Brad Sinopoli and Marquay McDaniel made the most of their opportunities on Friday night.
With Calgary trailing Edmonton by eight points late in their CFL pre-season clash, McDaniel caught a 15-yard pass from Sinopoli and then a five-yard pass for a two-point convert as the Stampeders rallied to tie the Eskimos 17-17 at 13:54 of the fourth quarter.
“He ran an incredible route at the end there to get open,” said Sinopoli, who was the fourth Calgary quarterback to appear in the game. “I just had to put it on him and he made a great catch.”
A 30-yard field goal by Rob Maver with no time left on the clock capped off a wild 20-17 win for the Stamps in front of an announced crowd of 23,629 fans at McMahon Stadium.
“It was definitely an exciting atmosphere, especially at the end of the game,” said McDaniel, who finished with five catches for 56 yards. “We were so close. We were getting that momentum and we just wanted to finish it.”
Rene Paredes and Maver both finished the game with a pair of field goals for the Stamps.
After the game, Sinopoli could barely believe the Stamps comeback.
“You sit there and hope for it and then it happens,” said Sinopoli, who completed 5-of-8 passes for 55 yards. “It’s crazy.”
In the last minute of play, David Pittman deflected a punt by Edmonton’s Derek Schiavone to give Calgary the ball back and set up Maver’s winning field goal.
“Basically I just came off of the edge and gave my dude a little side-step move,” Pittman said. “He went for it and I had a free run to the punter. I just stuck my hands out and blocked it.
“The blocked punt, it just gave us a chance to get the ball back with a short field and the opportunity to kick a field goal.”
The victory proved to be costly for the Stamps though as head coach and general manager John Hufnagel said that running back LaMarcus Coker suffered a knee injury and was sent for an MRI, while wide receiver Anthony Parker sustained a concussion.
Joe Burnett returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter for the Eskimos, who built up a 17-9 lead before the Stamps rallied for the victory. Burnett, a defensive back who spent last season on Edmonton’s practice roster, picked off an errant pass by starting Calgary quarterback Drew Tate and ran the length of the field for the Eskimos’ lone touchdown.
Grant Shaw kicked a pair of field goals for Edmonton, which rested several veterans including quarterbacks Kerry Joseph and Steven Jyles, both of whom the Eskimos acquired in the off-season. Schiavone also booted a field goal.
Matt Nichols started the game at quarterback for the Eskimos and completed 10 of 20 passes for 108 yards, but also threw two interceptions.
“I haven’t had many opportunities to be in games at all, so just getting this opportunity to be able to get some film work and now I can learn from some of the things I need to work on,” Nichols said. “It’s just a learning curve. That’s why we have the pre-season. It’s really not something where you can just throw guys into a professional football game and have them be 100 per cent successful right off the get-go. I think these guys are going to learn, I’m going to learn and we’re just going to get better from it.”
Burke Dales, who signed with the Eskimos in the off-season, accounted for all of the scoring in the first quarter with a 69-yard punt single.
Early in the second quarter, Stamps defensive back Fred Bennett picked off an errant pass thrown by starting Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols to stop an Edmonton drive.
Largely thanks to four carries by Calgary running back Jon Cornish totalling 34 yards, the Stamps appeared to be on the verge of scoring before Tate threw the costly interception to Burnett.
After Schiavone kicked a 45-yard field goal to extend Edmonton’s lead to 11-0, Parades replied with a pair of field goals from 35 and 37 yards out to get the Stampeders on the board.
With the Eskimos threatening to score once again early in the third quarter, Bennett intercepted another pass by Nichols to end Edmonton’s drive.
In the third, Maver had a chance to pull the Stamps closer to the Eskimos but his field goal attempt from 32 yards out hit the left upright and bounced back into the field of play. Maver then redeemed himself later in the quarter by kicking a 50-yard field goal.
In the fourth quarter, Shaw connected on field goals from 21 and 12 yards out to increase Edmonton’s lead to 17-9.
Notes: Bennett also picked off a pass by Edmonton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in the fourth quarter for what would have been his third interception of the game, but the play was nullified due to a penalty to the Stampeders for too many men on the field. ... The Eskimos will return home to host the B.C. Lions in their second and final pre-season game on June 21, while the Stamps will travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders to round out their exhibition schedule on June 22.
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