HAMILTON – If they had just taken the lead and made the finish respectable, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world for the Calgary Stampeders.
The tightening, the surpassing, or, as Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson bluntly put it when his team was 24-3 down at halftime, the “ass whipping” was so profound that the second half seemed like a foregone conclusion. Two games into a new season for a team with a good, veteran core, it was time to lick wounds, figure out what went wrong, and move on.
Instead, the Stamps spent the next 33 minutes laying a foundation for the next 16 regular-season games and beyond. Their 33-30 victory in overtime is an answer to many of the questions the team is grappling with as they begin their 2022 journey.
“It’s massive,” Stamps receiver Luther Hakunavanhu told Calgary’s CHQR after the game.
“With the start we’ve had, it’s kept the guys together and we keep fighting. With all the mistakes we made, we were still in the game. We just have to work and finish games. That’s really what it’s about.”
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» Summary: Stamps charge back to win the OT Thriller
While Hakunavanhu had three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown, he praised the spark from the Stamps’ defense in the comeback.
Defender Titus Wall made two game-changing plays, intercepting Dane Evans and following him with a quarterback flick as he looked for a close-range first down. That saw the 23-year-old rookie rush for 45 yards for a touchdown, resulting in the game ending in a tie at 27.
“We started slow, we can’t do that. We had to pick it up. I was just glad everyone stuck together. That was a great team win.”
The Stamps’ reaction to the win was also telling. Two-time Calgary Gray Cup winner Bo Levi Mitchell raced to the TSN podium after victory was sealed by Jameer Thurman’s overtime interception, and emotion gushed out of the two-time MOP.
It’s the kind of win the Stampeders can draw from as they face adversity for the remainder of the season. Most importantly, after a 2021 season that fell short of the organization’s high standards, it felt like the old stamps had returned.
“He’s our man. He’s our #1,” Hakunavanhu said of Mitchell. “We need this, we need him. He’s always level-headed and tells us that we can get back into the game, that it’s one game at a time. We need a guy like that.”