EDMONTON — Rene Paredes capped off a record-setting night at Commonwealth Stadium with a 44-yard field goal to boot the Calgary Stampeders to a 30-27 win over the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Stampeders will now host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Semi-Final on November 11, while the Eskimos will travel east to take on the Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern Semi-Final.
Running back Jon Cornish would make history on the final play of the third quarter when he took a handoff and ran 22 yards through the teeth of the Edmonton defence and while doing so, set a new CFL record for most single-season yards gained by a Canadian on the ground. He surpassed Normie Kwong’s record which stood for 56 years.
With both teams playoff tickets officially stamped, many observers labeled the matchup as nothing more than two teams going through the motions before the post-season, but there were no lack of storylines.
First, the quarterbacks. With Toronto edging Hamilton and knocking them out of the playoffs in the process Thursday night, Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed elected to start youngster Matt Nichols ahead of veteran Kerry Joseph who they decided to rest once their spot was clinched.
On the other side, Drew Tate got his first start since Week 2 as he tries to prove that he should be under centre ahead of Kevin Glenn when the Stamps open the post-season next week.
After getting his feet wet coming off the bench last week versus BC, Tate showed no signs of rust early on, delivering two quick strikes on Calgary’s opening drive and finding receiver Joe West over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead.
Making his first appearance in seven weeks, speedy returner Larry Taylor made his way back with a bang, returning the opening kickoff 38 yards and earning a facemask call, setting the Stamps up in Eskimo territory to pick up where the Stamps left off after a convincing 41-21 win over the Lions last week.
Nichols, who was potentially playing for the right to take over for Joseph next week, helped get the Esks on the board, leading a 6-play drive resulting in a 42-yard Grant Shaw field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
It didn’t take long for Tate to answer with authority. First, he fired a pass down field for WR Maurice Price for a 40-yard gain and then followed a quick strike to WR Romby Bryant with a quarterback draw touchdown to take a 14-3 lead.
After Rene Paredes nailed two field goals from 35 and 46 yards respectively, Nichols would lean on the Eskimos’s go-to threat, finding Fred Stamps in stride for a 30-yard touchdown to cut the Calgary lead to 20-10.
The Eskimos took the ball to start the second half and on the strength of three straight 10-plus yard runs from Cory Boyd, set up a 40-yard Shaw field goal attempt. But the kick sailed wide left as they failed to pull even at 20.
The opening of third quarter signaled the end of Tate’s day as Kevin Glenn took over the Calgary offence.
Tate finished the evening 11 of 15 for 139 yards passing and 1 touchdown toss.
Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel had yet to commit to which quarterback he would hand the ball to next week in the Western Semi-Final but Glenn wasn’t going to let him forget who got Calgary to their second place finish in the division.
Cornish runs into record books
With a 22-yard carry in the third quarter of Week 19’s game at Commonwealth vs. the Edmonton Eskimos, Cornish surpassed Normie Kwong for the most rushing yards in a season by a Canadian.
The 10-point cushion wouldn’t last long however as Nichols would connect with Matt Carter for a big gain and then hand the ball off to Boyd who bounced off a few tacklers for a 21-yard touchdown to cut the lead back to three.
Boyd finished with 8 carries for 66 yards and the major while splitting time with running back Jerome Messam.
With Hugh Charles out, Boyd looked like the running back that torched opposing defences in Toronto for two-and-a-half years, having his biggest game on the ground in Green and Gold and recording his first major as an Eskimo.
The Esks would force a turnover deep in their own zone as Bryant put the ball on the turf and Nichols would tie the game up at 27 when he lead the Esks down the field to set up a 40-yard Shaw field goal. It was Stamps that shined brightest on the drive, hauling in an unbelievable leaping grab for a gain of 45 yards.
The story for the Esks continued to be Nichols as they entered the final three minutes. With a tie game, he lead an impressive drive to set up another Shaw field goal for the lead but the hold was dropped and the kick was blocked.
Bo Levi Mitchell entered the game for the Stampeders with 1:18 left in the game and his first two plays were nothing short of bizarre.
His first pass sailed over a receivers head and was intercepted by Edmonton DB TJ Hill but a roughing the passer call would give the young QB a reprieve. His next pass was completed to West but the receiver was stripped of the ball and the fumble was returned by Weldon Brown to the Calgary but the play was ruled an incomplete pass.
Lost in the activity of the Stampeders final drive was JC Sherrit recording 11 tackles which puts him as the CFL single-season record holder in tackles with 130, passing former Toronto Argonaut Calvin Tiggle in 1994.
Mitchell would take the Stamps down to the 37 yardline to set up the game winning field goal for Paredes which was good to earn the 30-27 win.