By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Marc Liegghio couldn’t have asked for a better CFL debut.
The rookie Blue Bombers kicker nailed a 45-yard field goal with 37 seconds left in his first pro start and Winnipeg defeated the Calgary Stampeders 18-16 on Sunday.
“That’s a first game you dream of,” said Liegghio, a 24-year-old Western University product who hails from Woodbridge, Ont.
“I never thought my first game would come to that. I’m just glad I made all my field goals and helped the team get the win in the end. I missed that first (point after) early on and I wanted to make sure I was gonna be perfect from that point forward.
“It’s a pretty exciting feeling hitting a game-winner and I’m gonna remember this moment forever.”
Liegghio had actually attempted a 35-yarder and missed, but the Bombers (3-1) were called for a time-count violation so he got a second shot from 45 yards and watched the ball sail through.
Making his pro debut in place of injured Tyler Crapigna, Liegghio also connected on field goals from 50, 42 and 37 yards out. He missed the convert after an Andrew Harris touchdown.
Calgary veteran kicker Rene Paredes had a chance to win the game with two seconds remaining, but he missed a 52-yarder – his first miss of the season.
Paredes had booted a 33-yard field goal with 1:49 remaining to give his team a 16-15 edge before Winnipeg came back for Liegghio’s memorable kick. Paredes also made field goals from 35 and 39 yards out, putting him at 12 of 13 on the season.
Harris, making his CFL season debut after missing the first three games with a calf injury, finished with 17 carries for 81 yards and one touchdown in front of 22,806 fans at IG Field that cheered after his first run.
“When you get the ball in your hands and you still feel like you can do the things you’ve been doing, it’s always a great feeling,” Harris said.
He was also impressed with Legghio.
“It’s amazing. That’s a lot of pressure,” Harris said. “It’s got to be one of the highest-pressure positions on the team. Putting him in that situation, and he knows his counterpart, Paredes, has got a big leg, too.
“He did an amazing job. He was cool, calm and collected. I’m definitely proud of what he did today, and he’s going to build off that.”
Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros completed 16-of-25 pass attempts for 243 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Stampeders (1-3) rookie quarterback Jake Maier threw a Calgary club-record 17 straight completions. He finished 30 of 39 for 307 yards with no TDs and no picks.
Making his second start in place of injured veteran Bo Levi Mitchell (broken leg), Maier was a perfect 16 of 16 through the first half, added another completion early in the third and then had a pass go incomplete.
Maier didn’t want to talk much about the record, but said the proud moment was one he shares with his teammates and coach.
“It has to do with everybody,” Maier said. “I know that’s cliche for me to say, but it’s absolutely true. Once the ball leaves my hand, it’s up to the guy on the other end to make the play.
“Like I told somebody earlier, I mean a lot of it has to do with play calling and how efficient and how locked in coach (Dave) Dickenson was in his game plan and getting the ball out of my hands, making the reads easy.”
Calgary running back Ka’Deem Carey rushed eight times for 66 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown.
“That’s why I’m not down, because I really feel like our team is getting better and we’re fighting,” Dickenson said.
Winnipeg led 6-3 after the first quarter. Calgary was up 13-9 at halftime and had a 13-12 edge after three quarters.
“Sometimes things like this can be great for a team, especially early on,” Maier said. “I think it makes us battle-tested. It’s not always going to go your way.
“It comes down to a yard, it comes down to maybe one turnover, it comes down to a kick, it comes down to a big incompletion that gets us off the field.”
A Calgary roughing-the-passer penalty helped get the Bombers close enough for Liegghio’s winning kick.
The Stamps had 10 penalties for 104 yards, compared to Winnipeg’s eight flags for 70 yards.