VANCOUVER — The Calgary Stampeders are entering their first-round playoff bye on the right terms.
The B.C. Lions, however, are not.
Eric Rogers caught two touchdown passes as the Stampeders downed the B.C. Lions 33-16 on Friday night in the CFL regular-season finale for both teams.
The Stampeders, who had already clinched first place in the West Division, finished the regular season with a 15-3 record and tied the league’s 54-year-old road victory total with eight, set and matched by Winnipeg in 1960 and 1961. Calgary bettered its club road-win record of seven set 65 years ago in 1949 and matched in 1995.
But, more importantly, the Stampeders gained considerable confidence as they seek to avoid a repeat of a loss in the Western final. Calgary will host this year’s West final against either the Edmonton Eskimos or the yet-to-be-decided club that places third in the West.
“Last year, coming out of this (final regular-season) game (also against B.C.), we had lost the game and we had lost a lot of important guys to our team – this year it’s a completely different story,” said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
The Lions, who finished the season 9-9, missed a chance to clinch third in the West and could now face a cross-over playoff game against an Eastern team, depending on how Saskatchewan fares against Edmonton on Saturday.
“That’s not the way we wanted to the end the season at home in front of our home fans,” said B.C. defensive back Ryan Phillips. “We didn’t play at a high level.”
Although both the Lions and Stamps had secured playoff berths and rested key players, the game featured dazzling touchdowns as both clubs scored on long passes. Emannuel Arceneaux scored B.C.’s lone touchdown on a 46-yard reception in the second quarter.
But Rogers’ TD catches of 21 and 44 yards, which both came in the second quarter, proved to be the most painful.
“I was lined up out wide and I read the seam, the line gave the quarterback some time to throw, the quarterback put it on the money and I go up there and high-point it – that’s both touchdowns, basically,” said Rogers.
B.C. was missing key regulars on defence to rest and injury, including middle linebacker Adam Bighill (hand), but Phillips said Rogers’ TDs and other long gains through the air were still “inexcusable.”
“For me, it’s alarming due to the fact that we’ve been pretty good at (preventing long gains through the air) through the course of the year,” he said.
In a rare start, Calgary quarterback Drew Tate completed 14 of 20 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
“(Tate) did a great job of starting it off,” said Mitchell, who completed 13 of 18 for one touchdown.. “He came out there and we got to see what they were doing. They were playing a lot of (man-to-man coverage). It was a good job by the passing game and it shows a different dynamic of what we can do as an offence.”
The Stampeders did not miss CFL rushing leader Jon Cornish, who missed the game due to a concussion and appears questionable for the playoffs.
B.C. quarterback Kevin Glenn completed 26 of 36 of for 312 yards and one touchdown, but was hurt by two interceptions. Contrary to plans, he played the whole game after backup John Beck was left dizzy and suffered a headache on a two-yard surge in the third quarter. But Beck said afterwards he will be ready for the playoffs.
Tate led the Stampeders to a 13-yard Rene Paredes field goal on their first series. But the Lions produced an identical opening eight-play march of their own, which went 66 yards and culminated with McCallum’s 18-yard field goal.
But Tate’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Rogers staked Calgary to an advantage that they never relinquished. After Dante Marsh intercepted a Tate pass, Mitchell entered the game on Calgary’s next series and took the Stamps to the B.C. one before third-string QB Bryant Moniz scored on a plunge that gave Calgary an insurmountable 17-6 lead and Rogers’ second TD, on a pass from Mitchell, that extended Calgary’s lead to 24-13 at half-time.
Notes: A moment of silence was held before the game for late Stampeders player and owner John Forzani, who died of a heart attack last week at the age of 67. Calgary receiver Marquay McDaniel returned after missing six games with a broken wrist. Calgary’s Shawn Lemon tied a CFL single-season record of eight forced fumbles as he sacked Glenn in the second quarter. Military veterans received a standing ovation during a rousing half-time salute.