Payback on mind of Stamps

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

For some, the West semifinal hangover has been tough to shake.

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris, for example, needed more than a few days last fall to recover from that surprising 33-26 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, who return to McMahon Stadium for the season-opener in two more sleeps.

How long before he'll finally put it behind him?

"Probably not until Saturday," Burris admitted, the playoff funk still hanging over his head.

"Guys still think about it and guys on our team have been looking forward to this one, even through pre-season.

"It's always tough to go out the way we did but that's why the Eskimos are champions. They had a lot of veteran leadership on their team and did the little things they needed to do to get the victory.

"I think we learned a lot from that and there's no way to really avenge that now, other than to get a victory against them (Saturday).

The loss last November was more than just a kick in the guts for a team on the rise, eager to prove itself in a playoff pressure-cooker.

Many pundits, as well as the Stampeders players, were right in thinking the winner of that game would also claim a championship two weeks later.

"Definitely," Burris said.

"A lot of people felt that whoever won that game was going to win the Grey Cup. Edmonton just had the spark to make it happen and after they beat us they just needed to ride the wave.

"We were hoping we'd be the team to continue on that amazing run we were on (after winning seven of eight down the stretch) but, unfortunately, they made the plays for 60 minutes and we didn't."

Veteran guard Jay McNeil has been around long enough to win two Grey Cups and feel the pinch of more playoff losses than he wishes to recall. Smacking heads with the Eskimos again Saturday will be the Stampeders first chance to move on.

"We owe them something, right?" said McNeil, whose squad will follow up the opener with a return engagement the following week in Edmonton.

"We were disappointed with the way the season ended but, regardless of what we did last year, this is a new year.

"The way the West is, as good as it is, these are two hugely important games. We have to be ready.

"We couldn't look past B.C. in the pre-season ... but that's just training camp and the real stuff flies on Saturday. We open up the season twice against Edmonton.

"That's a big two games to start out the season.

"Any time the defending champions come into your house, you have to get pumped for that."


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