Battles finally pay off

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

REGINA -- Three seasons of misery watching the CFL playoffs on TV ended last night for the Calgary Stampeders.

With their 29-21 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders' the Stamps earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2001, when they also won the Grey Cup.

Veteran offensive lineman Jay McNeil, blood crusted on his nose, said the mood is much like the team's last championship season.

"It feels unbelievable," McNeil said.

"We did it ourselves, not like we lost this game and limped in. We came into a tough place to play, faced a lot of adversity in the first half and came back and won.

"This is a real character builder for us. I liken this team to the one we had in 2001. Nobody wants to give us any credit but the guys in this room didn't give up and keep fighting and you can't ask for more than that."

Linemate Jeff Pilon said the struggles of the past three seasons, when the team won a total of 15 out of 54 games amid continual turmoil and turnover, had taken its toll.

Now, however, the payoff is sweet.

"Outstanding," offered Pilon.

"You can't explain how gratifying it is. You work so hard every year just to get to the playoffs and start a whole new season but we've come up short the past few years. Now with the organization we have, the team we have here. These guys are determined."

"The guys have all worked hard together to get this thing turned around from the top down. The players, even the first-year guys here. It's a real good feeling."

The Stamps (9-7) hold sole possession of third place in the CFL West, two points behind Edmonton. The Stampeders host the Eskimos in the final game of the regular season Nov. 6.

For linebacker Scott Coe, a second-year Stamp, it will be his first taste of the playoffs.

"Maybe you can explain to me what that is," grinned Coe, in his fourth CFL season that included two years in Hamilton. "You know, I've seen it on TV but now I get to be a part of it.

"Unbelievable. Four years in the CFL and now I finally get to be a part of it in the playoffs.

"We were down 21-20 and just got a turnover and Tom (Higgins) came over and just smiled and I smiled back ... it's a good feeling."

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PLAYOFF SKINNY

Stamps can finish no worse than third and no better than second in West Division. They will play in West semifinal.

* To host the West semi: Stamps need to win at Winnipeg and beat Edmonton. Or, Stamps can lose at Winnipeg but must have Edmonton lose at home to B.C. and then must beat Eskimos at McMahon Stadium.

Eskimos can finish first in West with wins over B.C. and Calgary and a Lions loss to Saskatchewan.

Stamps can finish no worse than third and no better than second in West Division. They will play in West semifinal.

* To host the West semi: Stamps need to win at Winnipeg and beat Edmonton. Or, Stamps can lose at Winnipeg but must have Edmonton lose at home to B.C. and then must beat Eskimos at McMahon Stadium.

Eskimos can finish first in West with wins over B.C. and Calgary and a Lions loss to Saskatchewan.


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