The Calgary Stampeders closed the 2012 regular season with five straight home wins. Their play at McMahon Stadium has been just as strong this year and it’s a big reason why Calgary leads the West Division standings at 9-2.
The Stampeders will look to continue their steady play on Saturday when they put their perfect home record on the line against the 7-4 Toronto Argonauts.
“You take pride in playing on your home turf,” said quarterback Kevin Glenn, who’s slated to start for the Stamps against the Argos after missing two games with a bruised knee. “We feel we have an advantage with the fans and it just being in our backyard.”
Calgary has won all five home games this season and hasn’t lost at McMahon Stadium since dropping a 22-14 decision to the Argonauts in August 2012. Toronto went on to win the Grey Cup.
“I think they’re a great team,” Stamps running back Jon Cornish said Friday. “Great teams that play against great teams, that’s when you define who you are as a team. For us, winning [on Saturday] would be big step in the right direction.”
Defensive lineman Charleston Hughes, who is tied for first in the CFL lead this season with 12 sacks, attributed much of Calgary’s success at home to fan support.
“We have a lot of supporters that sit in the stands and they come out and they’re cheering just as loud as any fans out there,” Hughes said.
Toronto coach Scott Milanovich pointed out that it’s not just home-field advantage that makes the Stamps such a difficult opponent.
“Game-breaking playmakers on every side of the ball a I think that’s more of the challenge,” he said.
The Argos have an impressive 4-1 road record this season.
“Their comfort level will be high because they’re here, but we’ve been good on the road,” Milanovich said. “I don’t know if it’s less distractions when we’re on the road, but our guys the last year-and-a-half have played very well on the road so we kind of embrace the hostile atmosphere.”
Linebacker Marcus Ball, who smiled upon recollecting that his Argos were the last team beat the Stamps at home, said he expects a much tougher opponent this time around.
“It’s very tough to beat this team at home,” Ball said. “They’re a good home team, coached very well. They’re physical. They’re a very aggressive team.”
Part of Ball’s task will be to contain Cornish, who’s currently second behind injured Saskatchewan running back Kory Sheets in rushing yardage. Cornish is also tied with Sheets for the CFL lead with eight rushing touchdowns.
“It’s going to be a challenge stopping that guy once he gets going behind that big offensive line,” Ball said. “They can really put numbers up.”
In turn, Cornish said that Calgary will face a tough challenge against Ball and the Toronto defence if the Stamps hope to keep their home-field winning streak alive.
“Marcus Ball, he’s a great outside linebacker a great lateral movement,” said Cornish, while also paying a compliment to former teammate and current Toronto safety Demetrice Morley. “I was actually not looking forward to the day that I would have to play against him.
“They have great players at a bunch of different positions so that presents a unique challenge for us.”
With Ricky Ray still sidelined with a shoulder injury, Zach Collaros will start his fourth straight game at quarterback for the Argos. Collaros has guided the Argos to two straight road wins and Milanovich has the utmost confidence in his 25-year-old quarterback.
“He’s just a talented young guy,” Milanovich said. “He’s got all the physical tools that you look for in a quarterback. He can throw from the pocket. He’s athletic. One of his best qualities I think is his competitive spirit. He just is very confident, very competitive, never gives up on a play and certainly is never going to give up on a game.”
Calgary coach and general manager John Hufnagel has also been impressed with how Collaros has been able to guide the Toronto offence in Ray’s absence.
“He’s a playmaker,” Hufnagel said. “He’s resilient. For a young quarterback he doesn’t get down on himself. He’s a fierce competitor.”
In both of Toronto’s previous games, the Argos have had to come from behind in the second half to earn wins. In order to beat Calgary at home, Collaros said the Argos have to concentrate on getting out to a stronger start.
“The guys in the locker-room have a belief in each other that we’re going to get the job done,” Collaros said. “Obviously we need to start better. Especially against a team like Calgary, we’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game and hopefully have a chance to win at the end.”