The Stamps bend and break the Riders; reclaim first in the West

The Stamps did what it took in the crucial West Division tilt at McMahon Stadium against Saskatchewan.

Calgary bent the ankle of Riders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo and broke any dreams of the green and white taking top spot in the West Division with a hard fought 30-28 decision.

Bo Levi Mitchell improved to 9-3 in 12 regular season meetings versus the Roughriders. He came through in key moments for the Stampeders as is his trademark, throwing two touchdowns — both to Canadian rookie Hergy Mayala — which were back-breakers for the opposition. The reigning Most Outstanding Player completed 23-of-29 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Mayala was chosen in the first round, eighth overall by Calgary in the 2019 CFL draft. The six-foot-two, 212-pound pass catcher has played to his potential recently. He recorded his first career 100-yard game against Montreal in Week 17, catching all three targets for 116 yards. Saturday night Mayala notched a pair of majors, the first and second of his career.

Mayala ended any hopes of a Saskatchewan comeback with a 25-yard catch on second and 13 with less than one minute and 30 seconds left. That allowed the Stamps to run out the rest of the time on the clock. In total, Mayala caught five balls for 70 yards and two touchdowns.

Following the career firsts from Mayala was Ante Milanovic-Litre who had single game bests of eight carries for 43 yards, including three critical first down runs in the second half. Don Jackson started at running back, rushing seven times for 25 yards, but Calgary elected to go with the bigger back in Litre (232 pounds) for hammering away.

The specials teams came strong for the Stamps. Jamari Grant scooped up the football on a bounce off Marcus Thigpen’s hand and took it for a 28-yard touchdown, putting the red and white ahead 10-3. Kicker Rene Paredes made all three of his field goal attempts.

Both defences forced each offence to earn their yards and had standout moments.

For Saskatchewan, Nick Marshall intercepted a Mitchell attempt and took it back 62 yards for a touchdown recording the Riders’ first major of the contest.

For much of the game Fajardo was frustrated by Calgary’s unit. He was pressured and hit a number of times as a passer and rusher, but Stampeders defensive lineman Chris Casher took it over the line. Casher was penalized 25 yards and ejected for rough play. He grabbed onto the ankle of Fajardo and clearly tried to hurt the quarterback while in a vulnerable position well after being down by contact.

Fajardo fought through the intent to injure and put a late drive together. He rushed for 33 of his team-high 67 yards during the series which led to a 34-yard strike down the middle with William Powell on the other end. Powell recorded 84 total yards on nine touches and two touchdowns.

Saskatchewan’s darling QB finished 20-of-32 for 209 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That’s a marked difference compared to Fajardo’s first start facing Calgary. In Week 4 he managed just 89 yards on 9-of-15 passing with two interceptions in a 37-10 blowout loss.

Despite the improvement, the Riders chances to win the West changed drastically. If defensive lineman Micah Johnson, who was last seen limping badly to the locker room, isn’t at full health, Saskatchewan’s shot at the regular season division title takes even more of a hit.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and the Stamps have the reins of the West, yet again.