Plenty of drama increases stakes

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders aren't lacking motivation or inspiration.

After all, the rivalry between the Stamps and Saskatchewan Roughriders has turned into one of the league's best feuds, fuelled by the Cowtown arrival of Henry Burris last season.

Add to that the goofy Gopher-Gate brouhaha that erupted earlier this week, which incensed Roughies fans who will invade McMahon by the thousands today, and the fur is sure to fly.

While added incentive shouldn't be needed for today's CFL West semifinal against the Roughriders, (2 p.m., CBC), the Stamps reached for a little extra anyway.

Just in case some players inside the Stampeders locker-room haven't been paying attention, the team staged a special film session to rev up the troops.

"We watched the NFL Films' video of the 1998 Grey Cup because a lot of our players have never experienced the CFL playoffs and have no idea what this is all about," said Burris, a Stamps backup QB that day when the team defeated Hamilton in the championship game.

"It showed them what all the joy and excitement and the hype of the playoffs and the Grey Cup is about and how much it means to everybody to get to the championship game. It was kind of funny, too, because they interviewed Danny Mac and Jay McNeil and they had the camera right in my face on the sidelines. It shows everybody how much it means to get to the Grey Cup."

In addition to the film session, a battery-operated gopher from the 1980 hit movie Caddyshack was given a special hiding place in the locker-room, lightening the mood.

Push the button and the furry creature, which quite frankly looks more like a beaver with rabies, gyrates just like the rodent from the classic comedy.

It's all intended to draw attention away from what is Calgary's most important game in two years under the new regime.

After a second-consecutive successful regular season, all that matters is today's result.

"Like I was telling the guys, we're going to be judged by how we play (today)," said running back Joffrey Reynolds.

"Who cares who's an all-star, who cares what our season record was.

"We're going to be judged by what we do in the playoffs and that's it."

Reynolds said media hype that focusing on off-field controversies has helped divert attention from the Stamps, odds-on favourites to win today.

"It helped but as football players we don't care about those types of things," Reynolds said.

While the winner advances to next Sunday's West final against the B.C. Lions, conventional wisdom suggests 'Riders head coach Danny Barrett needs a long playoff run to keep his position. While he helped resurrect a brutal franchise seven seasons ago, the team still hasn't finished higher than third in the West.

"My job's been on the line since Day 1 seven years ago," Barrett said at yesterday's press conference."One thing about Danny Barrett, he's never been worried about a job. I've never worried about a job I've never asked my players to play for my job."

The pressure to succeed isn't solely on Barrett's shoulders. Tom Higgins, in the second year as Calgary's head coach and senior v.p. of football operations, is also expected to produce results.

Said Higgins: "We believe we're going to win and now it's just a matter of going out and executing."


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