Sometimes when a team loses a game, the players will tell you “We beat ourselves out there.”
Once a year during Stampeders training camp, that is especially appropriate as the team takes to the field for an inter-squad matchup that is open to fans. Over a thousand people turned out to McMahon Stadium on a gorgeous day in Calgary for their annual Red vs. White game.
The game in Calgary isn’t much of a game per se, but a collection of scenarios that the team may find themselves in throughout the season. Up three with five minutes to go in the half, or down three with two minutes to play. A simulated overtime drive made it into the mix as well.
What most fans showed up for was to see who would be getting the best action at running back and which of the backup quarterbacks were going to use this limited time to impress. Sadly for those fans, it was the defence that showed out with two interceptions and a third that was called back due to a pass interference penalty. Both Patrick Levels, and Gump Hayes were on the receiving end of passes meant for others. Levels made his play on Nick Arbuckle with a pass that was corralled about midfield. Hayes, whose first name again is Gump, took down his pick after a Larry Brihm Jr. pass was deflected high into the air by the intended receiver.
Ricky Stanzi led the only touchdown drive of the session, from the 45-yard line, that saw limited action from Bo Levi Mitchell. Mitchell drew loud cheers from the crowd after a 20-yard scramble early in the session. Last year, Mitchell had just three carries all season for a total of 17 yards and armchair QB’s were left yelling at their TV’s as they hoped Mitchell would take off more often. As Mitchell has come to camp substantially lighter this year, it is possible he will add another tool to his repertoire. Given that he has averaged less than a carry a game since becoming the starter, however, I’m not optimistic.
Of the three QB’s vying for the backup role, Brihm’s passes seemed to have the most mustard on them including a highlight reel pass into double coverage that was brought down by Richard Sindani. At first, even veteran play-by-play man Mark Stephan was surprised to find out that Sindani had held onto the ball calling it an incompletion before changing his mind. The pass was caught over the outstretched hands of Adam Berger who returns to Calgary after a season in Ottawa.
Also featured heavily in the offence was Markeith Ambles who spent half of last season on the Argo’s practice roster before being released in August saw 3 consecutive targets at one point. Ambles was able to make a few catches, including some in traffic and showed out on a day that featured more off-target passes, check downs and dump-offs than first down throws. Reggie Bagelton also had a pair of snags including one right near the goal-line under tight coverage.
In the backfield, Romar Morris blocked well, but it was Terry Williams who looked dangerous nearly every time he had the ball. Look for him to be at the top of the depth chart come Friday night when the Stamps host the Lions in their preseason opener. Don Jackson also saw time as a feature back and caught a few passes out of the backfield, but wasn’t called on often to carry the ball.
Also of some concern for Dave Dickenson will be penalties, as the offensive line took several holding calls through the one-hour session including wiping out several big gainers.
Defensively, the Stampeders looked to be solid with the play of Levels and Hayes as well as newcomer Dagogo Maxwell all impressing at the lone defensive position to take a substantial offseason hit. The departures of Shaquille Richardson and Tommie Campbell may be felt less should these three players play this well throughout the regular season. On a side note, the idea I can write about Gump and Dagogo for weeks fills me with happiness. Their names remind me of a 70’s cop show. “Dagogo and Gump, tonight at 9!”
It was a rough start for draft pick Gabriel Ferraro as he missed a 55-yard field goal attempt that had plenty of leg but went well wide. As a kicker trying to unseat the CFL’s most accurate of all time, Rene Paredes, misses are killers. However, should he make a few in a game, he may yet stick around. After all, John Hufnagel was able to turn a backup kicker into a starting national running back once. Heck, even Ricky Ray was once traded for a kicker.
Finally, pressure came to the Stamps quarterbacks on a few occasions, but the best of which was seeing a healthy Cordarro Law blast by the offensive line on his way to a nine-yard tackle for a loss. If Law can play like that, fans may miss Charleston Hughes a little less.