Venue: Olympic Stadium
Location: Montreal, QC
Date: November 23
Winning Coach: John Hufnagel
Most Valuable Player: Henry Burris, QB, Calgary
Most Valuable Canadian: Sandro DeAngelis, K, Calgary
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL - The disappointments of previous years are now truly a thing of the past for Henry Burris and the Calgary Stampeders, who entered a Grey Cup billed as best against best and came out on top.
Burris passed for 328 yards, but it was a decision to start running the ball himself just before halftime that led the CFL West Division champion Stampeders to a 22-14 victory over the East-leading Montreal Alouettes before 66,308 mostly hostile fans at Olympic Stadium on Sunday night.
The victory was especially sweet for Burris, who can finally shed the label of being a player who can't win the big game.
"It's like I'm still dreaming," said Burris, who also led his team in rushing with 79 yards on nine carries and was named MVP of the game. "To hear that song 'We Are the Champions,' when we fought so hard to get here.
"We've been through big time ups and downs. I know the difference between reality and playing a game, that's why I kept everything in perspective. I knew it would all pay off at some point, and what do you know, here I am."
Sandro DeAngelis kicked five field goals - including a season-high 50-yarder to give his team its eight-point lead late in the game - as the Stampeders won the mostly well-played, back-and-forth encounter that featured plenty of offence from both sides, but relatively little scoring to excite the fans.
DeAngelis was named top Canadian in the game.
The Calgary defence also excelled, holding the CFL's highest-scoring team to only one point in the second half, thanks mainly to pair of interceptions of Anthony Calvillo passes.
Brett Ralph had only one catch in the game, but it produced the only touchdown for the Stampeders, who won the sixth Grey Cup in their history and the first since they beat Winnipeg in the same stadium in 2001.
"This is one of the greatest days of my life," said DeAngelis. "This has been a dream for me since I was a little kid."
Tailback Avon Cobourne scored Montreal's only touchdown and Damon Duval booted two field goals and a single as the Alouettes lost for the fifth time in six Grey Cup appearances since 2000. They failed in a bid to become the first team to win a Grey Cup on home turf since the B.C. Lions in 1994.
Montreal went 0-3 against Calgary this season.
"We all know this will take a few days for us to get over," said Montreal coach Marc Trestman. "We've spent a lot of time together the last six months, we can't let the last three hours define our team.
"We had some drives that we didn't finish. I was disappointed in the first half that we couldn't finish off a couple of drives. And we turned the ball over a couple of times and that hurt us."
The Alouettes fate was sealed when Calvillo, now 1-5 as a starter in Grey Cup games, threw his second interception of the second half to Shannon James in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
Burris responded by putting the Stampeders in position for DeAngelis' 50-yard placement with 4:12 left to play.
"I knew I was going to make it," said DeAngelis. "I blew one against B.C., last week and this time, I knew I'd make it."
Calgary is now 6-6 in Grey Cup games while Montreal fell to 5-11. And it was the Stamps' first win in three tries against the Alouettes, after losses in 1948 and 1970.
"I'm trying to hold back tears right now," a choked up Burris said on the field after the game. "Just the thought of being a champion - wow.
"To win in such a tough circumstance, on the road and in Grey Cup against a team that was playing at home in front of a million people at Olympic Stadium - it's huge. But it shows the character of this team."
The overwhelmingly pro-Montreal spectators in the domed stadium were deafening as they rooted for the hometown Alouettes. It was the second largest crowd in Grey Cup history after the 68,318 that attended Montreal's win in the 1977 game, also at Olympic Stadium.
But the Als running game never got going. Cobourne had a touchdown, but he was held to only 40 yards on eight carries, forcing Calvillo to go to his receivers.
Jamel Richardson caught six passes for 123 yards and Ben Cahoon had eight for 95 yards, but while the Calgary defence bent at times, it didn't break.
