CALGARY – Bo Levi Mitchell is guaranteed one more run onto McMahon Stadium turf as a Stampeder.
The suspense in Saturday’s otherwise meaningless game against the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders is whether Calgary’s all-timeleading passer will get reps in likely his last home game for the CFL franchise.
Jake Maier has started every game for Calgary since mid-August and signed a two-year contract extension last month.
Mitchell in the final year of his contract led the Stampeders to a pair of Grey Cups (2014, 2018) and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player twice (2016, 2018).
The 32-year-old quarterback has played his entire 10-year career in Calgary for a record of 90-25-2.
While Saturday’s game is a chance for Stampeder fans to acknowledge their surefire Hall of Famer before his expected departure to another team, that moment might not happen.
“Everybody’s wondering whether or not I’ll play,” Mitchell said Friday. “I’m not going to be offended if I don’t get in.
“Spent a lot of time in this stadium. It won’t be the last time I play in this stadium.”
Calgary (11-6) will finish third in the CFL’s West Division regardless of Saturday’s result.
The B.C. Lions host the Stampeders in the division semifinal Nov. 6 with the victor facing the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West Final on Nov. 13.
The Roughriders (6-11) fell outside the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and will be spectators in Regina for the Nov. 20 Grey Cup there.
Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson intends to start Maier and get third-stringer Tommy Stevens on the field Saturday.
“I’m not really committed to seeing all three,” Dickenson said. “I am hopeful that Tommy, for sure, gets some time because I don’t know as much about Tommy.
“We’re playing for 2022, but we also have to look always to the future. Bo and I are on the same page, so we’re fine. Jake needs toget better. He’s still young. Tommy needs to show me what he can do, and we’ll go from there.”
Sentimentality calls for a swan song, but Mitchell is pragmatic about his team’s wants and needs in the near and distant future.
“It’s not always in everyone’s control,” Mitchell said. “I’ve talked to Dave and told him I don’t need a hoorah moment.
“I just want people to understand it’s definitely not on Dave if I don’t get in the game. Sports is a marriage, but you’re alwaysgoing to get divorced. You have to handle yourself the way you want to be perceived the rest of your life.”
Stampeder linebacker Jameer Thurman crashed Mitchell’s media scrum Friday to ask the quarterback if he had anything to say to his teammates.
“Now you’re going to make me cry,” Mitchell told Thurman.
“I’m not me and (number) 19 doesn’t mean as much without everybody I’ve played with, including yourself. I’ve loved every minute I’ve been here and I’m looking forward to every minute I get to play against you, too.”
The Roughriders arrive with their own altered quarterback situation. Mason Fine got the nod over Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan’s starter for the past three seasons, in last week’s 32-21 loss to the visiting Stampeders.
The 25-year-old Fine completed 18 of 28 passes for 196 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
“I give him a solid B. He managed the game well, no time-count penalties, didn’t have any errors in terms of substitution and being confused out there,” said Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson, who is Dave Dickenson’s brother.
“What I’d like to do is just see him take his play from a B to maybe an A or an A-minus and just do a little bit more. I’d like our offence to be on the field longer and more.”
Fajardo will back Fine up again Saturday. Fajardo has indicated he’ll test the free-agent market in the off-season, but Craig Dickenson says he wasn’t able to insert Jake Dolegala in for quarterback reps Saturday.
“We thought about bringing him, but the reality was we didn’t have room,” Saskatchewan’s coach said.
“We had to dress other guys to try and get it done. We’ve got Dolegala coming back next year regardless so we’ll get to see him again next year. We feel Mason needs the work and we want to give him as many reps as we can.”
Calgary is 4-4 at home this season. Maier, 6-5 as a starter this season, feels a home win could have a slingshot effect for the playoffs.
“We have not played very good football at home, whether it’s on one side of the ball or the other,” Maier said.
“That’d be important, to give our fans something to be excited about going to the playoffs and just get momentum.”
Dave Dickenson is resting several Stampeder starters, including CFL rushing leader Ka’Deem Carey, who with 1,088 yards is just 34 up on B.C.’s James Butler.
Sack specialist Shawn Lemon, defensive end Folarin Orimolade and tackle Mike Rose are also missing from Calgary’s front four.
Veteran receiver Kamar Jorden comes off the six-game injured list Saturday. Calgary’s leader in touchdown catches, Malik Henry, is scratched a third straight game.
“I’m not resting that many healthy guys,” Dickenson said. “Ka’Deem’s situation, I know he could play. He has been banged up.Total warrior. Wants to play.
“Lemon has had a great year, fighting for awards. Not the youngest, but certainly a guy I feel could play. Both of them bought in and said ‘I want to play, but will do what you need me to do.”’
In addition to brothers Craig and Dave Dickenson in a coaching head-to-head duel, twin brothers Jordan Herdman-Reed and Justin Herdman-Reed from Winnipeg play Will and middle linebacker respectively for Saskatchewan. Cousins Godfrey and Kosi Onyeka are both Roughrider cornerbacks.
Saskatchewan linebacker Darnell Sankey needs four tackles to set a single-season franchise record and pass the 118 set by David Albright in 1987. Sankey’s teammate Larry Dean needs three for 100 this season.
The 2016 B.C. Lions are the only CFL team to boast two 100-plus tacklers in one season with Solomon Elimimian (129) and Adam Bighill (108).