Back to the future

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders fans who believe in destiny had best not scrutinize the team's fact book too closely.

What they'll find are remarkable similarities between the 2006 and 1997 CFL seasons, the last time the Stamps faced the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the playoffs.

Just as in '97, the Stamps finished the '06 campaign with a 10-8 record to earn home-field advantage in the West semifinal.

As they did nine years ago, the Stampeders posted a sensational 8-1 record this season at McMahon Stadium, yet managed just two road wins.

Both years they padded their regular season mark by winning two of three games over the Green Machine.

And just as they did in '97, the Stamps are rolling out the welcome mat for the Roughies for the home playoff date next Sunday.

Problem is, in '97 the Roughies knocked off Wally Buono's Stamps 33-30 to advance to the West final and eventually the Grey Cup game.

Stamps o-lineman Jay McNeil and quarterback Henry Burris are the only holdovers remaining from either team.

McNeil said the eery similarities between this year and '97 underlines the fact showing up on game day is all that really matters.

"In the 1990s we had lots of teams that on paper were better but lost in the playoffs," shrugged the 13-year veteran.

"Look at 1997, they came in and beat us, went to Edmonton and beat them, then almost won the Grey Cup.

"The times we beat them earlier this season is great but we have to approach this like they're coming in here to beat us like the Lions did at B.C. Place (in early October). They wanted to kill us. Those games against Saskatchewan earlier this season still matter. We know we can beat them going into the playoffs but they're probably a better team now."

Burris, who spent most of the '97 campaign on the practice roster as a CFL rookie, said it once again proves the regular season is irrelevant come playoff time.

"It's really starting a whole new season and it's not a matter of if you lose a game, there's still another week," Burris said.

"In the playoffs, it's one and you're done. One mistake could be critical to the game. That's the difference between the teams that play with confidence and with guys who are worrying about that and the one's who don't. The one's that don't, usually fall victim to it."

Last season, the Stamps won seven of their last eight regular season games, yet lost the West semi at home against to Edmonton.

Whatever momentum they gained down the stretch was fumbled away against the Eskies, who went on to win the Grey Cup.

The Stamps and Roughriders both lost their final regular-season games, rendering momentum irrelevant next Sunday.

"I like the situation we're in now better than last year," Burris said. "We were a young team in the playoffs last year on a six or seven-game winning streak going into the playoffs and facing the same team we'd beaten the previous week."

"Guys have to show up and I do believe in bringing momentum into the game but it's really all about game day," said right tackle Jeff Pilon. "Guys have to show up and feel it on that day. Any team can win whenever. Any given day, any team can win. You have to show up, limit the mistakes and see what happens."

The Stampeders are hoping it isn't a repeat of 1997.


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