Seeing green

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Before the media can be accused of dredging up Roughriders hype especially early, we had this scene unfold at the Stampeders workout Saturday.

An unsuspecting sportswriter, his rumpled attire unwittingly topped off with a green golf cap, loitered nearby for interviews as two former Roughies now employed in Calgary jumped on the perceived fashion blunder like a fumbled football.

"Hey Max, look at this," hollered QB Henry Burris, his voice tinged with mock disgust while pointing out the offending hat. "You don't have to wear green this week ... but I guess everybody in Calgary is from Saskatchewan."

"Yes, sir," chirped Demetrious Maxie. "That's Saskatchewan colours."

For the record, Stamps players were first to mention their hated rivals, yet you can't blame Burris and Maxie for already turning their focus to next Sunday's crucial clash in Regina.

With the two teams tied for third in the West Division, unlimited playoff possibilities hanging in the balance and numerous personnel connections between the clubs, the tilt promises to be emotional.

To the victor, two precious points and one large step up the standings ladder. Burris ratcheted the rancor even higher last February by signing with the Stamps as a free agent, leaving Rider Nation feeling jilted.

Adding a twist, quarterback Marcus Crandell, who owns a spiffy 2001 Grey Cup ring adorned with the Stampeders mustang, has also found a new home in Regina and a valuable role in the starting lineup after being discarded by Calgary.

As for the fans, those same watermelon-wearing face-painters are expected to welcome Burris back to Taylor Field with a chorus of boos sure to rattle the old stadium's foundations.

The faithful are also starving to witness a playoff game at home for the first time since 1988, more reason to raise the roof when the Stamps arrive. It's natural then, argues Burris, to begin looking ahead to Sunday.

"For a lot of different reasons, most importantly because of the major playoff implications, especially for the No. 3 spot," Burris reasons. "And, the game is big if we want to be second in the West. To host a playoff game, we have to win the remainder of our games, starting with the next one in Regina."

That's also why the Stamps were cheering for the 'Riders to upset the Eskimos Saturday in Edmonton. The Eskimos' 19-18 win drops the Stamps four points out of second, a home playoff date that much harder to secure, although Calgary enjoys a game in hand.

The Stampeders are in Regina Sunday before travelling to Winnipeg before closing out the season at home against the Esks with a chance to win the season series over both Saskatchewan and Edmonton.

The Roughies follow up the clash with the Stamps with a bye week before finishing the season in Vancouver.

The Eskimos host the Lions before travelling closing out in Calgary.

The schedule-makers deserve credit, suggests head coach Tom Higgins, for guaranteeing a spectacular sprint for all three West playoff spots.

"It's absolutely perfect and you couldn't ask for a better schedule to be able to finish up with teams in your same conference," said Higgins. "There's no downside to it."

No downside, of course, unless you lose. Burris and Maxie are already aware of that.


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