-yard hit. Jon Cornish scored on the next play to give the hosts their first lead of the game ... The wind was a factor in the early going. The team with the wind at their back outscored the other squad 24-1 before the flags dropped and the snow fell straight down.
You never seem to notice place kickers unless they make or miss a big game-winning boot. Stamps K Rene Paredes hasn’t been in the spotlight much — he didn’t kick a single field goal Saturday — but is quietly having an outstanding season. He’s converted 33 of 36 field goals and his 91.7% success rate is tops in the league ... In the what-else-is-new department, Stamps receiver Nik Lewis extended his career-long streak to 156 consecutive games with at least one catch. He also locked up a third straight 90-catch campaign.