With five, they’re still alive.
And maybe with momentum, too, heading into a last desperate chance to clinch a CFL playoff position.
That’s because the Calgary Stampeders were able to — somehow — stave off elimination Friday night at McMahon Stadium.
The Stampeders put themselves a step closer to the league’s final post-season berth with a 26-19 victory — just their fifth win of the campaign — over the Saskatchewan Riders.
The decision moves the 5-11 Stamps to within two points of the 6-11 Riders, who currently own the lone playoff spot left up for grabs, with just two weeks remaining on the schedule. But the Horsemen own a game in hand, with games against the BC Lions — next Friday night — and the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers — on the last weekend of the regular season.
Even better for the Stamps?
The Riders are in free-fall mode, with nothing going for them after Saturday’s affair in front of 24,099 fans thrusted them to six straight losses.
At least the Red & White now have a win — their first in five tilts.
The Stamps shook off too many dropped passes, errant throws and penalties — especially of the major variety — to pull a triumph out of a mostly ugly performance.
But they were also helped out by a few strange special-teams decisions by Riders head coach Craig Dickenson, brother of Stamps sideline boss Dave Dickenson.
The first points of the game didn’t come until 119 seconds into the second quarter on a field-goal by Riders kicker Ryan Meskell, from 34 yards out.
On the next drive, the Riders upped their advantage to 10-0 on an 11-yard Jamal Morrow touchdown rush, capping a six-play, 90-yard march.
Then they put more points on the board — with a Meskell 38-yard field-goal — on the ensuing drive, after former Stamps receiver Shawn Bane Jr. hauled in a beautiful 42-yard catch-and-pass play from qb Jake Dolegala.
In fact, it looked like the only points the Stamps would put up in the first half came with 1:11 left, when Riders punter Adam Korsak took a snap in his own endzone and conceded a safety. That made it 13-2 for the visitors.
But the decision to surrender the two points ended up costing the Riders, who then allowed the Stamps — after the subsequent kickoff — to move the ball enough to score three more points on a 44-yard Rene Paredes field-goal at the intermission whistle.
The second half started with another drive capped by a field-goal from Meskell — this one travelling 43 yards — to make it 16-5 Riders.
But just when the Stamps couldn’t get anything going, they forced a fumble on a punt return — thanks to Aaron Crawford’s strip — that was scooped up by special-teams ace Charlie Power to give the Stamps life deep in Riders territory. Two throws later, QB Jake Maier hit Floyd Allen over the middle for a 15-yard TD.
The strip-and-recovery by the Stamps was the first of a few timely plays that turned the tide on the evening.
On the Riders’ next march, they were stopped short on a midfield third-down gamble, when Micah Awe wrapped up Morrow shy of the line to gain. And while the Stamps offence went two-and-out, it helped set up another massive play for the home side, as Cam Judge was in perfect position to pick off Dolegala’s errant pass, returning it 33 yards for the pick-six.
The interception return put the Red & White in the lead — at 19-16 — for the first time in the game.
The Riders opened the final frame with yet another field-goal — a Meskell 31-yarder.
But then the Stamps shot themselves in the foot.
After punting the ball away following their ninth two-and-out of the evening, the hosts incurred 55 yards of penalties in two plays, moving the chains all the way from the Riders 31-yard line to the Stamps 40.
The visitors, however, couldn’t take advantage of it, calling for a punt — with personnel onside in hopes of tracking down the ball — within Meskell’s field-goal range. The gamble didn’t pay off, with Awe jumping on the ball, keeping the game tied into the final 11 minutes of the game.
And finally, the Stamps offence found not only a way to gain some yards but to score a touchdown. Tommy Stevens’s one-yard plunge capped a nine-play 89-yard march one play after Maier connected with receiver Luther Hakunavanhu for 37 yards down to the doorstep of the Riders endzone.
Defensive stands by the Stamps on the final two series of the night kept the must-win intact.
Stampeders DL Terrell McClain left the game midway through the second quarter and didn’t return … Power got ejected from the game — a rather soft call by officials — after taking two objectionable conduct calls on the Stamps punt-coverage penalty parade early in the fourth quarter … Stamps DL Mike Rose had his team-leading 11th sack of the season for one of two QB takedowns for the home side on the night. Fellow DT and teammate Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund had the other.