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VANCOUVER — You know what they say: it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.
The Calgary Stampeders have won two in a row, including a 41-16 victory over the BC Lions on Friday, to set themselves up for a win-and-in scenario in Week 21.
That’s if the Saskatchewan Roughriders also get a win on Saturday against the Toronto Argonauts. If the Riders don’t come out victorious, the Stamps will clinch a post-season spot.
It would be hard to stay focused after a 4-11 start to the season that included injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, but a Stampeders team that seems to be finding its foot has found a way.
“I think this is a growing Stampeders,” said quarterback Jake Maier after the game. “We’re a young team. We’re a team that’s starting to get healthy a little bit. I think this is a Stampeder team that played well for a night. Now we have to go do it again.
“I feel like this was one of the more complete games we played, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s good to win two in a row but we have to make it three in a row if we want to go where we want to go.”
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Maier completed 10 of 21 passes for 123 yards and a couple of majors to wide receivers Luther Hakunavanhu and Reggie Begelton, as the latter returned from a chest injury that sidelined him in Week 19. Running back Peyton Logan added 105 yards and a touchdown over eight carries while Ka’Deem Carey – who also battled injury during the season – totalled 104 yards from scrimmage.
The Stampeders got a boost from a defence that had four takeaways, including two by linebacker Cameron Judge who forced a crucial fumble on a first-and-goal in the second quarter and intercepted a pass in the fourth. It was Judge’s second straight week making key defensive plays for Calgary after scoring on a pick six against the Roughriders in Week 20.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” said Maier about his teammate. “He has been one of the best players in this league for a long time. I can go on and on about (Judge), he’s an absolute savage.”
All the momentum in the world won’t matter if it doesn’t result in a playoff spot for the Stampeders. Maier knows the only important thing now is to reach that ultimate goal and he’s not concerned with anything other than getting a third straight win at home on Friday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“We have one more. This was good for us tonight to continue to build momentum, but if we want to make the playoffs we have to win next week. It’s a good start. Hopefully we can continue to build this momentum, but we’re a long ways away to get where we want to be.”
Calgary could already be locked into third place in the West Division if the Riders drop their game against the Argonauts on Saturday.
If Saskatchewan wins, the Stampeders host the Bombers at McMahon Stadium on Friday, October 27 with the season on the line.