CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders held off a determined Hamilton Tiger-Cats squad, whose comeback fell just short, in a wild 34-32 win over the Ticats on a snowy Saturday night at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
A see-saw battle saw the Ticats storm back with a touchdown and an onside kick recovery, with a chance to win the game on a Luca Congi field goal but the slippery pigskin got away from holder Andy Fantuz with no time on the clock and Stamps squeaked out the win with Congi unable to get the kick off.
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Keon Raymond’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter turned momentum early for Calgary, which fought back from an early 10-0 deficit to wrap up second place in the West Division and home advantage in the first round of the CFL playoffs.
Jon Cornish added two touchdowns, while Maurice Price scored his first career major on a 55-yard catch for the Stamps.
A dusting of snow on the field appeared to make an early impact, after Kevin Glenn fumbled the ball on the game’s opening drive following a hit by Brandon Peguese.
That gave the Ticats the ball inside Calgary’s side of centre, and they’d quickly strike. Burris hit Grant on a crossing route, who found space along the sideline and on a quick burst found the end zone for a 52-yard score on Hamilton’s first play from scrimmage.
The Stamps responded though, as Jason Armstead returned the kickoff 83 yards, the longest kick return of the season so far, setting the Stamps up deep in Hamilton territory.
But the early turnover troubles continued for Calgary. After making a catch on first down, Arjei Franklin took a shot from Chris Rwabukamba that jarred the ball loose.
Markeith Knowlton jumped on the fumble in his first game back from injury, giving the Ticats possession right back.
The Stamps followed a 27-yard field goal from Luca Congi with another fumble, by Bo Levi Mitchell, as the teams tried to adapt to the weather early. But they’d get the ball back quickly when defensive back Derrius Brooks picked off Burris for his second interception of the season.
The Stamps couldn’t muster mich against a stiff Ticats defence, but midway through the second quarter, Calgary would get some offence from its defence in a big way.
With the ‘Cats in close striking distance, Burris’ throw to Samuel Giguere was deflected by the non-import receiver and picked off by Raymond at the 10-yard-line.
Raymond had plenty of space and with a convoy of blockers along the sideline would go all the way for a 100-yard interception return touchdown, cutting the deficit to 10-7 and sending a spirited McMahon Stadium crowd into frenzy.
The Stamps would get the ball back with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half, and on first down gained 50 yards on a pass over the middle to Cornish, who scampered into Ticats territory. Two plays later, Glenn hit Cornish on a swing pass for a four-yard score.
That capped off a five-play, 71-yard drive to give the Stamps their first lead, 14-11 with just under six minutes remaining in the opening half.
Poised to enter halftime ahead, Glenn was picked off by Armando Murillo on a second-down play, marking his first interception of the half and giving the Ticats the football deep in scoring range.
After the ‘Cats conceded a sack from Charleston Hughes, Congi attempted a 42-yard field goal attempt but pulled it it wide and sent the game to halftime with Calgary still ahead 14-13.
With inclement weather conditions at McMahon Stadium, both teams had trouble hanging onto the football. It did make for some great imagery.
The Ticats would get their hands back on the lead early in the second half, as Onrea Jones returned the opening kickoff 60 yards to eventually set-up a 44-yard field goal from Congi, his second of the game.
On the very next drive, Dee Webb appeared to have another interception off Glenn to set the Ticats up in scoring position, but the play was negated on a roughing the passer penalty to Greg Peach.
Glenn would get back at it on the ensuing Calgary posession, quickly hitting Price on a hitch pass, and the rookie took advantage of good blocking to wheel all the way to the end zone for a 55-yard scoring play, the first touchdown of his young career.
After a quick defensive stop, Glenn and the Stamps would get the ball back looking to do some more damage. This time it was Cornish taking over, as the New Westminster native fought for tough yards inside to move Calgary deep into scoring range, before powering through the tackle of Rey Williams for a seven-yard scoring run to give the Stamps their biggest lead of the night, 27-16.
Down by two scores, the Ticats found life late in the third quarter.
Starting at their own 10-yard-line, Chevon Walker sparked a long scoring drive with a 42-yard run, eventually leading to a 30-yard passing touchdown from Burris to Williams.
The Tabbies converted for two points, cutting the deficit to just three points at the start of the fourth quarter.
Calgary looked to have a chance to cushion the lead after another long kick return from Jason Armstead, but a low pass from Glenn was deflected and picked off by Ricardo Colclough.
The Ticats got some help from their defence after that, getting back-to-back interceptions from Ricardo Colclough and newcomer Dominique Harris off Glenn. But the Ticats went two-and-out on both occasions.
Calgary conceded a safety soon after, giving Hamilton the ball down by just a point. But with Burris moving the offence down the field, Fred Bennett popped the ball out of the grasp of Grant, and Juwan Simpson scooped up the loose ball and ran it deep into Hamilton territory.
After a key first down conversion to Nik Lewis, Glenn threw incomplete in the end zone on second down. But a pass interference penalty gave the Stamps the ball at the one-yard-line, leading to a touchdown plunge from Mitchell to give the Stamps the eight-point lead.
But the Ticats weren’t done yet. On the following drive, Burris grabbed the offence by the horns, completing four straight completions and five on the drive to eventually lead to a one-yard plunge from Chevon Walker to make it a two-point game.
The two-point conversion would fail, but the Ticats would quickly get the ball back on a successful off-side kick thanks to an outstanding play by Jones to grab the football and a great kick by Congi.
On first down, Burris found Williams open on the sideline, springing the speedy receiver into the red zone and setting up a potential game-winning field goal. But the ball slipped off the tee on the hold, forcing Fantuz to pull it away. He was soon tackled, and Stamps hung on for the late win.
It was a wild affair with many changes of momentum in Calgary, with six interceptions and four fumbles lost for a total of 10 between the two teams. The Stamps were able to come away with two points despite committing seven of those turnovers.
Burris finished with 354 yards and two touchdowns on 24-33 passing in his return to Calgary, while Glenn, also playing his former team for the second time, finished with 283 yards through the air and two touchdowns – but also threw four interceptions.
Cornish, meanwhile, continued an impressive season, finishing with 135 yards from scrimmage, including 108 yards through the air.
Despite the loss, the Tabbies remain in the running for second place and a home playoff game, sitting just two games back of the Argos and scheduled to visit Toronto in the final game of the season.
The Stamps, meanwhile, have one seven of their last nine games and are now one of the hottest teams in the league heading into a home date with the first-place BC Lions next weekend at McMahon.