The great eight

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders are experiencing another 2001 flashback, this time with a surplus of CFL all-star awards.

The club had eight players selected to this year's squad, the most since its surprising Grey Cup run of four seasons ago.

That year the team enjoyed a late-season surge into the playoffs, much like the current roll, with the team on a four-game win streak heading into the West semifinal Sunday against the visiting Edmonton Eskimos.

It is the first selection for five of the eight Stampeders -- QB Henry Burris, RB Joffrey Reynolds, T Jeff Pilon, DT Sheldon Napastuk and rookie PK Sandro DeAngelis -- while G Jay McNeil and LB John Grace both earned their fourth selections and LB George White received a nod for the second time.

Grace is riding the longest all-star wave, earning his fourth consecutive selection.

Saskatchewan is the only other West Division team with eight all-star players. Toronto dominated the league-wide vote with 12.

While the entire Stamps squad is about to cash playoff cheques, many players also have all-star bonus clauses in their contracts.

Much like CFL Player Awards nominations last week, head coach Tom Higgins is choosing to downplay the process, focusing instead on the team's playoff goals.

"It's counterproductive to what we're trying to achieve as a team," Higgins said.

"They all deserved the recognition they got. It's one of those things you just have to deal with and the people who feel (disappointed) they're not selected, just get over it.

"It's something outside of their control, nothing they can do about it. The only thing they can do about it is how they control their thoughts, how they line up and play."

All-star neophyte Napastuk enjoyed a sensational regular season, posting eight quarterback sacks on the league-leading front seven. He points out that statistic might have attracted voters' attention.

"This has been a good year and I appreciate it but last year I might have had a stronger season against the run," said Napastuk, who collected eight sacks this year.

"This year I had a stronger season against the pass and that's what gets you noticed. I'll take it and I'll appreciate it but the season's not over, too."

Pilon, also a first-timer on the all-star squad, likely earned plenty of consideration for lineman of the year selection, although McNeil, a 12-year veteran, earned that nomination.

"Of course that was disappointing but Jay's a great player and I'm just glad to be selected now," Pilon said.

"It's a great honour and it's one of the things we always strive for and work for.

"Everybody strives to be the best, or at least be recognized. I don't care that much for the recognition, it's just nice to know someone else has seen it."

Burris toed the company line, insisting team success supersedes personal recognition.

"Individual accolades are an honour but it's even better when you win a team award and can party with the whole city and celebrate that way," said Burris, who's obviously focusing on a three-game playoff win streak.

The 45 voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada (FRC) selected the 27 players from their respective divisions.


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