July 12th, 2024

The ‘short stuff’ helps teams in victories last week


By Lethbridge Herald on July 3, 2024.

Graham Kelly

INSIDE THE CFL

Thanks in no small part to the kicking firm of Crawford, Grace and Paredes, the Calgary Stampeders got King Kong off their back last Saturday by beating Winnipeg in overtime, thus ending their six game losing streak to the Blue Bombers.

The final score was 22-19.

Rene Paredes, in his 13th year with the Stampeders was perfect, kicking four field goals and adding a convert. He hasn’t missed this season.

That means Medicine Hat’s Aaron Crawford, regarded as the best long snapper in football anywhere, had to be perfect in getting the ball back to the waiting hands of holder Cody Grace who had to place it perfectly, laces facing the right way for Rene.

Ignoring OT pressure, Paredes kicked it 53 yards to win.

The situation was exacerbated by a strong southeast wind. Not to be outdone, Bomber Sergio Castillo was also four-for-four including a team record 60-yarder.

On the previous play, he missed from 53 yards out but Winnipeg was flagged for procedure, a penalty the opposition cannot decline.

The CFL record for longest field goal is 62 yards kicked by Saskatchewan’s Paul McCallum at Taylor Field Oct. 27, 2001. 

 There’s an old cliche in football that you take what the defence gives you. It is also an old practice that when you are protecting a lead in the dying moments of a game, you go into the prevent defence.

Over the years it has been my observation that the prevent defence has the opposite result: it prevents you from winning.

 The idea is to avoid surrendering a long gain. Keep the offence in front of you, just give up the short stuff. But if you give up enough short stuff, pretty soon the enemy is in your end-zone.

 Case in point.

Trailing 19-12 with 1:34 left on the clock, the Bombers had first down on their 36 yard line. In a minute and 14 seconds they ran nine plays including the touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky, which when converted, tied the game. The longest gain was 21 yards.

The stern Stamp defence went into prevention mode. Paredes bailed them out in overtime. 

 Two more examples can be cited from the Hamilton-Ottawa contest the next night.

Trailing by five points, Bo Levi Mitchell marched his Cats the length of the field and scored the go ahead major with 20 seconds left. Ottawa replied with a excellent kick-off return, moved down to the enemy 39 where Lewis Ward kicked the winning field goal.

Besides the prevent defence yielding a whole series of short gains, the defenders become tentative, afraid to make a mistake.

 Before booking your hotel room in Vancouver for the Grey Cup, consider Calgary had to go to overtime to beat a team without receivers Dalten Schoen and Kenny Lawlor, who lost their future Hall of Fame quarterback Zach Collaros in the second quarter. Running back Brady Oliveira and middle linebacker Adam Bighill were nursing injuries. While a record of 0-4 is obviously a concern for coach Michael O’Shea, if healthy, they will be tough down the stretch. 

 Before the game, when asked what I expected, I said I was having trouble figuring out what kind of team Dave Dickenson was coaching.

I thought they might not be very good with Winnipeg likely the winner. The Stampeders have a Grey Cup calibre defence led by the spectacular Cameron Judge. The offensive line has improved, the receiving corps deeper and more talented. Jake Maier has become a solid journey man quarterback.

For a young Calgary team trying to find its identify, the win was an important confidence builder which, however, could be shattered Saturday evening in Montreal.

 Meanwhile, as the late Jack Gotta used to say about the Roughriders, “Just when everything is going well, lighting strikes the outhouse”. QB Trevor Harris is on the six-game injury list with a sprained Medial Collateral Ligament, although he can return anytime. His replacement is Shea Patterson who was mediocre against Hamilton. Said coach Corey Mace, “The kid does everything right. I’m so excited for the kid and the team is excited to rally around him.”

It’s great to be optimistic, although I think Mace is whistling by the 4th Ave. grave yard.

Patterson’s baptism of fire begins tonight against Toronto, followed by B.C., Winnipeg and Montreal.

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