The Canadian Press
CALGARY — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the ones left standing after the dust settled on the 19-18 defensive battle fought against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Friday night.
Both teams struggled to produce more than field goals as their defences relied on a bend-don’t-break performance and kickers Sergio Castillo and René Paredes combined for 10 field goals. The difference ended up being an interception returned for a major by Bombers’ defensive back Demerio Houston.
Castillo made all four of his field goal attempts while also converting his sole point-after.
Quarterback Dru Brown finished 17-of-27 for 171 yards and running back Brady Oliveira added 80 yards over 14 carries for the 8-2 Blue Bombers.
Jake Maier and the Stampeders moved the ball but couldn’t finish their drives having to rely on Paredes’ leg for all of their scoring. The pivot completed 11 of his 24 pass attempts for 190 yards and a pick as the Stampeders dropped to 3-7.
Paredes came into the game with 18 straight field goals made, but missed his third kick of the game to end the streak at 20. The veteran still finished with six makes in eight attempts.
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The Bombers began their first drive with great field position after an illegal punt out-of-bounds penalty and Brown quickly led his team to points. Relying on the play-action and quick passing game, the pivot moved them into scoring position and almost left the field with six points but receiver Kenny Lawler‘s was ruled out of a bounds on a catch as his feet were an inch away from the end zone while catching the ball. The Bombers had to settle for a field by Castillo to go ahead 3-0 with 08:16 to go in the first quarter.
The Stampeders answered with a field-goal drive of their own. Maier completed two of his three passes for 23 yards before Paredes tied the game at three with a 44-yard kick.
Calgary made a big play on special teams with a blocked punt and gave their offence good field position. Winnipeg’s defence held strong so the home team had to settle for another field goal by Paredes to take a 6-3 lead with a minute left in the first.
A big 27-yard run through the middle for Oliveira set the tone for the next Bombers’ possession, but despite marching into Calgary territory they once again had to send out the field goal unit to tie the game at six early in the second.
Paredes missed his first field goal in 21 tries as both teams remained tied in the first half.
Winnipeg fared better on second down then Calgary in the first half with seven conversions on 13 attempts against only 1-of-9 for the home team. The Bombers went 0-for-2 in the red zone while the Stamps had zero trips to the final 20 yards in the first two quarters.
Returner Tommylee Lewis broke a 45-yard return in the third to help the Stamps break the stalemate with another Paredes’ field goal that gave them a 9-6 lead with 9:42 left in the quarter.
Maier got things going with recently-acquired Markeith Ambles with a 23-yard connection before launching a deep 45-yard pass to Marken Michel for Calgary’s first trip to the red zone. It almost turned into six as the ball bounced off the hands of Luther Hakunavanhu and the Stamps added three more for a 12-6 lead.
Brown and the Bombers answered with a long drive of their own. The signal caller connected with receiver Dalton Schoen for 30 yards – with 15 more added via penalty – before a sack in the red zone also had Winnipeg settling for a field goal, his third and the seventh of the game.
The first touchdown of the evening came via defence. Houston jumped a pass from Maier and took it to the house as the Bombers found a way to retake the lead in the last play of the third quarter.
Lewis put the Stamps in business once more in the fourth with a 24-yard return to Winnipeg’s 30 and Paredes made it a one-point game after splitting the uprights for the fifth time, 16-15.
Castillo pushed the lead back to four points with a 42-yard boot as both kickers continued to be the main source of scoring on the night.
Lewis showed up once again for the home team – this time with a deep catch from Maier – to move his team into scoring position as the game approached crunch time. The pressure got to Calgary’s pivot once more though and forced a long second that fell short of the sticks. Who else but Paredes would come in and nail one more kick to give his team a chance late.
That chance came and it was Paredes himself faced with a 50-yard attempt. The kick came just short as the Bombers claimed the win.
It was the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Grey Cup title as the Calgary Stampeders celebrated the Jeff Garcia-led team that triumphed over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 26-24 in Winnipeg.
The Blue Bombers now return home to face the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday, Aug. 24, while the Stampeders head to the road to face the Toronto Argonauts on Friday, Aug. 25, in Week 12 action.