June 16th, 2024

Veteran Bo Levi Mitchell returns to Calgary with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on June 5, 2024.

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (19) on the sidelines during CFL pre-season football game action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Hamilton, Ont. on Saturday, May 25, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

Bo Levi Mitchell is finally returning to Calgary to face the Stampeders.

The veteran quarterback is scheduled to start for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night when they visit the Stampeders in the CFL opener for both teams.

It will be a homecoming for Mitchell, 34, who spent his first 10 CFL seasons with Calgary, leading the franchise to two Grey Cup titles and twice earning the league’s outstanding player award.

This will mark the fifth time Calgary has opened a season against Hamilton but the first since 2018. The Stampeders are 4-0, with all of the contests having been played at McMahon Stadium.

But Mitchell sports a stellar 92-29-2 record over 123 CFL starts and is 47-13-2 all-time at McMahon.

Calgary dealt Mitchell’s rights to Hamilton following the ’22 season and he signed with the Ticats shortly afterwards. But Mitchell made just six starts with his new club due to injuries, posting a 2-4 record while completing 78-of-132 passes (59.1 per cent) for 1,031 yards with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Injuries to Mitchell and veteran Matt Shiltz (now with Calgary) presented rookie Taylor Powell with the opportunity to make nine starts. The 25-year-old American responded well, completing 197-of-292 passes (67.4 per cent) for 2,283 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing 28 times for 196 yards (seven-yard average) and a TD.

A solid start to the season would be welcomed by both teams. Although they made the playoffs last year, each posted a sub-.500 record, with Calgary (6-12) recording its first losing regular season since 2007.

Hamilton has registered an 8-10 record in each of the last two seasons and how has a new head coach in Scott Milanovich. He takes over from Orlondo Steinauer, who stepped away from the sidelines to concentrate full-time on being the club’s president of football operations.

Dave Dickenson enters his second season as Calgary’s head coach/GM, but has been the head coach since 2016. Five times the Stampeders have posted 10-or-more wins under Dickenson and won the ’18 Grey Cup.

Jake Maier returns under centre for Calgary. The 27-year-old American was third in CFL passing last year (4,244 yards) but threw almost as many TDs (19) as interceptions (15) and sports a 13-17 record as a starter.

Veteran receiver Reggie Begelton (86 receptions, 1,119 yards, five TDs) also returns for Calgary but Malik Henry will miss a second straight season due to injury. Henry had 62 catches for 1,023 yards and eight TDs in 2022, earning a three-year extension from the club.

Pick: Calgary.

Montreal Alouettes vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Thursday night)

At Winnipeg, the season kicks off with a Grey Cup rematch as Montreal rallied to down the Bombers 28-24 in last year’s final. Many of the Alouettes regulars return, including quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Grey Cup MVP. Fajardo is 2-8 versus Winnipeg but 34-16 otherwise. The Bombers will be minus linebacker Adam Bighill (injured) but their offence will again be led by quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Brady Oliveira, the CFL’s top Canadian and rushing leader last season.

Pick: Winnipeg.

Saskatchewan Roughriders vs Edmonton Elks (Saturday afternoon)

At Edmonton, McLeod Bethel-Thompson makes his first regular-season start for the Elks. Over five seasons with Toronto, Bethel-Thompson was part of two Grey Cup-winning teams (2017, ’22) and led the CFL in passing in 2022. Veteran Trevor Harris returns for Saskatchewan after missing most of last year with a significant knee injury. The contest will also be Corey Mace’s first as Riders head coach. The club’s past four head coaches were 1-3 in their season debuts, with Corey Chamblin earning the win (2012).

Pick: Edmonton.

B.C. Lions vs Toronto Argonauts (Sunday night)

At Toronto, Cameron Dukes will start behind an intact Argos offensive line that allowed a CFL-low 19 sacks last year. The club has won nine straight regular-season home games and its last three versus B.C. at BMO Field. The Lions offence is led by quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who led the league in passing (4,769 yards) last year and was second in TDs (31). This is usually a tough trip for B.C. but since 2016 the club is 33-17 versus East Division clubs.

Pick: B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2024.

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