It wasn't a pretty win, but the Calgary Stampeders will take it.
Rene Parades kicked the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter before the Calgary defence came up big to preserve the victory on Friday as the Stampeders hung on to edge the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 10-7.
"A win is a win," said veteran Calgary defender Brandon Smith, who combined with Micah Johnson to make the game-saving play late in the final frame. "As a defence, as long as we can limit the offence from scoring, that's an accomplishment in its own. As you see, we stopped them from getting in the end zone and we won 10-7. We don't care exactly how we win. We just care about the win. That's the most important thing."
The Ticats had a chance to tie the game, but kicker Justin Medlock was unable to kick a 29-yard field goal due to a botched snap. Quarterback Dan LeFevour, who was the holder on the play, tried to run the ball instead, but was flattened by a big hit from Smith much to the delight of the 27,546 fans in attendance at McMahon Stadium.
"Micah, if anything, was there first," said Smith. "I did my part. Micah caused it. I had the opportunity to step up and make a good hit. I just seized the opportunity."
Brad Sinopoli scored his first-career CFL touchdown on a 26-yard run in the second quarter, while Paredes atoned for an earlier miss by kicking a 39-yard field goal, which stood up as the game-winning points.
'We don't care exactly how we win. We just care about the win. That's the most important thing.' - Calgary defender Brandon Smith
A week after throwing four touchdown passes in Calgary's 34-15 road win over the Toronto Argonauts, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell failed to find the end zone against Hamilton. Mitchell still completed 19-of-34 passes for 196 yards as the Stamps improved to 3-0.
"At some point we found some holes in the defence, got some first downs, got the field goal when we needed it and obviously a huge play by Sinopoli and then just a great play by the defence at the end of the game," Sinopoli said. "The defence, they stepped up at every single play when they had to. That was the biggest thing for us was watching those guys have our backs time and time again when we weren't at our best."
Medlock kicked a pair of field goal and added a single to account for all of Hamilton's points.
Jeremiah Masoli made his first career CFL start at quarterback for Hamilton (0-3) and completed just nine-of-19 passes for 107 yards and an interception before being replaced by LeFevour in the third quarter. LeFevour completed nine-of-11 passes for 76 yards in a relief appearance.
"We've just got to keep fighting," LeFevour said. "It's early in the season - three games in. There's a lot of time left. You've got to credit Calgary for playing well, but at the same time we've got to execute better."
Neither team could get anything going in the first quarter as the Stamps accounted for just 44 yards in offence, while the Ticats managed only 22 yards.
Medlock accounted for all the scoring in the first quarter as he booted a 91-yard single on the opening kickoff before adding a 42-yard field goal with 2:05 left to play in the opening frame.
Mitchell then engineered an 11-play, 85-yard drive in the second quarter that was capped off by a 26-yard touchdown run by Sinopoli on a broken play. Mitchell handed the ball off to Sinopoli, who sidestepped onrushing Hamilton linebacker Taylor Reed before running the rest of the way into the end zone untouched.
"We got a couple blocks down field and I just tried to make a move and fortunately it turned into a touchdown," said Sinopoli, who was happy to contribute in a winning cause. "It wasn't how we imagined how it would go, but we'll take the win. We're going to have games like that. It's a long season. That stuff's going to happen. All that matters at the end is the win."
Calgary coach and general manager John Hufnagel called Sinopoli's touchdown fantastic.
"That was something special," Hufnagel said. "It was a play designed that he had a pass-run option, but he never had a chance to look at throwing the ball because he had instant pressure. He made a fantastic move to get away from the first tackler and then juked the second tackler and got himself in the end zone."
On the next possession, the Ticats put themselves in a position to respond right back, but Calgary safety Joshua Bell picked off an errant pass by Masoli in the Calgary end zone to end the threat.
The Stamps had a chance to extend their lead late in the first half, but a 48-yard field goal attempt by Rene Paredes sailed wide right.
Hamilton had a great chance to take the lead in the third quarter when Brandon Banks returned a Rob Maver punt 38 yards to the Calgary 17-yard line. The Ticats then took and offside penalty before Masoli overthrew a pair of receivers in the end zone, prompting Medlock to kick a 30-yard field goal to tie the game at 7-7.
On Calgary's next drive, Mitchell fumbled the ball at midfield for his first turnover of the season. Linebacker Frederic Plesius recovered the ball at the Hamilton 54-yard line, but the Ticats were unable to convert the turnover into points as Medlock missed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right at the outset of the fourth quarter.
The Stamps took a 10-7 lead at 8:16 of the fourth quarter when Parades connected from 39 yards out to round out the scoring.