The Labour Day Classic.
It is without a doubt, the most important regular season game of the year.
“We won the 2001 Grey Cup, and had people cancel their season tickets because we lost on Labour Day.”
A former Stampeders executive once told me, emphasizing exactly how important the fans in Calgary believe the game to be.
For the eighth straight year, that excuse for cancelling tickets was taken off the list by a dominant performance from the Stamps as they trounced the Eskimos by a 25-9 score in front of a season-best crowd of 32,350 to improve to 6-4 on the season.
The game also saw the return of Bo Levi Mitchell for the Stampeders after missing the last seven games with a torn pectoral muscle. Mitchell went 19-of-28 for 261 yards and a touchdown in a game plan that didn’t feature too many deep throws. Although he connected on a 51-yard strike to Richard Sindani that set up a second quarter touchdown plunge from once again back-up QB Nick Arbuckle.
After the game, Mitchell talked about how he felt good during the practice week and added: “No more talk about the shoulder.”
Some other thoughts on a far from classic, Classic:
Reggie Begelton has stepped into the role of top dog in the Stampeders receiving corps with another outstanding performance that saw him make 10 catches on 12 targets for 138 yards and a touchdown. He added an 18-yard end around that saw him shake loose from several defenders to put the Stamps just shy of the goal line. The touchdown he scored came on a drive where he caught four passes before scoring.
Begelton is now tied for the league lead with teammate Eric Rogers with six touchdowns and sits just 20 yards behind Brandon Banks for the league yardage crown on 22 less targets. The shifty veteran is getting it done with his feet though as he has 363 yards after the catch, again second best in the league, six yards behind Bralon Addison of Hamilton.
Ka’Deem Carey(s) the load
The Calgary Stampeders had yet to have a running back top the 100-yard mark in a game this season.
Understandable somewhat given the nature of the injuries at the position. The shuffled offensive line to start the season and a conservative playbook during the injury to Bo Levi Mitchell all added to the struggles the team was exhibiting. Ka’Deem Carey came off the six game list this week and delivered a 143-yard performance that finally showed the Stampeders to be a multi-dimensional threat.
59 of those yards came in the fourth quarter including a clock-killing final drive that saw Carey collect three first downs while taking Calgary from their own six-yard line to the Eskimos 15 before assuming victory formation.
If Carey can stay healthy, look out.
Ambles off targets
Markeith Ambles had one catch on four targets in this game. He also had a drop on a long pass in the second half that would have put the Stamps near field goal range and could have removed any doubt. On the next possession, the Esks were able to get to the six-yard line before turning it over.
Seeing DaVaris Daniels’ grab all five of his targets for the Eskimos didn’t help ease the pain either.
That’s using your head!
Royce Metchie collected his first interception of the season and the backfield was thrilled for him. His other teammates are also thrilled that they will be able to give him the gears over an Edmonton first down.
“He’s a worker too. He’s one of the (most fun) guys to watch practice every single day.” said QB Bo Levi Mitchell smiling. “We are all going to give him (expletive) for that one going off his face. Even though the first one was great, we gotta give him crap about the second one.”
Smith moves up two spots
The last Stampeders’ player from the 2008 Grey Cup roster, Brandon Smith passed another two players on the all-time tackles list in Singor Mobley and Orlondo Steinauer.
Smith now has 606 career tackles to sit in 17th place after 148 career games. Smith will likely move past Kelly Wiltshire at 609 next week and has a shot at cracking the top 15 as Shannon Garrett sits in that spot with 638 stops. Garrett played 233 games to get there, however.
Smith should be a first ballot Hall of Fame candidate when he finishes his career as he would be behind only Donald Wilson and Eddie Davis for total tackles as a DB and will have at least three championship rings.
The Stamps will play Edmonton again Saturday, their fourth of six quick turnarounds this season in which they have six or fewer days between games.
This will also be their third five-day turnaround of the season. At least this time, the other team will also be on short rest. The last time the Stamps had a five-day turnaround, they faced a seven-day rested Bombers squad that beat them 26-24.
Reverse the curse?
Historically, this Labour Day series between Calgary and Edmonton features a split decision with both teams taking one side or the other of the match-up.
However, as Trevor Harris remains win-less against Calgary as a starter (he has two ties), will he finally be able to get over the hump? The Stamps are 8-2 in the rematch game since Hufnagel came back to town in 2008, losing in 2018 and 2015 and have won the last eight straight Labour Day games.
Solving the riddle
The Eskimos defence had not surrendered a 400-yard game before Monday, but the Stampeders were able to manage a total of 464 total. Although a portion of those came on that final drive where Calgary went 89 yards to kill the clock.
The Esks defence came in leading the loop with 33 sacks but were unable to get to Mitchell on the day. The Stamps got to Harris twice including a strip sack from Cory Greenwood on Harris that the Esks recovered.