Hung up on sack stats

DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

Demetrious Maxie's Arizona home features a games room with a number of essential items any sports lover would treasure.

Yet, two small plaques hanging on the wall could easily be overlooked by anyone lacking an appreciation of the art of crashing over helpless, unsuspecting quarterbacks.

The pair of collectables were presented by the CFL after both the 1996 and '97 seasons when Maxie's Toronto Argos finished atop the league's annual QB sack race.

The awards, featuring the names of the players on the winning squad's front-seven, are second only to his three Grey Cup rings among cherished keepsakes.

"It's fun to have those things around the house," said Maxie, a veteran Stampeders defensive end eager to earn the chest-puffing achievement for a third time.

"A lot of the guys have asked about it at the start of the season and it's just nice to see your name up there on the wall, knowing we accomplished something together as a group."

The Calgary Stampeders lead the 2005 sack race with 47, one more than the Edmonton Eskimos, guests today at McMahon Stadium in the final game of the regular season.

Stampeders nose tackle Sheldon Napastuk, tied for the team lead with eight sacks along with end Rahim Abdullah and linebacker John Grace, relishes in the role.

"There is no better feeling than rushing by one or two other guys, working your (butt) off, seeing the quarterback with his arm cocked, his back to you, and you get a chance to drill him right between the shoulder blades," Napastuk grinned.

"He loses 10 yards, the crowd goes crazy and that's why you play defensive line right there. It's an awesome feeling.

"If you win the sack race, you've done your job and it means we're the best in the country at getting to the quarterback. That's meaningful. We've been either leading this thing or been in second since the start of the season, even when we were losing games and other teams were running the ball."

The Stampeders last year went into the final game of the season tied for the league lead yet were shutout in their last contest.

The Stamps would appear to hold and edge over their counterparts from the north.

Eskimos defensive end Rashad Jeanty (hamstring), second on the Eskimos with eight sacks, may be sidelined until the playoffs.

The Eskimos offensive line, although improved with the addition of guard Dan Comiskey and a revived running game, has also allowed 39 sacks this season. The Stamps o-line, meanwhile, boasts the second-best numbers, giving up just 27 this season.

The Stampeders secondary, a work in progress most of the season, is playing its best football, locking down receivers and forcing QBs to hang onto the ball.

Abdullah, an Eskimo until this season, has come close to getting his hands on the award but never as close as he will be today.

"It's a great group of guys and the coaches are great, too, so we'd really like to win this sack race, especially me," Abdullah said.

"I lost every year to Montreal when I was in Edmonton and that hurt really bad as we had a very good defensive line too.

"It's a pride thing. It's all about winning as a group. We'd love to get the 'W' but we want the sack race too and I'm sure Edmonton feels the same way."

Motivational pride was underlined by defensive line coach Casey Creehan, who has witnessed his troops gearing up for one final shot at the title.

"They take pride in being able to get after the quarterback," Creehan said. "We're one up going into the last week and they're all dialing in a little more and studying protections and sets more, so it's important to them. They want to win the title."


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