Fans on 'board for tilt

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

Congratulations 'Rider Nation.

Your advertising seems to have worked.

At least, the Calgary Stampeders are thankful for your billboard installed on 16th Avenue N.W. promoting Saturday's meeting between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders.

As of the Stamps ticket office closing yesterday, there were only 50 seats left in the family section (i.e., no drinking!), and the rest of McMahon Stadium is sold out.

"That's to be expected," said Stamps running back Joffrey Reynolds. "There's a lot of Saskatchewan people in Calgary.

"But I've met as many Calgary people who have pride for the Stampeders, as well. We love our home support.

"All the green will make the atmosphere a little more exciting. We just have to do our part in making it more exciting."

The matchup couldn't be any more intriguing now. The 'Riders lost in Winnipeg Sunday, while the Stamps are riding a three-game unbeaten streak.

Calgary also needs to avenge a 49-8 drubbing at Regina in Week 2 and still have plans on fighting for a home playoff date.

As soon as the Stamps beat the Eskimos Friday night in Edmonton, head coach Tom Higgins turned his attention to the West Division's first-place team.

He also put out a challenge to Stamps fans: Equal the 'Rider Nation's enthusiasm by wearing the right colour.

"If fans have a choice between wearing a white jersey or the red one, we want them to bring the red one," Higgins said.

"We would like the park filled with red. There's not many tickets left, a lot of them were gobbled up.

"A lot of people are coming who have roots in Saskatchewan. Most of these people wear Stampeders red every other game, then they show up in green for these games.

"It's OK. We need CFL fans in any way shape, colour, form that we can get them."

Last season in the playoffs, a good third of McMahon Stadium wore green when the 'Riders knocked off the Stamps.

Former Stampeder Wes Cates couldn't believe what he was seeing that day. So the running back can't wait to enjoy it from the other side, especially because he's now the starting running back in Saskatchewan.

"When I came out on that field and saw all that green, I had to check the scenery to make sure the buildings were the same," said Cates. "I wasn't sure we were still in Calgary.

"It is a different experience. That's how you can tell the Roughriders fans are the best in the league. To have that support on the road is unheard of."

Henry Burris has been the focus of the rivalry for more than two years, and he just cracks into a smile when told of the billboard.

"I look at that as we can control the excitement on the field," Burris said. "It's a rivalry that has built up over the past few years. I'm glad I'm part of it.

"We weren't doing what we were supposed to do early on. Now we're getting there and come a long ways. We should be able to perform much better than we did in Week 2."

When Higgins was in Edmonton, there was a 'Rider Nation sign near Commonwealth Stadium, so he isn't surprised to see one near McMahon.

"It's fabulous. It's a great promotion," Higgins said. "For the 'Riders to go into other parks and know you have your own contingent there is a good feeling for them.

"We need more of it."


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