CALGARY — Don’t tell Calgary linebacker Micah Awe that Friday night’s game between the Stampeders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium doesn’t mean anything.
Although a victory for Calgary (6-11) over Winnipeg (13-4) in the season finale for both teams won’t affect the standings or the playoff picture, Awe said it’s important for the Stampeders to build on the momentum they have established by winning their previous two games to clinch third spot in the CFL’s Western Division and a playoff berth.
“This is a perfect opportunity to start playing playoff football,” said Awe, Calgary’s nominee for most outstanding defensive player. “What I mean by that is you do your job.”
Quarterback Jake Maier said the Stampeders have a great chance to build on momentum heading into next week’s West semifinal at B.C.
“There’s a sense of gratitude among the group right now,” said Maier, who’s listed as Calgary’s starter for the game. “However it happened, it happened and now here we are.
“This is the first taste of real momentum that we’ve had all year as a group and what better time than now. We want to make sure that we’re playing the game the right way, that’s the biggest thing. Let’s play well (Friday), regardless of who’s out there for either side.”
The Stamps beat the Lions in Vancouver 41-16 last week and also had a huge 26-19 win at home on Oct. 13 over the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-12), who were eliminated from playoff contention when they dropped a 29-26 decision to the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.
“It’s been a roller-coaster but at the same time it teaches you one thing, which is control what you can control and keep working because if you don’t keep working, that guarantees not having an opportunity,” said Awe.
“We just kept going, kept working and kept playing hard and it all came together.”
Awe, who has 118 defensive tackles, is also aiming to break the team’s single-season record of 123 set by Alex Singleton in 2017 and 2018.
“If you’re thinking you’re going to make every tackle, your team’s probably winning more games, because one tackle that you miss can go for a touchdown,” Awe said. “I’m close to this record, but I’m helping my team get better and helping them get into the playoffs.”
Winnipeg running back Brady Oliveira will also be chasing a milestone of his own when the two division rivals clash on Friday.
Oliveira leads the CFL with 1,980 yards from scrimmage, so he can crack the 2,000-yard plateau with just 20 more yards either on the ground or through the air.
“Obviously it’s something I’d love to accomplish,” he told reporters Wednesday in Winnipeg. “If it doesn’t happen, we’ve got bigger dreams and bigger goals.”
Having already clinched a bye through the first round of the playoffs, the Blue Bombers will host the West final against either the Lions or the Stampeders on Nov. 11.
While he hopes to get some touches against the Stamps, Oliveira wants to make sure that he’ll be healthy for the playoffs.
“Heading into this final week and then heading into the post-season, that’s my biggest thing is stay available, stay healthy and put on good performances for my teammates,” he said.
Both teams will be without some of their star power. Calgary’s outstanding player nominee Reggie Begelton and outstanding Canadian nominee Cameron Judge were both placed on the one-game injured list.
“I think coaches are just trying to do what’s best for their team long term,” said Calgary coach Dave Dickenson. “I don’t feel like there’s ever a meaningless game. I think you can get positives or negatives out of every game.
"It’s not as important as it could have been if we had to win it to make the playoffs, but it still has meaning for both teams, so we’ll play to win and hopefully play well.”
Meanwhile, Zach Collaros will dress as Winnipeg’s third quarterback behind starter Dru Brown and backup Dakota Prukop, while Canadian receiver Nic Demski will be a healthy scratch.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Brown of getting the opportunity to start. “Any time you get to go out and compete and do what you’re supposed to do, it’s always a good time.
“We had a good week of work (in practice) and I’m hoping that it translates to the game.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2023.
Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press