Conservative party is over

Edmonton Eskimo quarterback Ricky Ray (left) and   backup quarteback Jason Maas work on passing...

Edmonton Eskimo quarterback Ricky Ray (left) and backup quarteback Jason Maas work on passing drills together during practice at Clarke Park in Edmonton on Wednesday afternoon. The Eskimos take on the B.C. Lions in the Western Finals on Sunday Nov 20 2005. (SUN/Jason Franson)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Ricky Ray has resigned from the conservative party.

"We don't want to be too conservative. We lost some of our aggressiveness. We have to get away from being conservative and get back to being aggressive again.

"I think we managed to get ourselves into a mindset of not wanting to lose games instead of going out there to win games. I think we got too concerned about not wanting to make mistakes. I don't want to play that way now. I don't think we will play that way.''

People who watched the Eskimo quarterback practise this week after having been reaffirmed as the starter Wednesday, say he's had more zip on the ball and better body language.

"You wouldn't have guessed he was the same guy who had been pulled out of a football game one week ago,'' said Danny Maciocia.

"Ricky has been in a little bit of a rut, a little bit of a funk, a little bit of a slump. He's a 26-year-old who has already led this team to two Grey Cup games. When was the last time a quarterback led a team to the Grey Cup in his first three years?''

The B.C. Lions are making similar statements about Dave Dickenson going into today's Western final.

"We like the way Dave is looking. He has his swagger back. He has his confidence. We know he's going to play like the same old Dave,'' he said of the Lions pivot who will start his first game since suffering a concussion a month ago,'' said receiver Geroy Simon.

PUMPING IT UP

How many Western finals have there ever been when both teams go into it pumping up their quarterback and trying to pump up themselves?

Then again, points out Lions coach Wally Buono, has there ever been a year when the CFL's final four all lost their last regular-season game going into the playoffs?

"I'm calling this game 'No Excuses,'' says Lions linebacker Carl Kidd.

"It's that kind of game for us and it's that kind of game for them.''

B.C. receiver Jason Clermont says it's time to deal with the positives not the negatives.

"We won more games than anybody else. We won many of them early but we're here, playing at home in the Western final, with they Grey Cup here next week. No other team is in that position. Our goal at the start of the season was to finish first, get to the Grey Cup and win the Grey Cup.

"We have something to prove to ourselves and our fans. I don't care if we're playing in Edmonton or Timbuktu. We want to play against next Sunday.''

Simon says: "Look at the standings. We're the best team. Now we have to go out and prove it.''

History is always a part of the buildup when it comes to this time of year.

The 11-7 Eskimos won the season series against the 12-6 Lions, losing 25-19 here and then winning 37-20 and 22-19 back in Edmonton.

The Eskimos are 8-3 all time against the Lions in the playoffs but the Lions have won three of the last five. Twice the two teams have played in the West final with the Grey Cup game to follow in Vancouver, the Eskimos winning both one in Edmonton in 1986 and the other here in 1987.

STUFF HAPPENS

The Lions have played host to the Western final eight previous times. They've won five and lost three.

Five times the Eskimos have played the Lions in the West final. Edmonton has won four.

One thing history virtually guarantees is that stuff happens in the Western final.

Stuff almost always happens.

It's almost without fail the wildest, craziest game of the playoffs, a classic often following an Eastern final dud.

"I think it's going to be a very exciting and very intense football game,'' says Lions coach Wally Buono.

"The thing I'm most happy about is is it is not going to be -42o C and that there is not going to be a blizzard. I'm still convinced we would have won the final in 1993 if we didn't clear the field of snow.''

Buono has been in 12 previous Western finals. He's won won and lost five.

Maciocia is in his first.

"It has the potential to be a great one. Both teams are evenly matched up. Both teams have playmakers on both sides of the ball.

"I'm pretty confident. I couldn't lead a better team into this game than the group of guys going onto that football field.''

Both teams think they've been properly pumped up and ready to play. Let the game begin.


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