Stamps head into an off-season of reflection
REGINA — The bad part of being involved in a game of the year candidate is that only one team can win.
“I heard a lot of people this year talk about the CFL not being exciting. It sucks being on the other end of it but I’ve got to think that was a hell of a game, from a fan perspective,” Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said, moments after the Saskatchewan Roughriders had topped them 33-30 in overtime in the Western Semi-Final.
“As the coach of the losing team, it hurts.”
Dickenson and his quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell, had that emotionally-drained look that the end of a grueling season brings, especially when the end meets you earlier than you want it to.
“I felt like it was almost a mirror of the season, Mitchell said after making 26-36 passes for 276 yards, zero touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He mentioned how the Stamps’ defence — Jonathan Moxey, specifically — came up big with three first-half interceptions on Cody Fajardo, but how the drives ended in field goal attempts and not touchdowns. He pointed out the loss of his teammate, Colton Hunchak, whose leg injury in the second half took him out of the game.
“We fought back, the same way we did in the season,” he continued. “I was proud of the guys. Everyone rallied together and came back and made it happen in the end. We had some plays we really liked but they didn’t fall our way.”
The Stamps’ overtime loss brings what might have been the most challenging season of Mitchell’s career to an end. He shared the unfortunate distinction of throwing the most interceptions in the league this year (13) with Edmonton’s Taylor Cornelius. He played with a fracture in his leg in Week 2, missed a few weeks of action in the wake of that and had to develop chemistry with a largely new cast of receiving characters.
Teams ultimately go as their quarterbacks go and Calgary’s 2-5 start was balanced out by a 6-1 finish to the regular-season. Mitchell’s play improved in those final seven games — he threw zero picks in four of his last five starts — but he wasn’t on that elite level that he’d tapped into through most of his career.
“There’s a lot behind the scenes with every athlete, every athlete is going through a lot of things,” Mitchell said. “It’s not an excuse though, nothing about it.”
More than a few eyebrows were raised on Sunday night when Dickenson said that he wanted Mitchell back next season but that ultimately it would come down to what the player wanted. Mitchell quickly said that he wanted to be back with the Stamps.
“I’m going to take my time in the off-season just to make sure that I’m good, make sure my body’s right. I just want to be me. I’m going to be back, I’m going to do everything I can to get back and be 100 per cent and come back stronger.”
“That’s what’s hard when you lose sometimes,” Dickenson said. “Everyone kind of has to reassess their life and where they’re at with things. I’m proud of these guys, love our team, love our effort. Unfortunately it just ended early for us.”