'Riders, Stamps fight for playoff spots

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

REGINA -- In a wild and crazy atmosphere at Taylor Field this afternoon, the mad dash to the finish line in the CFL West Division begins.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders battle the Calgary Stampeders in what has been dubbed the Burris Bowl.

For the first time since signing a million-dollar free-agent contract with the Stamps in the off-season, Burris returns to Regina, a city that fell in love with him when he was wearing Rider green but became engulfed in bitterness when he rejected their team's $319,000 per year offer to re-sign him.

But this game is about much more than Burris's return to his old stomping grounds.

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, this tilt has major playoff implications.

"This is a huge game," said Rider nose guard Scott Schultz. "With a win we can clinch a playoff spot."

PLENTY OF IMPLICATIONS

There are more implications than that, however, for the Riders (8-8), Stamps (8-7) and idle Eskimos (10-6), who have a four-point cushion on Calgary and Saskatchewan in the fight for second spot and home playoff date.

Edmonton has already clinched a playoff berth, but their opening round opponent and location is undetermined. The Green and Gold can finish anywhere from first to fourth.

If the Riders win today: a three-way tie at 10-8 for second place is still possible. In that scenario, the Eskimos would finish fourth and be forced to the cross-over playoff game in the East Division.

If the Riders win: a two-way tie between Saskatchewan and Edmonton for second is also still possible. In that situation, the Esks finish third.

If the Stamps win this afternoon: the Eskimos will avoid the cross-over game, Calgary clinches a playoff berth for the first time since 2001 and the Riders can only qualify through the East Division.

Calgary and Saskatchewan have met once this year, with the Stamps easily winning 44-18 in July, as Burris threw two TD strikes and ran for two majors.

But the Green and White were missing half of its defensive line - Nate Davis and Daved Benefield - and a key linebacker.

"That was the first time we really had encountered some major roster changes. I think we had eight or nine guys on the roster for the first time," remembered head coach Danny Barrett.

DIFFERENT TEAM

It will be a much different club today. Davis and Benefield are starting, with veteran slotback Travis Moore also playing.

And Marcus Crandell will be calling the signals. Since being handed the starting pivot job last month, the club's 5-2.

But to many in the sold-out crowd of 28,800, this game is about Burris, who'll spark a deafening reaction from Rider faithful when he steps on the field.

"You are going to be able to stand on the sidelines here and feel the vibrations," said Schultz of the fan reaction. "It's going to make every hair on my body stand up."

Burris played three years in Regina, becoming the most popular sports figure throughout the province before moving to Calgary.

"It was hard to leave. I'll tell you that genuinely," said Burris yesterday.

"I had a great time here, playing in front of the fans, because they reminded me so much of seeing Brett Farve play at Lambeau Field in my experience at Green Bay.

"The experience I had here I will always cherish in my heart forever. But now I'm a Stampeder, so let's get it on."


Videos

Photos

Canoe Top Headlines