CALGARY — Much like they have been doing for the entire 2012 season, the Calgary Stampeders had to fight for every last inch to earn their most recent victory.
“We knew it was going to be a fight,” said Stampeders Head Coach John Hufnagel. “We knew they weren’t going to lay down and give it to us.”
The “they” Hufnagel is referring to are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a group that gave the Stamps all they could handle during their Week 16 encounter at Canad Inns Stadium, the result of which saw the Stamps grind out a 32-21 win.
It seems like since the season’s opening kickoff on June 29 at McMahon Stadium, the Stampeders have had to fight for every ounce of their success.
Like a heavyweight fighter in a title bout, they have given and taken their fair share of punches. But more often than not, they have been on the delivering end of the blows. With the win, combined with Saskatchewan’s loss hours later, the Stamps now have sole possession of second place in the West Division, and have also earned a spot in the 100th Grey Cup Playoffs with just three games remaining in the season.
Of those three games, the Stamps have two crucial divisional matchups, one with the BC Lions in Week 18, and the other with their provincial rivals in Edmonton to close out their regular season campaign.
Though they already see the proverbial ‘X’ next to their names in the standings, if the Stamps intend on galloping to a deep playoff run, they’ll need to put together more complete efforts than the one they put forth in Winnipeg on Saturday.
“Offensively, as much as we moved the ball in the first half, we didn’t in the second half, so the defence is out there a lot,” Hufnagel said.
Nonetheless, a win is a win for Hufnagel and the Stamps, who sit four points back of the Lions for top spot in the West.
“Anytime you can go into a road game — in an important game — and come away with a win, you’re pleased,” added Hufnagel.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Winnipeg. They really hung in there. They made a game out of it.”
With the pressure to secure a spot in the post-season no longer an issue, the Stampeders now face the task of ensuring they get to play in front of their home town fans.
“Great step forward. That’s eight years in a row for myself, so it’s great to keep it going,” said receiver Nik Lewis.
“But the main focus now is still to get that home playoff game. We know we have a tight race, but we just have to handle what we can handle. It’s in our control.”