Players bemoan missed chances

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders had the Edmonton Eskimos on the hook, were reeling them in, ready to flip them into the CFL playoff frying pan. But the big fish got away.

Shocked and upset at the Stampeders 33-26 loss in the CFL West semifinal, linebacker John Grace could only turn to a fishing analogy to make his point.

"We're thinking about the one that got away," Grace said. "This is the big fish that broke the line. It didn't even break the line, it was in the net. Now we've got to learn how to get him in the boat."

Defensive lineman Sheldon Napastuk said he was "shocked" and in "disbelief" after his first playoff game in three seasons as a Stamp.

Guard Jay McNeil, a 12-year veteran, said blowing a 23-9 second-quarter lead was a "tough lesson" the young club has to rebound from next season.

"Championship teams don't turn the ball over and we can't expect to win anything here if we do that," McNeil said.

Grace, meanwhile, was in disbelief a team that had overachieved the second half of the season, losing just two of its last nine games, was now relegated to watching on TV.

"This is a bitter pill to swallow, going out with a team that we've got," Grace said.

Meanwhile, head coach Tom Higgins was walking through the Stampeders locker-room, shaking hands and congratulating his players on a tremendous season.

The Esks now advance to face the B.C. Lions, whose coach Wally Buono was in attendance last night at McMahon Stadium.

"Edmonton played like a gritty team," Buono said. "They fought back and showed their experience as a championship team."


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