Calgary’s defence dominated the B.C. Lions early in the West Division final a week ago and a Stampeders victory on Sunday night in the 100th Grey Cup will require a repeat performance, the Stamps early on pinning down the explosive trio of Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray, receiver Chad Owens and running back Chad Kackert.
To quell the Lions, the Stamps used a soft defensive formation, essentially ceding any small-time stuff while quashing any shot Travis Lulay had at a big play to open up the game. In just one example, all-star defensive end Charleston Hughes played much of the game essentially as a linebacker. Still, while the Stamps played back somewhat, Calgary still managed to mostly contain Lions running back Andrew Harris. The Stamps didn’t concede a single big play – rushes of more than 20 yards, or receptions of 30-plus – and the Lions only managed their first offensive touchdown late in the game – too late.
The similar script will be needed against the Argos. But there is a Double Blue man who has a certain insider’s edge when it comes to the Calgary defence: former Stamps defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones who took the same job with the Argos this year (somewhat contentiously, as most people know).
If an element of surprise aided the Stamps against the Lions, it may not be the same edge on Sunday – but it doesn’t concern Hughes.
“I know it ain’t no surprise to ’em,” Hughes said on Saturday after the Stamps’s final practice at the Rogers Centre. “I played under Jonesey. He knows the type of positions I can play. I can play anywhere on the field. I mean, it’s no secret.”
The Argos have of course beaten the Stampeders twice this season, but those Ws feel like a long-ago time, once in July and once in August. It is a feeling shared by a Stampeders defence that has gelled considerably over the season, and benefited greatly from the early-October addition of veteran defensive lineman Anwar Stewart, who is looking to win his fifth Grey Cup ring and is a strong complement to Hughes, and all-stars Juwan Simpson at linebacker and defensive back Keon Raymond.
“We were a young team,” said Hughes of the summertime losses to the Argos. “We didn’t really know each other that well. But now that we know each other well, they’ve got problems.”