CALGARY -- Jon Cornish put together one of the best performances of his career, rushing for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns, leading the Stamps to a 44-32 win over the BC Lions at McMahon Stadium.
Tonight’s matchup was an emotional one for the city of Calgary, as it marked the first time the Stampeders were able to pay tribute to the victims and first responders of the devastating flood that ravaged the city earlier last week.
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And it wouldn’t take long for the home team to give their fans something to finally cheer about.
After last year’s Most Outstanding Canadian Cornish powered his way into BC territory with a few big runs, including a 23-yard gain, QB Drew Tate connected with receiver Maurice Price, who managed to keep his legs in bounds in the back of the endzone, for a 12-yard touchdown.
But Calgary’s hot start didn’t end there.
Still in the first quarter, and with possession after Deron Mayo recovered a BC fumble, an inspired Cornish continued to impose his will on the Lions’ defence, taking a Tate pass 20 yards to the BC 12-yard line.
Two plays later, Tate found Joe West for a touchdown, increasing Calgary’s lead to 14-0.
Cornish admittedly entered Friday night’s contest with the flood victims in his mind, announcing via his Twitter account on Thursday that he would donate $10 for every yard he gains against BC.
While Cornish and Calgary’s offence were having no trouble moving the ball, BC’s was having a difficult time finding their rhythm, as QB Travis Lulay gave up the group’s second turnover of the half, with his pass intended for Emmanuel Arceneaux being picked off by Derrius Brooks.
Moments later, however, the Stamps swung the momentum pendulum slightly back in BC’s favour, as veteran Nik Lewis fumbled only two plays after the interception, giving possession right back to the Lions.
With the score now 16-0 thanks to a conceded safety by kicker Hugh O’Neill, Lulay, only two years removed from being named the league’s MOP, immediately took advantage of the fortunate bounce.
Without blinking an eye, Lulay looked towards Arceneaux again, this time connecting with his new target for a 53-yard touchdown.
The TD marked Arceneaux's first major since returning from a stint in the NFL.
On the ensuing convert, however, holder Tomas DeMarco had trouble with the snap, lifting the ball to turn it around after he initially pointed the laces towards kicker Hugh O’Neill.
DeMarco wasn’t able to correct the spot of the ball quick enough, as O’Neill attempted to put it through the uprights while he was still holding onto it, missing the convert as a result.
Despite their best efforts to regain some momentum, BC’s defence wasn’t able to contain Cornish, Tate and the rest of Calgary’s enthused offence.
Simply put, it was the Jon Cornish show in the first half of Friday night’s contest.
Carrying the ball twice for gains of 16 and 15 yards consecutively, Cornish eventually hit pay dirt, trotting into the endzone untouched from one-yard out, extending BC’s lead to 17 points.
The first half ended with the Stamps up 31-6, with West hauling in his second touchdown of the night, a 14-yard pass from Tate.
Cornish finished the first 30 minutes of action 109 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Tate was also impressive, completing 12 of his 17 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
Lulay, on the other hand, completed 10 of his 18 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
But his lack of numbers may have been a result of some first opening game jitters, as the 29-year-old came out firing to start the third quarter.
Following a quick two-and-out by the Tate and the Stamps, Lulay embarked on a 10-play, 82-yard drive that was capped off by a 17-yard pass to Courtney Taylor for a touchdown.
The five minute-long drive seemed to inject a surge of momentum into the Lions.
On Calgary’s ensuing possession, Tate looked towards veteran Marquay McDaniel, who had the ball tip off his hands and right into the grasp of rookie Cord Parks who promptly returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
But Cornish was simply too much to handle.
The New Westminster, BC native led the Stamps on a furious charge, bruising his way to rushes of 5, 6, 7 and 7 yards consecutively before finding the endzone on an 11-yard carry, giving the Stamps a 38-21 lead in the process.
Both O'Neill and Stamps kicker Rene Paredes would exchange field goals in the fourth quarter to make it a 41-24 score in favour of the home team.
Paredes would tack on another field goal late in the fourth quarter, which was followed up by a TD grab by Shawn Gore with one second left on the clock to make the final score 44-32 for the Stamps.
Despite the result, Lulay had a solid night throwing for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns. His favourita target was Arceneaux, who finished his night with 3 receptions for 103 yards and a score.
On the defensive side of the ball, Charleston Hughes was a force, collecting three sacks on four tackles. Jonathan Hefney led all players in tackles with 10, in what was his debut in a Stampeders uniform.