VANCOUVER -- Since the Calgary Stampeders spent most of their regular season facing adversity, it’s only appropriate what’s happened in the playoffs.
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The 100th Grey Cup Championship matchup is set, as the Calgary Stampeders will duel the host Toronto Argonauts. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Sunday's game.
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Despite a shoulder injury to starting quarterback Drew Tate back in Week 2, the Stamps still competed for top spot in the West and finished with a home playoff game, led by the sure veteran throwing arm of Kevin Glenn.
Once Tate returned late in the season, he earned the first-string quarterback position right back, sparking some debate among fans as to who should be taking the snaps with Glenn playing so well to get the Stamps in contention.
But Tate thrived in the team’s first playoff game, lifting his team past the Roughriders in their playoff opener thanks to some last-second heroics, specifically a 68-yard touchdown pass to Romby Bryant with 19 seconds left in the game to get the win.
There’s always another ‘but’ though, and that’s exactly what the Stamps had to deal with following their exciting Western Semi-Final win. The team learned that Tate would be sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs with a fractured forearm, meaning Glenn would get another shot in the Western Final.
It seems like this team can’t go without adversity, and if anything, said this year’s West Division finalist for Most Outstanding Player Jon Cornish, the Stampeders only relish it.
“This team has proven time and time again that it’s able to overcome adversity, overcome negativity” said Cornish. “I’ve said earlier in the week, this is the best group of guys I’ve been around. I might’ve been on some teams with some better athletes, but I wouldn’t trade any team for this.”
“This is an achievement that’s a team achievement, there’s no one single player to thank for this. Every single guy contributed to this victory.”
Even with a reliable experienced quarterback like Glenn on the roster, it’s hard to imagine a team being able to overcome such a sudden curveball. But as Cornish pointed out, Glenn’s done this before, and with a talented – and more importantly, determined – squad, the team never had any reason to panic.
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“Glenn is a guy that always has the capability, but what he lacked was the surrounding supporting cast,” said Cornish. “He knew exactly what it took to get to the Grey Cup, he’s gotten a team there previously.”
“I think everyone on this team bought in, we all understood – Kevin Glenn, Drew Tate, it doesn’t matter who’s leading us – both are very capable quarterbacks and now we’re in the position that we wanted to be in.”
The Lions were Calgary’s, and particularly Cornish’s, biggest nemesis all season, dating back to a 34-8 loss on home turf to BC back in late July. Cornish, also a nominee for this year’s top Canadian, was held to minus-one yard on six runs.
With first place in the West on the line in their second meeting on Oct. 6, the Stamps again fell short, but this time on the last drive of the game when a late Glenn comeback attempt stalled near midfield.
The Stampeders finally got their first win against BC in impressive fashion three weeks later, 41-21 in Tate’s first return to action – but with Lulay sidelined and the Lions already all settled with a West Division title, the game didn’t quite have the same meaning.
That’s just another reason why Sunday’s win at a hostile BC Place was all the more gratifying for Cornish and the Stamps.
“BC’s a great team,” said Cornish. “They have great offence, great defence, they really played their butts off tonight. I think it’s just a testament to how good this team is – that we can come into a place that’s loud and with as many fans supporting the Lions and win.”
This game didn’t come without a little bit of adversity either, especially for starting quarterback Glenn. The 2007 runner up for Most Outstanding Player was picked off by Korey Banks, who took it back the other way for a touchdown to tie the game at seven apiece in the first quarter.
But while the Lions could’ve easily taken that momentum swing and ran with it, Glenn’s poise and veteran leadership helped the Stamps steal it right back en-route to a big win.
“One thing that I understand is that those kinds of things are going to happen – it’s how you bounce back,” said Glenn. “And we did, as a team, not just me, and we’re going to the ‘ship.”
“We had this mentality that we weren’t going to lose, and I think that’s been with us all season and it hasn’t stopped.”
Cornish, meanwhile, knows that it’ll continue next week. His team is off to the 100th Grey Cup, but it won’t be played on a site that’s neutral to each team.
With the Argos’ win over the Alouettes, the host team is set to appear in the big game for the second straight season. Last year the Lions triumphed, and with tickets already sold out and plenty of buzz around Toronto for the Boatmen, the Stamps might not get the attention they deserve.
But the New Westminster native said he’s relishing the challenge once again.
“I would say they’re virtually identical,” Cornish said of next week’s challenge in comparison to last weekend’s against BC. “Next week obviously there are going to be a lot of Toronto fans – it’s something I look forward to.”
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