The Calgary Stampeders’ regular-season finale is an odd mix.
The result has no significance in the standings or playoff implications, but head coach John Hufnagel faces a balancing act as he tries to prepare his charges for the post-season, while giving some players a chance to set remarkable records.
The Stampeders (14-3) close out the regular season in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions on Friday. Calgary secured first place in the CFL’s West Division with a 29-25 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders last Saturday.
Calgary hosts the division final Nov. 17. After Friday’s game, the Stampeders benefit from a few days of rest that division semifinalists Saskatchewan and B.C. won’t get as they prepare for their playoff game Nov. 10 in Regina.
Hufnagel wants to put every player he takes to Vancouver on the field Friday to ensure they are all ready for the post-season.
That includes the three quarterbacks Kevin Glenn, Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell. Hufnagel has said Glenn will start, but his plan is for each man to take multiple snaps.
Then there are the Stampeders looking to set personal milestones. Running back Jon Cornish is just under a 100 yards from breaking a franchise record for single-season rushing yards held by Willie Burden since 1975. Defensive end Charleston Hughes is two sacks from a club record 20.
At 207 points, kicker Rene Paredes is 14 points away from a Stampeder season record. If Paredes can maintain his 94.5 per cent success rate through Friday, that’s a CFL record.
At 15th victory would also match a Stampeder record. Calgary had 15 wins three consecutive seasons from 1993 to 1995 when Wally Buono was the coach.
Hufnagel would prefer to not wear out his starters or lose any of them to injury in Friday’s no-stakes game. How the coach will employ them depends on how successful his team is in the game, he says.
“We’re going out to try and win a football game against a good football team,” Hufnagel said Wednesday.
“I’m going to have a rotation. We’ll see how it plays out. I have no definitive system except for the quarterbacks. The quarterbacks will hopefully get equal playing time.”
Cornish, the CFL’s leading rusher at 1,799 yards, is both 98 yards from Burden’s club record and from the third most in one season in CFL history. Mike Pringle ran for 1,972 yards and 2,065 in 1994 and 1998 respectively.
“Not really too worried about breaking any records,” Cornish said. “I had a good season. There’s only two other people that rushed more than me in the CFL and that’s not bad. That’s not bad.
“I’m planning on playing the game until we secure the victory. Probably at least a half or three quarters. They’ll probably try and give me the opportunity to get to the record.”
Cornish, from New Westminster, B.C., has smashed his own CFL record for single-season rushing yards by a Canadian running back.
CFL sack leader Hughes needs two to surpass the club record of 19 by Harold Hallman in 1986.
“I don’t expect to play a lot,” Hughes said. “It just all depends on the flow of the game right? If I’m pass-rushing good and feel like I can get two sacks, I’ll probably continue to play, but I’m not really getting much pressure and the flow of the game isn’t going the way I thought it would, I’d probably just go ahead and sit it out.
“I’m too overly concerned about it. More concerned about winning the game and going into this playoff on top. I still surpassed my personal goal that I set for myself. One per game is pretty good I guess.”
Calgary’s offence needs to be at full steam Friday for Paredes to get enough opportunities for the points record. Paredes already set a CFL record this season for the most consecutive field goals made at 39.
He can’t afford a miss Friday in order to stay above league’s current succes rate record of 94.3 per cent, which was set two years ago by current Lions kicker Paul McCallum.
“Any type of record is important to anybody,” Paredes said. “I’m going out there every week and my job is to make the field goals, so I’m preparing the same way as any game. We’ll see what happens.
“I’ve been through a lot of pressure for the previous record. I got the record I really wanted.”
The Stampeders announced their nominees for the CFL awards Wednesday. Cornish was a double nominee for outstanding player and outstanding Canadian.
Hughes was the team’s pick for defensive player for the second year in a row, Montreal native Paredes was chosen for the special teams player honour and centre Brett Jones of Weyburn, Sask., was nominated for top rookie.
Stanley Bryant was the nominee for the offensive lineman award. Bryant isn’t expected to play Friday because of a knee injury that kept him out of Saturday’s game.