Rivals' Day of reckoning

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Not many players will admit it, but there's something different about next week's game.

It's been a while since the Labour Day Classic had more at stake than provincial bragging rights for both the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.

With the exception of the 2005 season, when both finished with respectable 11-7 records, the Classic since the turn of the millennium has been about one team fighting for the division crown and the other reduced to the role of spoiler.

Spoiling the Eskimos' strong start to the season is still in the Stamps' plans, but with a chance for either to move into a tie for first place in the CFL's West Division, there's a new twist to the historic rivalry.

"This year holds a different element -- the fact that both teams are tied right now for second," said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. "Even more important is they have the tiebreaker on us right now, and we only have two more games (against them).

"We have to win this game if we stand any chance to win the season series."

The season series could come into play as a tiebreaker at the end of the regular season the way the Stamps and Esks have been playing.

Both beat the division-leading Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina in the past couple of weeks, and the Stampeders are coming off a big win in B.C.

Often saving their best for when they go head-to-head, the Stamps and the Esks should put on a show next Monday.

"Regardless of what records are, Labour Day's huge as it is," Burris said with a laugh yesterday at practice before taking a two-day break. "It's almost one of the Ten Commandments to be a Stampeder that you don't lose on Labour Day."

Approaching each game the same way regardless of circumstances is the players' mantra, but veteran Stamps offensive lineman Jeff Pilon knows there's the feeling of a return to the days when every head-to-head battle between the provincial rivals meant leapfrogging the other in the standings.

"Both programs were going through some hard times for a couple of years, but earlier on it was always huge battles," Pilon said. "Everybody's jockeying for position for who's going to be higher in the standings.

"Now, both clubs have really, really picked it up. It's gonna be an all-out dogfight. Whoever wins this game, it puts them in position for where they want to be at the end of the year."

Dave Dickenson remembers the good old days of the late '90s in his first go-round with the Stamps when the Labour Day Classic was "all about home-field advantage."

Losses stick out in the 35-year-old QB's mind, and he recalled one crushing defeat on Labour Day in 1999.

"It felt like 30-plus (degrees). We broke out our new black unis," said Dickenson of a game that went to overtime.

The Eskimos kicked a field goal before the Stamps drove to the Esks' one-yard line for an attempt to win it.

"I was playing, but Mike McCoy was our sneak guy. We felt he got in, and they said they called a timeout, so then we lined up to go for it -- this is third-and-one on the one, so it's do or die -- and we still feel like we got in, but they didn't give it to us.

"That game will always stand out as one of the great Labour Day Classics as well as a great CFL classic."


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