Guarding Henry

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

He is the face of the team, the key to its offence and also its meal ticket.

So there are countless reasons to protect quarterback Henry Burris, the Calgary Stampeders' highest-paid player, when the team hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's CFL West semifinal (2 p.m., CBC).

But the primary focus for keeping Burris on his feet providing the Stamps with a chance of defeating the 'Riders and their sack-happy defence.

The Roughies netted 51 sacks this season, second only to B.C., while Calgary allowed a league-low 27.

The mobile Burris has helped his own cause, scrambling for 480 yards while staying injury-free all season.

"We've done a good job of protecting Hank and he's also done a good job of getting us out of trouble," said guard Jay McNeil.

"We don't deserve all the credit but I think we've played really well for the most part."

The Stamps provided solid protection in two of the three games against the 'Riders this season.

In the second contest, a 19-9 Saskatchewan win, Burris was sacked five times, including three by defensive end Fred Perry.

"That second game, they got to us a little bit and we have to be better than that," McNeil said.

"It's an understanding of what they're trying to do on defence. They throw many looks at you, blitzing guys from all over the place, you have to understand where they're coming from."

Perry did most of his damage working against left tackle Alexandre Gauthier, his former teammate in Ottawa.

"He was on fire that game, played good," said Gauthier.

Perry, an all-star, recorded 14 sacks this season, second-best in the CFL, victimizing Calgary four times.

"I played with him in Ottawa and the Fred Perry I remember in Ottawa, that's not the same guy," said Gauthier, who signed with the Stamps as a free agent prior to last season.

Perry was also a Stampeder briefly in 2004 after being acquired by GM Matt Dunigan in a trade with the Renegades. Perry was later cut in training camp when he didn't fit into the current 3-4 defensive scheme.

"He's improved so much," Gauthier said.

"He's not big but he's so fast and strong. He has such a good bull rush for a guy who is only 240 pounds.

"He comes with a bull rush maybe 40 percent of the time and that means it's a physical game and you have to be there from the first play to the last play."

The Stamps o-line went through several transitions this season.

Centre John Comiskey has emerged as the heir to the retired Jamie Crysdale's former spot after opening the season with Godfrey Ellis snapping the ball.

Young Tyler Lynem also had to fill in six games at right tackle for injured veteran Jeff Pilon, who is now back in his starting role.

"We went through a lot more adversity this year with our o-line with some injuries and changes," Burris said. "We communicate well. They're always asking, 'What do you need?' and those are the things you look for in a good line."


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