Head to head

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

It'll cost the B.C. Lions or Edmonton Eskimos an arm and a leg to get to the 93rd Grey Cup.

Quarterbacking and field goal kicking will determine the west division's entry in the Nov. 27 Canadian Football League championship at B.C. Place Stadium.

Quarterbacks

The last time Edmonton's Ricky Ray threw a touchdown pass? Sept. 24 when his Eskimos stopped the Lions' winning streak at 11 games. Then he embarked on a five-and-a-half game drought. Jason Maas, whose birthday falls on the eve of the big game, engineered Edmonton's comeback last week in Calgary and will be called on again if Ray falters.

Lion Dave Dickenson, like Ray, tossed his last touchdown pass Sept. 24. The following week he suffered a concussion and has passed only five times since. He starts instead of Casey Printers, the pivot in the Lions' only win this season over Edmonton on Aug. 5. Advantage: Even.

Receiving

Jason Tucker was the only Eskimo to reach double-digits in touchdown catches (11). Derrell Mitchell and Trevor Gaylor had five apiece.

Three Lions broke the 1,000-yard mark. Geroy Simon caught 10 TDs. Ryan Thelwell and Jason Clermont had seven and four, respectively. While Simon and Thelwell have finesse, Clermont can be unstoppable.

Advantage: B.C.

Rushing

Troy Davis, the 2003 Grey Cup MVP, was acquired from Hamilton to jumpstart Edmonton's running game. Lions need Antonio Warren to play like he did in the season's first half. He had nine touchdowns in the first nine games and struggled with just four down the stretch. He'll have to do better than the 16 yards on six carries in game 18.

Advantage: Edmonton.

Special teams

Esk Tony Tompkins and Leo Aaron Lockett will be battling for field position and return supremacy. Tompkins has something that Lockett doesn't -- an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The long run for the big score helped end the Lions' 11-game winning streak.

The two teams have the most inconsistent kicking in the league. When Edmonton's Sean Fleming is at his best, he is the best. He was six-for-six in the western semifinal. He briefly lost his job after going four-of-11 in July. He did, however, go eight-of-nine against B.C., including the game winner on Oct. 28.

If Mark McLoughlin's hamstring tear isn't healed, Duncan O'Mahony will get his old job back. He'll need to repeat his perfect 2004 western final performance, but he hasn't kicked at the uprights under pressure for almost six weeks.

Advantage: Edmonton.

Defense

Four of Esk Joe Montford's 10 sacks came in August and September's games against the Lions. Signor Mobley had one in each game. Dickenson is sack prone because of the Lions' system and his habit of holding on to the ball.

Lion Brent Johnson made 16 sacks to lead the league -- including two take downs of Ricky Ray.

Advantage: Edmonton.

Coaching

Eskimos' rookie head coach Danny Maciocia is fresh-faced and freckled and will win coach of the year if the Esks' win Sunday. Lions' head coach Wally Buono has seven wins in a dozen western finals and he has sage Dave Ritchie in charge of the defence.

Advantage: B.C.

Fans

Lions' fans will be wearing orange and beating thundersticks in a frenzy on Sunday. Advantage: B.C.

Prediction

Lions 38 Edmonton 36


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