CALGARY — After scoring a touchdown to put an exclamation point on a 28-11 win for his Montreal Alouettes over the Calgary Stampeders, William Stanback breathed a sigh of relief.
The 29-year-old running back from Hempstead, N.Y., had reason to feel nervous before stepping onto the field at McMahon Stadium in front of 22,321 fans on Saturday afternoon.
After all, it was here where he broke his ankle in a season-opening 30-27 loss to the Stampeders on June 9, 2022, before subsequently missing the next 13 games.
“It feels great,” said Stanback, who caught a five-yard touchdown pass from starting Montreal quarterback Cody Fajardo to cap off an eight-play, 60-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. “It’s unbelievable. Individually, for me, it’s something that I have no words to really explain.
“Having the injury last year, being able to come back on this field with all the butterflies I had before the kickoff, I had a lot of things running through my mind — a little nervous, to be honest with you.”
In addition to catching four passes for 19 yards, Stanback was a force on the ground as he carried the ball 14 times for 81 yards.
“At the end, being able to find Stanback, he worked so hard all night and so to have it dialed up and for it to work out to get him a touchdown was big,” said Fajardo, who completed 22 of 29 passes for 252 yards.
Backup quarterback Caleb Evans ran for a pair of touchdowns for the Alouettes (7-7), who snapped a four-game losing streak.
“For all the red-zone inefficiency that we’ve had this year, we don’t care who scores down there as long as we can score touchdowns,” said Fajardo, who referred to Evans as a touchdown vulture. “I believe that was the biggest part in that game was that we were able to finish.”
David Cote kicked a pair of field goals, while Joseph Zema booted a single for the Alouettes, who led 11-8 after two quarters of play.
“I’m happy and proud of the guys because going 30 days without a win, it gets hard,” said Montreal coach Jason Maas. “What I love about our group is we just stay focused on the present, we love coming to work every day, but it is sweeter to come to work after a win, no question about that.
“When you come into someone’s building on the road and be able to perform at a high level and win those games, they’re extra special.”
Reggie Begelton had a receiving touchdown for the Stampeders (4-10), who lost their second straight game to fall further out of the playoff picture in the CFL’s West Division.
“This one got away from us, for sure,” said Calgary coach Dave Dickenson. “Our guys fought, just not good enough at this point. We couldn’t get any plays. We got down in the tight areas multiple times and couldn’t come away with any points and we couldn’t stop them at the end.
“They’re fighting. I’m not saying that anyone is giving up, but we’ve got to create that energy, create momentum and we’re not doing it.”
Rene Paredes kicked a field goal for the Stamps, while Cody Grace had a single.
It was Calgary's fifth loss in seven starts at McMahon Stadium
A great early drive by Calgary ended abruptly when former Stampeder Shawn Lemon picked off an errant pass by quarterback Jake Maier.
“Shawn Lemon made a great play,” said Maier of his former teammate. “Right place, right time. That was a bit of a momentum killer there, but great play by him.”
Neither team was able to get anything going until Fajardo led the Alouettes on an 11-play, 99-yard drive that ended at 3:45 of the second quarter when Evans scampered into the end zone for a three-yard score.
The Stamps tied things up with 2:21 remaining in the first half when Begelton hauled in a short pass from Maier and ran four yards into the end zone to cap off a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive.
After Zema booted a 67-yard single at 13:08 of the second quarter, Grace replied with a 60-yard rouge of his own 47 seconds later.
Cote then rounded out the first-half scoring at 14:33 when he kicked a 45-yard field goal to give Montreal an 11-8 lead.
Paredes had a chance to pull Calgary back into a tie just before the intermission, but his 48-yard field goal attempt into the wind sailed wide to the right.
Early in the third quarter, Calgary defensive back Nick Statz made a nice diving catch to pick off a Fajardo pass and then ran it back to the Montreal 51-yard line.
Despite driving the ball down to the four-yard line, the Stamps weren’t able to capitalize as Montreal safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy picked off another errant pass by Maier in the end zone.
The Alouettes then capitalized on the turnover by going on a six-play 80-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard TD run by Evans to give Montreal an 18-8 lead.
After Paredes kicked a 27-yard field goal at 1:04 of the fourth quarter, Cote responded with one from 35 yards out at 6:16.
The mistakes and missed opportunities continued for the Stamps in the fourth quarter. After catching an 18-yard pass from Maier, Begelton fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Montreal linebacker Tyrice Beverette to end another Calgary drive.
Once again, the Alouettes capitalized on the costly turnover as Stanback rounded out the scoring with his TD.
“It was great and it was crazy that the touchdown was on the same end zone (where he suffered his injury last season), so it’s just a wonderful feeling,” Stanback said. “Especially to have a win after four losing games, it means a lot for us as a whole.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2023.
Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press