Start 'em up

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

Friends usually have a lot in common.

Calgary Stampeders safety Wes Lysack and Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Marcus Crandell share more than an abundance of patience.

They've taken similar paths back to prominence in the CFL, too, since last playing together with the Stamps in 2004.

Lysack was sent to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a deal that brought Khari Jones to Calgary, reducing Crandell's role to that of a backup. Then Lysack was forced to the bench after being brought back by the Stamps the following season.

Wanting to play a Canadian safety this year, Lysack has new life as a starter. The Riders have so much faith in Crandell -- who signed with them as a free agent after Henry Burris inked here after the 2004 campaign -- they sent quarterback Kerry Joseph to Toronto after they won the Grey Cup last fall.

"It means a lot -- my hard work and patience pays off," Crandell said yesterday in advance of the Stamps/Riders game at McMahon tomorrow night (6 p.m., TSN).

"They're confident in what I can do on the field. The players believe in me and, most importantly, I believe in myself."

Crandell rewarded the Riders with wins in his first two games this year, but suffered a hamstring pull that kept him out of the last three.Luckily, his team rallied through a rash of injuries to enter tomorrow's game with a perfect 5-0 record.

"It was difficult not being on the field, but we were winning," said Crandell.

"So it was a little bit easier to get through."

After their difficult years, the pals are able to celebrate their current fortune together. Just not when they take the field against each other.

"Wes, he's definitely been patient the last few years, too," said Crandell.

"It's been tough at times, but it's part of being a team, doing what's best for the team and not trying to cause a distraction."

Lysack is almost as happy to see Crandell back in the starter role as he is for himself.

"Marcus was one of my best friends when we played together, and he continues to be one of my best friends," said Lysack. "A year or so back, I used to rent out his house here. Our families became close. On a personal level, we have a great relationship. In a football aspect, I have a ton of respect for him."

So do the members of the Riders management and coaching staff.

One of outgoing coach Kent Austin's final messages to GM Eric Tillman after taking a job at the University of Mississippi following the Grey Cup victory was that the team would be just as capable to repeat with Crandell running the offence full-time.

Apparently, that rings true for the guys backing Crandell up this year, as Darian Durant and Stephen Jyles have done well in his absence to keep the team undefeated.

"I think it's something that we built last year, and we're trying to build on it again this year. It's just a matter of attitude: Whoever's in, everybody's accountable," said Crandell of the success in the face of adversity.

Still, his backups are lacking something their veteran leader has.

"He has something a lot of us don't have and that's a Grey Cup ring with a Grey Cup MVP," said Lysack of Crandell's 2001 championship with the Stampeders.

"He's a proven player and a guy you have to prepare well against.

"Since he's had the opportunity to play a little last year and again this season, he's proven he can get the job done."

Tilt's officially a sell out

It's like Christmas every time the Roughriders come to Calgary.

The stands are filled with red and green.

Tomorrow won't be any exception, and McMahon is sold out. The Stamps then have the tough task of heading to Regina for a second straight meeting with the Riders.

"It's going to be tough, facing their home crowd here at McMahon and then facing their home crowd back at their house," said Stamps QB Henry Burris.

"It's a tough feat. If there is one team that can do it, it's the team in red."


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