Plenty of vindication for Mr. Higgins

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

CALGARY -- For Tom Higgins it was vindication. For this week anyway.

The Calgary Stampeders head coach was brought in to turn the franchise around. To guide the team back to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Grey Cup in 2001. He did one better.

With yesterday's 43-23 win over the Edmonton Eskimos at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Higgins got his team a home playoff date for the first time since 2001.

Next Sunday the Stamps host the Eskimos in the Western semifinal - the same organization Higgins cut ties with last season.

"It's a little bit humbling to be able to do what has just been done, which is to finish a season and host a playoff game," said Higgins. "That's a good team that we played. We feel we're on a little bit of a roll."

It's a roll which started against the Eskimos in the Labour Day return in Edmonton and one which has seen the Stamps win seven of their last eight games.

They only won four games the previous year.

"This is big for him," said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris.

KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE

"But you have to keep things in perspective, coach just wants to get the win.

"If it comes against Edmonton it adds a little to it, but he just wants to win. He preaches that to us everyday and tells us not to win it for him but for all of us."

Having taken over a team, which won a combined 15 games in the previous three seasons, Higgins is proud of what he and his coaching staff have accomplished.

Heading into the playoffs, the Stamps are the hottest team in the CFL. Suddenly they're being considered Grey Cup contenders. There is also a movement to see Higgins named CFL coach of the year.

PREPARATION

"I can't think of a coaching staff that has done a better job in preparing their athletes week in and week out and it shows," said Higgins. "Everybody in the organization has done everything necessary to make this a pretty good organization and a good football team. I think we can continue to grow as an organization and as a football and what we have seen this year is steady improvement."

And although his most recent success has been at the expense of his former team, Higgins bares no ill will.

"It's funny, it's almost like I have both teams and I can't lose, but I just wear red now," Higgins said. "I've very proud of all of those guys (Eskimo players), because I had 11 football seasons with those guys and I know their backgrounds. I know their wives, their children, their girlfriends and it's one classy group of guys over there."


Videos

Photos