Rene Paredes diffuses Bombers, saves Stampeders with OT winner (& six other thoughts)

Photo courtesy: Angela Burger/Calgary Stampeders

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been to the Grey Cup four seasons in a row so it shouldn’t come as a shock that they’ve beat the Stampeders nine times in their last 11 matchups, including the last six head-to-head games over the previous two seasons.

The Bombers haven’t lost to the Stampeders since November 20, 2021, a stretch of 952 days. In those games, the Bombers won four by seven points or less.

As the clock ticked down in Calgary on Saturday night and the Bombers scored to send the game to overtime with less than a minute to play, Calgary players, coaches, and fans alike could have been forgiven for thinking, “Here we go again!”

Instead, it was an endzone interception by former Bomber Demerio Houston and a 52-yard walk-off field goal from Rene Paredes that snapped the losing streak, sending the 22,386 fans in attendance home with a smile and a 22-19 win.

Here’s what I saw from the press box.

Maier does enough

In the first two games of the season, Jake Maier threw for almost 600 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception and a completion percentage nearing 80.

This game will certainly not make many highlight reels for either team, but Maier still managed a workmanlike 28-of-43 for 239 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The winds at McMahon were blustery, which Maier said was causing him some issues.

“When it’s just going north and south, relative to the field, you kind of get a feel for it,” he said after the game. “But at times today, I felt like there was more of a swirl coming left to right or right to left, and that truthfully makes it difficult. I would say throwing laterally was more difficult, but hey, man, we made it work.”

Maier was also helped out by his offensive line, who allowed no sacks after giving up four to the Lions before the bye week.

Time is the key to Maier’s success and if the offensive line can keep him clean, the Stamps should expect big things from the sophomore starter.

Programs! Get your programs!

When Zach Collaros threw an interception on the third play of the second quarter, it sent many people in the press box to their lineup cards to figure out who made the play.

If Clarence Hicks keeps putting together games like the one he had Saturday, pretty soon, the rest of the league will not only know who he is, but they will have to game plan to play against him.

“This whole week (the coaches) have been stressing that I need to get on that dig window because he likes to hit them digs,” Hicks said after the game. “I seen his eyes the whole time and I seen that he isn’t going to see me because I’m coming from the other side.”

Hicks would only make two tackles on the night but the last also generated a turnover on downs as the Bombers were pressing late in the game, tackling Brady Oliveira a yard short of the marker.

Another rookie defensive lineman, Josiah Coatney, was also making waves. Coatney also had a pair of tackles and had a ball hit him square in the chest that he could not pull it in for the interception. Had the 325-pounder secured the interception, he would have had a good shot of taking it back to the house for a pick-six.

“(Coatney) said he would have scored on it, and I told him I was right there so he could turn and lateral it to me,” Hicks said, tongue firmly in his cheek.

Cody Grace, Cody Grace, Cody Grace

The Stampeders got three points from an unusual source in this game, as punter Cody Grace found the endzone for singles on three occasions.

Known for being a placement kicker, Grace had only punted the ball for a single eight times before this game on 291 career punts — just 2.7 percent of the time.

After adding the three singles on seven punts in this game, that number jumped to 3.6 percent — a 33 percent increase!

The Aussie punter couldn’t help his first kick from travelling 81 total yards before being conceded. The second also rode the wind, with Grace just a few yards away when it was finally recovered in the endzone.

The final rouge was intentional. The Stampeders lined up two players behind Grace, hoping for a good bounce in the endzone and a chance at a touchdown-scoring recovery.

Those points were crucial, given that the game went to overtime, but I’m not positive the Stampeders will do that frequently going forward.

Rene pulls it out

All hail his royal highness, Rene Paredes, kicker of the football, douser of the blaze, master of the unchanged photo, wizard of the walk-off, and defender of the realm.

He’s hit every kick this season and won the game with a 52-yard field goal in overtime that was made more difficult because of a chop block penalty that sent the Stamps back 15 yards to begin their overtime effort.

“As soon as we got the interception, I knew we had (the win),” said Jake Maier after the game. “I have that much faith in Rene, as does everybody. Even when we got backed up to the fifty, it didn’t matter.”

For his part, Paredes wasn’t worried either, claiming he hit from 60 yards out before the game.

If Paredes had needed to kick from that far out, he would have matched Sergio Castillo, who put one through the uprights from 60 yards earlier in the game to set a Bombers franchise record and record the second-longest field goal in league history.

More importantly

As mentioned above, just shy of 23,000 people attended the game, and they came with bags filled and wallets open, donating 95,780 pounds of food for the Purolator Tackle Hunger Program.

For those around the league who still have this annual charity game on the horizon, be prepared when you get to the gate. This year, volunteers are armed with tap pads and you can donate five bucks by tapping your chip-enabled card on them.

It’s a great way to catch people in a relatively cashless society who may have left their bag of food at home.

And now for something completely different

The Stamps have wins against Hamilton and Winnipeg but to this point in the season, both teams are winless.

Next week, the team heads east to play against the reigning Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, who remain undefeated. A big part of that is due to their defence, which features six former Stampeders and is among the best in the league.

The Alouettes have won nine regular season games in a row dating back to last year and Calgary will be looking to make a loud statement with a possible victory on Saturday.

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