Maier, Stamps looking for revenge in opener versus Lions
After six long months, the Calgary Stampeders finally get a chance to avenge last season’s Western Semifinal loss to B.C. when they host the Lions on Thursday to open the 2023 CFL season.
This Calgary roster looks noticeably different from the one that suited up for that 30-16 defeat, starting at the sport’s marquee position.
Quarterback Jake Maier enters his first season as the full-time starter after taking over from franchise legend Bo Levi Mitchell midway through 2022. Maier said he still feels the sting of that loss in Vancouver, where he completed 12 of 22 passes for 138 yards before Mitchell replaced him in the second half.
“It drove me like crazy,” Maier said of how the loss lingered through off-season. “It was frustrating shortly after and even into the holidays…it allowed me to go back and look at myself a little bit.”
Despite his limited CFL action, Maier felt that the Lions knew his tendencies and had game-planned around them.
“You get to a point where you play so many games and there’s enough film on you, teams maybe start to exploit who you are and weaknesses,” he said. “[The playoff loss] allowed me to go back and clean some things up.”
Led by the 26-year-old Maier, this Stampeders group is younger than recent veteran-laden teams. No longer is Calgary led by Grey Cup winners Mitchell, Jameer Thurman (who signed in Hamilton), and Kamar Jorden (currently a free agent).
Maier has embraced the added leadership responsibilities that come with ushering in a new era, and he isn’t the only one.
Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson singled out receiver Reggie Begelton as a player who has being more vocal. Maier, Begelton, defensive lineman Derek Wiggan, and kicker Rene Paredes will serve as team captains this season.
“We’ve been very accountable,” Dickenson said of the team’s approach during training camp. “People haven’t been late. We’re showing up when we’re supposed to. We’re doing what we’re supposed to. There has been good leadership in that room.”
Running back Ka’Deem Carey commended Maier for his leadership growth, saying he’s hit a “whole different level” in his command of the huddle and in player meetings.
“I think he’s been doing a great job, a tremendous job,” Carey said. “That’s why I feel real comfortable going into game one, because of the way he’s been able to grip the team and bring us all together…it’s going to show.”
With inexperience at quarterback, receiver, on the offensive line and in the secondary, Dickenson is emphasizing that each week is a competition, and no jobs are safe. He already cut a high-profile veteran in offensive lineman Derek Dennis during training camp.
“Go play well. Prove you belong to play out there, you stay,” Dickenson summarized. “If not, that next guy’s going to be chomping at the bit.”
The team’s youth, according to Carey, could also prove to be a big advantage.
“I love how young and talented we are,” he said. “This first game, we’re going to be making big plays. Of course, we’re going to be making little mistakes, but hopefully the good outweighs the bad and we come out on top.”