July 18, 2014

Stephen: Defence key to Stamps’ strong start


The Calgary Stampeders have had a good start to the season and so far a lot of attention has been paid to the offensive storylines.

There has been the strong showing of first-year starter Bo Levi Mitchell, and attempting to replace the reigning league Outstanding Player, Jon Cornish who has been sidelined with concussion-related issues.  Then, there has been much discussion about the flea-flicker play executed in Toronto. 

All those issues have played a role in the early story of the Stampeders.  However, they may all be secondary to the strong play of Calgary’s defence.

It is a small sample size to be sure, but the Stampeders have allowed just one touchdown in their opening two games, that touchdown came at the end of a June 28th win against Montreal.

The touchdown made for a great human interest story as University of Calgary product and current Alouette Steven Lumbala rolled over from the one-yard line on the final play of the game but without that last play score, the Stampeders would have had consecutive touchdown-less games.

Whether it was against the inexperience of Troy Smith or the battle-tested savvy of veteran Ricky Ray, the Stamps’ defence has been stifling.

Veteran defensive back Brandon Smith has noted the stats and takes great pride in the Stamps achievements.

“That’s a big accomplishment for our defence,”noted the seven-year Stampeder, “It’s a tribute to our coaching staff who puts together the game plan and just the players buying in.  We, as players, put in the time and effort to run the defence effectively.”

Those game plans are being put together by veteran coach Rich Stubler who has a lengthy Canadian Football League resume, but is in his first year in Calgary.

His finger prints can already be seen on the Stampeders defence. He advocated for the signings of former B. C. Lions Lin-J Shell and Josh Bell.  The team also plugged in reliable Shawn Lemon at defensive end, while adding speedster Buddy Jackson at one corner position and the addition of Stubler brought it all together.

“One thing I can say about these guys is everyone has bought into his (Stubler’s) scheme,” said defensive captain Juwan Simpson after a recent Stampeder workout, “We’re all getting a feel for each other and we’ll get better each and every week.  We’re not where we want to be but we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

That defence will undergo some tweaks this week as they prepare to take on Hamilton. Stalwart Keon Raymond suffered a thigh bruise in the Toronto game while Deron Mayo is fighting a hamstring pull as both will miss the game against the Ticats.

Their absence means more time for Lin-J Shell and Glenn Love. Shell came in during the Toronto game and responded with an eight tackle night, earning the defensive game ball for his performance.

The Stampeders will be facing somewhat of an unknown at quarterback this week as an injury to incumbent Zach Collaros has meant Kent Austin will be relying on Jeremiah Masoli to quarterback the team. 

Can the promising prospect find the end zone against the tough Stampeder defenders?  That will play out on Friday night.