CALGARY -- Maurice Price had a day to remember and the Calgary defence held off a furious Edmonton comeback as the Stampeders took the Labour Day Classic over the Eskimos 37-34 Monday at McMahon Stadium.
Down by 30 points after three quarters, Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly helped put 27 fourth-quarter points on the board but their comeback fell just short.
Price was the story for the majority of the day hauling in three touchdown passes on 165 yards receiving as Calgary took their third straight Labour Day Classic.
Winners of the last two Labour Day games, the Stampeders came out on fire, striking on their first drive. Kevin Glenn found SB Marquay McDaniel twice (25 and 13 yards) en route to a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 1-yard plunge by Bo Levi Mitchell.
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It was the third time this season that Calgary opened a contest with a scoring drive.
The Eskimos entered the game with a bit of momentum despite not coming out victorious in recent weeks, coming together offensively under the evolving leadership of QB Mike Reilly.
The Stamps got to Reilly early, forcing him to toss an interception on his second drive into the hands of defensive back Fred Bennett.
Glenn got the ball back and quickly went to work, finding Price on a crosser for a 33-yard touchdown to finish off a 4-play, 66-yard drive.
Add in a 41-yard Rene Paredes the possession before and the Stamps quickly grabbed a 17-0 lead as the first quarter closed.
Reilly was without his tailback Hugh Charles for the first time this year, leading to John White getting his first career CFL start in the Eskimo backfield.
With Calgary possessing all momentum, things started to change with 7:09 left in the second quarter. Glenn dropped back to pass and was accidentally stepped on by his offensive lineman, Stanley Bryant, and he hobbled to the sideline with what appeared to be an injury to his left ankle or leg. Mitchell would enter in relief.
Glenn left after completing 8 of 11 attempts for 108 yards and a touchdown.
The next play, Edmonton cornerback Joe Burnett fielded a punt, split a pair of would-be tacklers and raced up field for 77 yards. It set up a 2-yard touchdown run off the right side of the offence by veteran QB Kerry Joseph in short yardage and it cut the Calgary lead to 17-7.
Although the Calgary offence came out on fire, it was their defence that was creating the most noise, getting after Reilly time and time again and recording three first-half sacks – two by sophomore defensive lineman Cordarro Law.
As the second half got underway, it was then the special team’s turn to make their mark on the game.
Alvin Bowen pounced on an Eskimo fumble on the half’s opening kickoff which led to a 14-yard Paredes field goal.
Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn left midway through the second quarter after being stepped on by his own offensive lineman and did not return after passing for 108 yards and a touchdown.
After the defence forced a turnover on downs on third-and-one to take over on the Edmonton 41 yard line, Mitchell and the Stamps once again moved down the field and gave way to another Paredes boot from 23 yards out to extend the lead to 23-7.
With 5:06 remaining in the third quarter, the Stampeders broke the game wide open and once again it was the Price that was right.
Mitchell spotted Price over the middle who turned up field and out-ran the Eskimo defenders for a 42-yard score to expand the Calgary lead to 30-7.
Defensively, the Stamps were simply dominant in the third quarter, forcing three quarterbacks sacks and holding Reilly and the Esks to just 10 net yards.
As the fourth quarter began, Price continued his torrid day, grabbing his third touchdown – this one for 67 yards down the sideline – and putting Calgary ahead 37-7.
Down by 30, the Esks began to string together three impressive drives as the fourth quarter winded down.
First, Reilly hit WR Cary Koch in stride for a 40 yard touchdown with 8:08 remaining. It was a 7-play, 72-yard drive.
The Esks forced a turnover and with just under five minutes left, Reilly eluded a Stampeders blitz and dumped the ball off to White who turned up field for an 18-yard touchdown.
On came the hands team and Eskimos DB Marcell Young recorded the onside recovery and Reilly took advantage, throwing a dart to Matt Carter who sped away for a 33-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 10.
The offence caught fire and the defence tried to do their part to engineer a comeback. Defensive lineman Almondo Sewell picked up a Jabari Arthur fumble, executed a hand-off lateral to DB Chris Thompson who returned it inside Calgary territory.
Reilly promptly found Fred Stamps for a 7-yard major to pull within three with under two minutes remaining.
After another defensive stop, the Eskimos had one last chance to complete the comeback, taking over in their own end with 1:05 on the clock. They got just outside Calgary territory but on third down a pass attempt to Stamps was knocked down and Calgary preserved the 37-34 victory.
The two teams meet in the annual rematch at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night in Edmonton.