Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

In a likely West Final preview, the Riders came to town riding high on a 9-1 run and sitting in sole possession of first place this late in a season for the first time in over a decade.

Saskatchewan defeated the Stampeders in 2009 to win the West division via a three-way tiebreaker with a 10-7-1 record.

If the green and white beat the Stamps and you put them two games back with three remaining, it wouldn’t have taken any Jesus Sprinkles to host the West Final.

But alas, for the thousands of green-clad fans that dotted the stands, and those watching at home, it was not to be.

The Stamps were victorious at home by a 30-28 score that deeply flattered the Riders.

Some musings on why:

Undisciplined play

The Riders had three drives in the first half that ended with scores and a pick-six. A bad punt single, one touchdown and a field goal from the offence. The TD and FG drives included multiple examples of undisciplined play from the Stampeders as both featured 25 yards in free real estate in the form of penalties that are relatively rarely called.

The TD drive included a piling on penalty and a spearing call. The field goal to end the first half was moved from the 16-yard line to the 41 based on a rough play ejection of Chris Casher. Later in that drive, Lorenzo Jerome was also tagged for unnecessary roughness, again on a second down that would have generated an earlier field goal try with time remaining on the clock.

All of the penalties came on second downs that would have produced a field goal and a pair of punts. One of those would have been from the Riders’ 16-yard line with a little under a minute to go.

The penalties would lead Bo Levi Mitchell on a tirade during his halftime interview that is likely to cost him a few dollars once the fines are released for the week. Which leads me to…

What? Why? C’mon Bo!

The Stampeders were rolling early, leading 10-1 when Bo Levi Mitchell threw an indefensible pass across his body that was promptly picked off and returned to the house for a touchdown that brought the Riders back into the game.

While I can’t suggest I can see what Bo saw on that play, it sure looked like he had enough room to pick up the first down with his feet. However, as the league’s least likely candidate to tuck the ball and take off, with just two carries this season and exactly zero since the first game of the season, Bo forced a bad throw.

Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson wasn’t too worried about it after the game was over.

“Happens to all of us. He was late on it, but I’ve done more than my fair share of those too. He was solid and made huge throws all night, he’s not going to waver with one interception,” Dickenson said.

It was the lone blemish on the night for the reigning MOP who had 298 yards and a pair of TD’s to go with a 23-for-29 night.

Ante up

Ante Milanovic-Litre had a career game against the Riders, posting new highs for carries and yards, coming away with 43 yards on eight carries.

Litre has seen a little more of the ball this season as the Stampeders have continually searched for an answer at running back due to injuries.

Dickenson described Litre as a “downhill slasher” who’s style fit better schematically than Stamps starter Don Jackson.

Litre is just one of the younger Nationals making an impression on the Stamps right now.

Money Mayala

For the second straight game Hergy Mayala was a favoured target for BLM picking up five catches on seven targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns.

Mayala, the Stampeders first round pick in the 2019 CFL draft, has slowly been climbing his way up the depth chart and had a game-sealing 25-yard catch late in the fourth quarter to preserve the lead.

“It definitely feels great to have the quarterback look for you in crunch time. I’m proving to him that I can do it, for (Bo) to look at me, means a lot to me.”

Mayala added that he could get used to seeing a throng of reporters waiting at his locker.

Jon Ryan

I normally keep my observations relatively limited to the Stampeders, to avoid the rage of the comment section who will act like I’ve never seen a football before when I discuss the Riders, but can Jon Ryan not kick the ball out of bounds?

The guy has 12 singles this year, more than twice as many as any other punter in the league.

By contrast, Rob Maver has just two.

It came up after the first score of the game, a Ryan single, that traded one point for 10 yards of field position. The Riders snapped the ball from the Calgary 45, the Stamps surrendered the single and then started a drive from their own 35-yard line.

They would retake the lead on the ensuing drive with a field goal that would have likely been a punt if it started inside the Stamps 20-yard line.

Give me a guy that can go out of bounds inside the 10 with regularity versus singles every time.

Dynamite defence

The Stampeders defence took away the Riders best weapon in Cody Fajardo, limiting the former backup with a pocket full of “sprinkles of Jesus” to just 209 yards.

Excluding the first week against Hamilton where he came in to take over for the concussed Zach Collaros, the two worst performances of Fajardo’s season have come against Calgary.

Fajardo averaged just 6.5 yards per pass attempt and that number was buoyed by a 34-yard catch and run touchdown with less than three minutes to go.

The last time the Riders and Stamps met, Fajardo was limited to 5.9 yards per attempt before being replaced.

Fajardo was again stymied by the Stampeders zone defence as he completed just one pass of more than 10 yards downfield in the first half, a 27-yard completion to Naaman Roosevelt.

Kilam kills ’em

Right after the Stamps took the lead, Mark Kilam called for a sky kick from Rene Paredes in an effort to give the Riders a different look on the kickoff.

It worked better than anyone on the Stamps coaching staff might have expected as it took a funny bounce, collected by Jamari Gilbert of the Stampeders and taken to the house for six.

“I was trying to get to my contain and the ball ended up bouncing my way.” Gilbert said following a game where his workload was much heavier than expected after Tre Roberson was forced from the game with a concussion.

“I’m gonna scoop and score. I’m not going to fall on this ball; I have to go for the gold!”

That extended the Stamps lead to 10-1 at the time.

Big bad Bergman

Shane Bergman is a CFL all-star. If not, the voters aren’t paying attention. He makes the line substantially better with his presence and just does not give up sacks.

Resiliency is key

Every time the Riders scored, the Stampeders retook or built on their lead on the ensuing drive.

The Riders had the lead in this game for less than five total minutes.

This has been a hallmark of Stampeder teams throughout this dynasty style run that has seen them play in the Grey Cup four of the last five years.

Injuries? Next man up.

Officiating not going your way? Play cleaner.

Adjust, adjust, adjust.

It’s what the Stamps do better than anyone and they will hope to keep that going against Winnipeg.

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Ryan Ballantine
Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.