HAMILTON — Had they simply cut into the lead and made the finish respectable, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world for the Calgary Stampeders.
The dressing down, the out-classing, or as Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson bluntly put it when his team was down 24-3 at halftime, the “ass whupping” 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, there was time to lick wounds, figure out what went wrong and move forward.
Instead, the Stamps spent the next 33-ish minutes carving out what just might be a foundation for the next 16 regular season games and beyond. Their 33-30 overtime win is an answer to many of the questions that hang over the team at the start of its 2022 journey.
“It’s tremendous,” Stamps receiver Luther Hakunavanhu told Calgary’s CHQR after the game.
“With the start that we had, it made sure the guys stay together and that we keep fighting. With all those mistakes that we made, we were still in the game. We’ve just got to work and close out games. That’s really what it’s about.”
While Hakunavanhu had three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown, he praised the spark that came from the Stamps’ defence in the comeback.
Defensive back Titus Wall made a pair of game-changing plays, intercepting Dane Evans and following it up with a strip of the quarterback as he looked for a first down on short yardage. That led to the 23-year-old rookie racing 45 yards for the touchdown that led to the game being tied at 27.
“We started slow, we can’t do that. We had to pick it up. I was just glad that everybody rallied together. It was a great team win.”
The Stamps’ reaction to the win was telling as well. Bo Levi Mitchell, a two-time Grey Cup winner in Calgary ran over to the TSN panel after the win was sealed by Jameer Thurman‘s overtime interception, emotion spilling out of the two-time MOP.
It’s the kind of win that the Stampeders can draw from when they face adversity the rest of the season. Most important, after a 2021 season that was below the organization’s high standards, it felt like the Stamps of old were back.
“He’s our guy. He’s our No. 1 guy,” Hakunavanhu said of Mitchell. “We need that, we need him. He’s always level-headed, telling us we can get back in the game, that it’s one play at a time. We need a guy like that.”