The Calgary Stampeders are rightfully the 2018 Grey Cup champions. The team has been dominant in the league over the past 5 season and have played in the final game four times in the past five years. They only had, coming into the 2018 final, one Championship to show for it. Four appearances and only one championship. Would they overcome heartbreaking last-minute losses in Ottawa and against Toronto, in their third shot? Was three times going to work like a charm or would the squad fizzle out?
What could have been a dynasty team with consistent championship wins is currently a great team with now two championships with their latest 2018 win. A convincing win at that against the same Ottawa Redblacks they faced 2 years ago in the same finals. This time the result was better.
Defence Wins Championships
The old adage of defence wins championships was THE key mantra of the 2018 Stampeders. They were times, particularly late in the season, when the offence was struggling. Yet from Game 1 the Calgary D was dominant. Sitting a top the League in most defensive stat categories by year’s end, you had the sense leading up into the playoff push that if the Stamps were going to have a shot they would going to have to rely on the D.
The lead up to the Grey Cup Final saw the Stamps hit late-season adversity, particularly on offence. The team essentially lost their entire starting receiving corps. A few losses late shifted the narrative from prior years and the playoff push. Instead of the runaway favorites, Calgary looked like they could be beat. Conversely, the Stampeders got a chance to taste adversity and re-focus in time for the playoffs. The shift in mindset helped, as the team could look at themselves somewhat as underdogs heading into the championship game. In past years, as runaway favorites the team likely peaked too early which contributed to their downfall.
Despite the bumpy road, the Championship game featured classic Stampeders football. Although the offence was missing their lethal blows, they struck with major scores when it mattered most. Despite drops, clutch grabs were reigned in for TDs. For most of the game the Stamps dominated all three sides of the football. Even when Ottawa look to be gaining some momentum late in the second quarter, a CFL record punt return for a touchdown with seconds remaining turned the tide. From then on it was that D that stood tall and shut down Ottawa’s attack for the remainder of the game.
Just one game, that’s all that counts in a 9 team league. For the Stampeders they needed two wins to lift the Grey Cup and that’s exactly what they did. Players largely absent during the season can have two great games and walkaway a champion. The likes of Lamar Durant, who won Most Outstanding Canadian, is one such player. Eric Rogers was his usual clutch self. Even Matthew chalked up a few deep catches. More hardware came the Stampeders way with the Most Outstanding Player ball given to Bo Mitchell. He was also the only Stampeder to win an award at the league award ceremony the week before. A distinction the team will take any time if it means holding the Grey Cup. With his two wins, Mitchell cements his position as one of the league’s most dominant quarterbacks ever. Whether he will continue his legacy remains to be seen as NFL workouts wait await him.
What is the future leave for the Calgary Stampeders? Repeat? One thing is for sure, in the CFL turnover is significant every year. Each team has a long list of free agents. Calgary is no exception. Key names including defensive coordinator Devone Claybrooks could be leaving (likely to BC). Bo Mitchell may not be returning which would leave a gaping hole in this team. Middle linebacker Alex Singleton is also looking at workouts down south. It’s a double-edged sword for a successful franchise. Continued winning produces quality players, and those players will find better-paying work. Although John hufnagel has always been in terms of finding talent, there are some holes you just can’t fill, and quarterback will be one of them. Hpefully that decision will come sooner rather than later so the team can plan accordingly and perhaps sign a QB in free agency.
Nonetheless, for fans and players alike, this 2018 Championship leaves the city swelling with pride. It’s been a great 2018 season end one can only hope for another run at the cup. We’ll just have to wait 7 months before the new season starts.