VANCOUVER — Amid the high-fives and whoops of joy in the B.C. Lions dressing room, one man quietly made his way to the shower.
For the rest of the team, Paul McCallum’s 53-yard field goal on the last play of the game was a white-knuckle finish to a heart-pounding 33-31 victory over the Calgary Stampeders Saturday night.
For McCallum, it was business as usual on a night where he set a league record for 30 consecutive field goals and helped move the Lions into first place in the CFL West.
The winning kick came after Calgary’s Larry Taylor had returned a missed field goal attempt by McCallum 122 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Stampeders a 31-30 lead with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter.
“I had nothing to prove,” McCallum shrugged as one of his teammates cranked up the music and began a victory dance.
“I just wanted to go out there and hit the field goal for the team and help us win. We fought hard. It was a good game.”
Quarterback Travis Lulay was excited enough for both men. He shook his head over McCallum’s calm demeanour.
“The guy was as cool as it gets coming up to that last kick,” said Lulay, who threw two touchdown passes as the Lions won their seventh consecutive game and eighth in nine starts.
Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, admitted he toyed with the idea of trying for a single to force overtime.
“I was going to ask him to punt,” said Buono. “He said ‘no coach. Let me kick the field goal.’
“I have learned over my time you have to trust your players and I trusted Paul to do what he had to do. God bless him.”
The kick was low and barely scrapped over the crossbar. McCallum celebrated his longest field in his last six years as a Lion by falling on the ground where he was mobbed by his teammates.
“For me it was go out there, concentrate and focus on the things I needed to do to make the field goal,” said the 41-year-old, who is the oldest player in the CFL.
“I said all along I would eventually miss one. I keep on going, not too high and not too low. Just stay focused and concentrate like I had to do on the last one.”
Before the fourth-quarter miss McCallum was good on kicks of 47, 46 and 20 yards to give him 30 consecutive field goals.
That broke the record of 28 set by Dave Ridgway of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1993. The record-breaking kick of 46 yards earned a standing ovation from the crowd of 30,622 at B.C. Place Stadium.
McCallum already holds the league record for the longest field goal. He made a 62-yard kick against the Edmonton Eskimos on Oct. 27, 2001, when he played for Saskatchewan.
It was a bitter loss for the Stampeders, who trailed 14-0 early but never quit.
“We can be a lot better,” said quarterback Henry Burris, who connected with Landon Talley for a 81-yard pass and run play that tied the game 24-24 early in the third quarter.
“We know what we’re capable of. When we’re playing our type of football, we’re the best team in this league. But we were out there having our sloppy moments and they played a great game. We know we’ve got to be better in those critical moments.”
Burris completed 15 of 19 passes for 193 yards and ran for 31 yards on six carries. He also fumbled twice, one setting up B.C.’s first touchdown.
Lulay completed 19 of 32 passes for 252 yards. He hit Arland Bruce with a 17-yard pass on a third-and-10 play, with time running out on the clock, to set up the field goal.
The Stampeders looked to have taken control of the game on Taylor’s touchdown.
McCallum was attempting a 45-yard field goal when his kick sailed wide.
Taylor took the ball deep in the end zone, then sliced his way untouched through the Lions defence to give Calgary a one-point lead. The Stampeders failed on a two-point convert.
“The guys did a great job of blocking and giving me the opportunity to create some lanes,” said Taylor.
After the game Taylor and McCallum embraced on the field.
“Great guy,” Taylor said of McCallum. “He put in the hard work and it paid off for him.”
The Lions and Stampeders both have 16 points, but B.C. has won the season series between the teams.
Bruce caught a 20-yard touchdown pass for the Lions and Geroy Simon a 14-yard strike. Andrew Harris scored on a six-yard run.
B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian, the CFL’s leading tackler, left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
“It’s not a break or anything of that nature,” Buono said.
“How bad it is, we will see in three or four days.”
Calgary running back Jon Cornish scored on a five-yard run while backup quarterback Drew Tate scored on a one-yard plunge.
Rene Paredes kicked a 36-yard field goal for Calgary, while punter Burke Dales boomed a 67-yard single.
B.C. Place hasn’t always been kind to McCallum.
In the 2004 West Final McCallum was playing for Saskatchewan. He missed an 18-yard field goal in overtime that cost the Riders the game and sent the Lions to the Grey Cup.
Angry Rider fans dumped a load of manure on the driveway of McCallum’s home in Regina.
McCallum joined the Lions as a free agent in 2006.
Notes: The Lions longest single-season winning streak is 11 games, set in 2005. … Since 1954 the Lions have had 15 streaks of at least six consecutive wins, including this season. …During halftime defensive back Joe Fourqurean and running back Sean Millington were added to the Lions’ Wall of Fame. …With rain in the forecast the roof was closed at B.C. Place. …The Lions play the Roughriders in Regina next Sunday.