Stamps vow to track down Lions

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:42 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders faithful have waited six seasons to salivate over a race for first place in the CFL West Division.

While it's far too early to begin drooling over the possibilities -- so much can happen in the final third of the year -- this is easily the team's best shot at hosting the West final for the first time since the 2000 season.

The Stamps kicked off the final third of the campaign Friday night with a masterful 43-9 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Now everyone within the team's camp is eagerly limbering up for a sprint to the finish line that includes an eyeball-to-eyeball showdown with the B.C. Lions.

Entering last night's late B.C./Montreal contest, the Stampeders were tied for top spot with 16 points. After consecutive games against Toronto, Calgary will enter back-to-back contests against the Lions that will likely determine the bye to the West final. While the Lions easily won the only meeting so far, they also enjoy the added advantage of two more games against the lowly Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"Everybody wants to finish first because then you only have to win one game to get to the show," said quarterback Henry Burris, who led the team to a second-place finish last year and a crushing semifinal loss against Edmonton.

"Down the stretch, it's the most important time of the year and we're still in a good position to make a run at first place in the West.

"It's a time of the year that dictates the type of ball we need to be playing.

"Now we have Toronto for two games, then we've got B.C. back to back, which everyone knows we're looking forward to playing again."

Eager anticipation, maybe, but not everyone in Red and White is convinced the win over the Bombers will trigger something special in the next month.

"Ask me in three weeks," said defensive lineman Sheldon Napastuk, whose unit nearly pitched a shutout against the Bombers.

"I hope so. I thought we were on that kind of run before. It's to the point where that was the team we want to be, week in and week out. You know you can't dominate an opponent like that every week but you know you want to keep your level of play that high. We learned last year that you have to.

"Getting into a playoff situation, you want to make sure everything is clicking well. The biggest thing you have to worry about is losing momentum and losing some of that edge and we're now focusing on doing that every week."

Should the Stamps continue their strong play through the final five games, some players will point to the humiliating Labour Day rematch loss in Edmonton as a key turning point in its playoff run.

"That loss in Edmonton helped us out in the long run," said linebacker Scott Coe.

"It's made us more level-headed and was kind of a wake-up call for everyone. We've all realized we can't just show up and win. We have to play well, play error-free football and if we do that we're tough to beat. Other teams aren't going to fold just because we step on the field."

EXTRA POINTS: R Nik Lewis suffered a strained right shoulder but is expected to play next week vs. Toronto ... RB Joffrey Reynolds returned home to Texas yesterday to deal with a private family matter ... OL Jeff Pilon (knee) expects to return Sept. 30 in Toronto.

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IT'LL BE A FIGHT TO THE FINISH!

LIONS' REMAINING GAMES:

RECORD: 8-3, 16 PTS

Last night -- Montreal at B.C., late

Sept. 24 -- B.C. at Saskatchewan

Sept. 30 -- B.C. at Hamilton

Oct. 6 -- Calgary at B.C.

Oct. 15 -- B.C. at Calgary

Oct. 21 -- Hamilton at B.C.

Oct. 28 -- Winnipeg at B.C.

STAMPS' REMAINING GAMES

record: 8-5, 16 PTS

Sept. 23 -- Toronto at Calgary

Sept. 30 -- Calgary at Toronto

Oct. 6 -- Calgary at B.C.

Oct. 15 -- B.C. at Calgary

Oct. 21 -- Calgary at Winnipeg


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