An 18-season playoff streak was no match for the arm and legs of Vernon Adams Jr.
Neither was René Paredes’ foot.
Nor was a six-win Calgary Stampeders club.
The quarterback was on fire in the CFL playoff game that ultimately saw the Stampeders fall 41-30 Saturday night to Adams and the host BC Lions in Vancouver.
“Unfortunately, the BC Lions were the better team,” said Stampeders GM/head coach Dave Dickenson. “We were in a tough environment versus a very good football team, and they just out-played us.”
Not that the 6-12 Stamps didn’t give it the ol’ CFL try in the West Division semifinal.
They did against the heavily favoured Lions, who finished the regular season with double their victories.
But the Red and White couldn’t find enough paydirt, settling for too many field goals and not enough touchdowns.
The loss eliminates the Stamps from the 2023 Grey Cup pursuit, while the Lions move on to the division final next Saturday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the West’s top team — with a 14-4 record — after the regular season.
“They’re disappointed — it’s been a rough year,” said Dickenson of his charges, adding that he’s ‘proud of them. “Honestly, I can tell you that I’m amazed our guys stayed together and kept fighting. There was no in-fighting. We just aren’t a good enough team and well-enough coached to beat these Lions when they’re playing that well. That’s just the bottom line.”
Adams was mostly magnificent on the night, electrifying BC Place, its 30,149 fans on hand and the overwhelmed Stampeders.
The dynamic QB carved up the Stamps both through the air, finishing 28-of-39 for 413 yards and two scores, and on the ground, rolling to 54 yards and three touchdowns.
“I was so motivated,” Adams told TSN post-game. “I’m not going to lie to y’all. I didn’t have the best practice week. Our defence was picking me off. I was very frustrated, man. But I locked in to our preparation. I trusted the process. And, man, we just made plays.
“My dad was here, and he was going to get on me if I didn’t get some yards. So I used my feet and my God-given abilities. And that’s it, man.”
The last time a CFL QB reached 400 yards in the playoffs came back in 2017, when Trevor Harris did so for the Ottawa Redblacks.
One year later was the last time the Stampeders won a game in the post-season — that being when they lifted the 2018 Grey Cup with a championship win over the Redblacks in Edmonton.
And there will be no Grey Cup celebration for them this year.
It started well for the Stamps. They marched 81 yards in three plays on the game’s first drive — capped by Jake Maier’s 32-yard TD pass over the top to Markin Michel — to kick-start scoring.
The problem was what followed was too much kicking after that start for the Stampeders.
Kicker Paredes was his usual stellar self with a perfect night, going 5-for-5 on field-goals from 27, 34, 38, 42 and 47 yards out, as the offence couldn’t find the Lions’ end zone again until very late in the evening.
At first, the barrage of three-pointers kept the Stamps within shouting distance as the underdogs. But by the fourth quarter, they only served to make the score more respectable.
“The start was great,” Dickenson said. “We were able to turn over the ball, and we able then to cash in some points. And we still had our chances.
“We had good balance. Offensively, we executed our gameplan — threw every bullet I had at them. Every play I came up with, I called — and a lot of them worked. But it’s still tough. We had a lot of penalties, they’re a good pass-rush group, and they had the lead, which all those things are against us. We just couldn’t stop them.
“René kept us in it. But we couldn’t really reel them in. They just kept going and going, and that was tough.”
Indeed, the Lions answered the Stamps’ early TD to cap their first march, when Adams connected with Jevon Cottoy for an eight-yard strike.
The score came after Lions defensive back Garry Peters picked off Maier with the Stamps threatening to drive for another major.
On the last play of the first quarter, Adams finished another Lions march with a six-yard TD scamper.
The home-side QB then engineered two more scores in the second stanza, on a four-yard rush himself and a five-yard throw to receiver Keon Hatcher to make it a 28-13 halftime lead for the hosts.
After two straight Paredes field goals drew the Stamps within one score in the third quarter, the Lions responded with two of their own and another Adams rushing touchdown — this time from one yard out — to give themselves a two-score cushion through 50 minutes.
That’s all they would need, although the Stamps did get a TD from all-star receiver Reggie Begelton — on a 10-yard connection from Maier — with 71 seconds remaining. Cole Tucker caught the subsequent two-point pass from the Stamps QB to give the visitors feint hope.
But an onside kick recovery by the Lions’ Cottoy shut down the game for good.
“Explosive,” Dickenson told reporters of the Lions. “Their quarterback is extremely good. And he plays well against us. He really does. He just seems when he’s fresh and has that little jump that he’s just really a playmaker.”
Maier finished with a solid 23-of-34, 304-yard passing day, although two interceptions thrown by him contributed to the loss.
Begelton caught eight balls for 112 yards, while teammate Ka’Deem Carey rushed 14 times for 75 yards.
Defensively, Cam Judge led the Stamps with seven tackles and one sack.
One defensive highlight for the Stamps on the night saw LB Silas Stewart recover a fumble that led to one of Paredes’ third-quarter field goals. It was forced free of receiver Justin McInnis by the teamwork of Red and White defenders Micah Awe and Adarius Taylor … Offensively, how about OL Bryce Bell’s first-down catch and rumble leading to a first-half Paredes’ field goal? Heavenly hog stuff! … A hellacious collision between Stamps RB Peyton Logan and LB Jack Hinsperger left both players in peril for a few minutes on the field early in the fourth quarter. After much concern, both did eventually get back on their feet and head to their respective dressing rooms.