"You saw in the second half, we shut down the highest scoring team in the league," said Calgary rush end Mike Labinjo. "We had to change our game plan.
"Anthony likes to throw the ball quick, so you've got to get your hands up. I put a serious emphasis on trying to bat balls down instead of trying to rush all the time because in the first half, I was rushing hard and the ball was coming by my head."
The Alouettes used some big plays and an interception to take a 13-10 halftime lead.
Richardson made a catch over the middle, broke two tackles and romped 55 yards to set up Duval's 14-yard field goal 4:34 into the game.
Burris led a 10-play drive to the Montreal 36 and DeAngelis tied the score with a 43-yard effort 1:12 into the second quarter.
But Burris, who completed his first 11 passes, mostly for short yardage, followed his first incomplete toss with a throw straight to Alouette middle linebacker Reggie Hunt for a turnover at the Montreal 51 that cost them seven points.
Ben Cahoon made two catches as Montreal got to the 16, where Cobourne flew untouched up the middle for the game's first touchdown at 7:18.
A 42-yard punt return by Larry Taylor set up a 19-yard Duval field goal, but Calgary struck right back with an eight-play scoring drive, and Burris scrambled out of the pocket and found Ralph alone in the end zone from 20 yards with 44 seconds left in the half.
"It was a broken play," said Ralph. "It was supposed to go the other way, but I saw a soft spot and went for it and Henry got flushed that way. Henry made great plays all day."
It may have been the turning point of the game.
"It definitely gave us less of a hole to dig ourselves out of going into the second half," said Calgary coach John Hufnagel. "When you go in the locker-room down by only three points, you know it's anybody's ball game. It was a big drive."
Burris used his feet to move the ball early in the second half and took the ball to the Montreal five, but Demetris Summers dropped a sure TD pass and DeAngelis was forced to kick a 12-yard field goal to tie the game.
Duval then put his team up by a point with a punt single that turned out to be Montreal's only score of the final 30 minutes.
Another Burris drive fell short as Nik Lewis missed a catchable ball in the end zone and DeAngelis hit a 21-yard field goal for a 16-14 Calgary lead on the final play of the third quarter.
Calvillo opened the fourth by throwing an interception to Calgary's Dwight Anderson, but despite a wild play in which a Burris pass went off Ken-Yon Rambo's hands into the arms of Lewis, they settled for another field goal, this one from 30 yards.
The Alouettes responded by marching down to the Calgary 20 before James got his interception and effectively killed the home side's hopes. DeAngelis then put it away with his 50-yarder.
"Montreal's a tough team and they played their hearts out for their fans, but we are resilient," added Burris. "It's all about managing the game.
"One thing I've learned by watching a guy like Anthony Calvillo play over the years is that you've got to manage the game. Punting's not a bad thing sometimes against a defence like that, or throwing the ball away like I did a few times late in the game. It didn't hurt us because we have a guy named Sandro who was on fire tonight."
Calvillo easily got the 14 career Grey Cup completions he needed to pass Doug Flutie's former record of 108.
The Stampeders led the West Division at 13-5 while Montreal was tops in the East at 11-7. Both had losing 2007 seasons, with Calgary at 7-10-1 and Montreal 8-10, and both lost in division semifinals, but the two teams roared back this year under new first-year head coaches.
The ending was an all-too familiar one for the Als.
"We're getting good at this aren't we," said dejected Montreal centre Bryan Chiu. "It hurts. It's not the way a story ends, but it did and life goes on."
Calgary cornerback Brandon Browner, who injured an ankle last week in the West Division final against British Columbia, was able to start. Labinjo played despite suffering from a flu this week.
The Stamps sat out linebacker Matt Grootegoed, defensive back Keon Raymond, offensive lineman Antonio Hall and defensive lineman Pat MacDonald. Montreal scratched linebacker Dwayne Taylor, safety Keith Williams, tackle Dave Mudge and quarterback Brad Banks.