Stamps set to unleash run game in Western Semi
It was cold and snow was falling in Calgary on Wednesday afternoon.
In fact, it was so cold and snowy that the Calgary Stampeders moved their opening practice of the week from McMahon Stadium to Shouldice Athletic Park, a facility with a dome where they could practice inside and out of the wintery conditions.
It was quite the juxtaposition; as Stamps themselves have been quite the opposite of the weather as they begin their preparation for the Western Semi-Final against the BC Lions. You could argue that they were one of the hottest teams in the CFL to close out the season, winning four of their last five contests and finishing the year with a 12-6 record.
“(The Lions) are a very good team. No matter how you look at it on defence, offence and we’re a very good team, too,” running back Ka’Deem Carey told reporters following the team’s practice.
“But right now I just feel like we’re a really hot team. We’re going into this playoffs hot. We preached that last year. We preached it this year. I feel like this team had a little bit of fire from last year and the snow ball just keeps going and I’m excited to see what we’re about to do this year.”
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A big part of that success has been Calgary’s ability to run the ball.
By season’s end, the Stamps finished at the top of a handful of rushing categories. They led the league in total rushing yards (2,436), yards per carry (6.4) and touchdowns on the ground (24). They were also second in rushing attempts (378), just behind Winnipeg (406).
Of course, Ka’Deem Carey has led the way on the ground for the Stamps, as the 30-year-old finished with the rushing crown, scampering for 1,088 yards in just 14 games. But he hasn’t been the only one to make plays in the backfield when the ball was in their hands.
Dedrick Mills was named a Top Performer in Week 21, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown while averaging 8.9 yards per carry against the Riders. He also rushed for 103 yards and a major score in Week 20. And don’t forget about Peyton Logan, who has been dangerous any time he’s called upon on offence or in the return game.
So how do you choose just one? Well if you ask head coach Dave Dickenson, there’s a way to get all three of them involved.
“I know an option. There’s an option out there, it’s available,” said Dickenson, who understandably did not disclose what that option was specifically. “It’s one of those things we just have to see where our return game is at, see who else is available. Peyton’s done a great job all year and he’s our (Most Outstanding Rookie) nominee. Mills was the player of the week and Ka’Deem’s our MOP. You do want your best players playing so it would be nice to get all three on the field.”
While the running backs who carry the rock are undoubtedly talented in their own right, much of their success can be attributed to the big men in the trenches in front of them.
Not only did the Stampeders offensive line help Carey bolt to the top of the rushing leaderboard, they also were excellent in protecting whatever quarterback was behind centre, whether it was Bo Levi Mitchell, Jake Maier or even Tommy Stevens behind centre. They allowed just 17 sacks on the season and that’s quite the outstanding number considering the next best team was Winnipeg with 29.
“It’s not a coincidence that Dedrick got player of the week and I got this success so far, it’s just not a coincidence,” Carey said when asked about his offensive line.
“They’re a humble group. They’re not used to getting a lot of shine on them. That’s why I’m the one, I’m their mouth for them. I’m going to talk for them. I just can’t wait for you guys to see what they can do.”
In just a few days time the o-line will have their time to shine, as Calgary looks to continue their hot streak with a road win at BC Place.