Great pretenders

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

In the aftermath of yet another embarrassing Stamps loss, only one player was man enough to tell the truth.

The truth is the Calgary Stampeders are pretenders.

Despite all the hype, they're still a long way from running with the big boys.

And although apologists will suggest they deserve kudos for turning a 20-1 halftime deficit into a nailbiter, Nik Lewis isn't stupid enough to believe it.

"There's no difference between this year's team and last year's," said the enraged receiver, referring to the atrocious 4-14 club with which he played in 2004.

"When you lose games, you lose games. It doesn't matter how you do it. Even if we're 10 times better this year, we're still losing. People that think it's better to lose a close game after battling back are people who think we can't do (expletive)."

And who can blame them?

Booed off the field after a first half that may go down as the worst in Stamps Labour Day history -- with just 65 yards offence -- the Stamps rallied against a potent Edmonton squad by way of a swarming defence and an offence suddenly in sync.

However, as in Toronto a week earlier, it all came down to a late two-point convert to tie the game. And that's when the Stamps' true colours shone through. This is still a team hampered by mental lapses and coaching malfunctions when it matters most.

Following Burris's second touchdown of the afternoon with just 41 seconds left in a 25-23 game, the Red & White's Not Ready for Prime Time players were whistled for a time-count violation as they lined up at the five. Pushed back to the 10, Burris was sacked while rolling out in search of an open receiver.

Game over. Eskimos win.

The Stamps move to 4-6, six back of Edmonton and two out of the west gallows.

"I mean, (expletive), we didn't have the right personnel in the game -- we didn't know what the (expletive) we were doing," said Lewis, shaking his head in disbelief.

"It cost us another win on a two-point game play two weeks in a row."

It was an inexcusable gaffe at the pro level.

Said head coach Tom Higgins: "It was poor execution on our behalf.

"We have a lot of formations and it was a lack of awareness. Your percentage is about 40 percent on a two-point convert but when you go back five yards, it decreases at least 10 percent."

Speaking of playing the percentages, Higgins could have eliminated the scenario minutes earlier when, while down eight points, he instructed punter Burke Dales to try kicking out of bounds instead of through the endzone for a single. The kick failed on both accounts, prompting the late two-point quandary.

"To me, it shows we're the best team in the league at beating ourselves," said Burris, who countered a pair of early fumbles with two late touchdown plunges and 246-yards passing in the second half.

"Once again, our mistakes cost us the game."

The notion of a second-place showdown Friday in Edmonton is now replaced by a desperate attempt to stay out of a last-place tie in the west -- a predicament few saw coming when the team was overhauled in January.

"There are glimmers of hope for this organization -- this team -- but as the clock ticks on the season we're running out of time," said Higgins, who admits his team should be measured against the Esks, who they play twice more. "There are no more moral victories. We've got to find a way to get over the hump and win these games by hook or by crook."

And they better do it before another season of high hopes is exposed as yet another fraud.


Photos