Stamps sweep takes shape

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

EDMONTON -- All those gassers during training camp and following practices have started to pay off for the Calgary Stampeders.

When the CFL club has kept it close heading into the final stages of their last two games, they've had enough left in the gas tank to keep scoring points.

On Labour Day, the Edmonton Eskimos ran out of steam and couldn't match the Stamps physically in the fourth quarter, eventually losing 35-24 at McMahon Stadium.

Tonight's rematch at Commonwealth Stadium (7 p.m., TSN) will be a battle of attrition because of a short turnaround, but the Stamps believe they have the upper hand because of the conditioning program used this season.

"We need to go out there and continue to be physical with them," said Stamps receiver Nik Lewis. "We're in great shape, so we're physically trying to wear people down.

"In the fourth quarter, when our opponent wears down, it starts to open up our offence and it allows us to do a lot more things."

On Monday in Calgary, the Eskimos were pounding the Stamps, creating three turnovers -- two on forced fumbles -- and building a 21-16 first-half lead.

But in expending all that energy, the injury-deplete Eskimos lineup lost two more players -- running back Tyler Ebell and defensive back Lenny Williams. By the end, they couldn't must up the energy to come back once the Stamps offence took over.

Eskimos linebacker A.J. Gass, who is always the centre of physical play, said his team will be running on adrenaline and emotion after the battle Monday.

"Guys were hitting, we came out banging," Gass said. "It's not that we weren't banging in the second half, but they overpowered us a little bit.

"They wore us down, and by the end, they had the upperhand.

"(Tonight), we have to suck it up and go out and sell out. Adrenaline carries you right on though. That's the thing about these games. You use up your physicality for the first game and use the adrenaline the second time. That's what's going to carry us through."

Faced with a schedule where they would have three road games on short rest, the Stamps designed a training program to prepare the teams. It would often confuse players because head coach Tom Higgins would run his charges through sideline to sideline sprints near the end of practice.

Then Higgins would take them straight into full team drills and punish mental mistakes made because of fatigue.

Although the Stamps lost both of their road games on short rest earlier this season, Higgins is starting to see a reward for the strategy.

"It's starting to pay us some dividends now because we're able to hang around and have a push at the end of games," Higgins said. "It's a mindset. Just seeing it, you can feel you're playing on a high enough speed level.

"If you are able to play at a higher plane, then you can say 'That's what the extra running did for you.' The athletes feel very confident in their conditioning.

"The lack of mental errors helps but it also helps in not getting hurt. If you can stay that way, you have a much great chance of staying away from the injury bug."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA

MORE STAMPS: PAGE 4


Videos

Photos