He's firsting for victory!

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

On the eve of the Stamps' first-place showdown with Saskatchewan, Henry Burris took the opportunity to simplify what many figure to be a complex playoff scenario in the West.

"If we lose this game, it's pretty much down the drain for our hopes of winning the division," said the Stamps quarterback, whose team will see a four-way tie atop the West snapped today at McMahon Stadium when one of two 9-5 clubs emerges victorious.

"If we lose, there's no chance for first place for us because we'd have to win out and they'd have to lose a couple, and we know that's not going to happen."

That said, Burris is entering the game with the same mindset he had heading into the 2004 West final when, as a member of the Riders, he was minutes away from advancing to the Grey Cup.

"This is the biggest game possible to put yourself in a position to go to The Show," said Burris, referring to the Grey Cup.

"That was kind of the situation there -- you win the game, you go to The Show. Right now, if we want to give ourselves the best possible chance to be in The Show we've got to win this game.

"We've fought hard to put ourselves in this position, so why not reward yourself?"

In a city that has seen the Stamps choke up two straight West semifinals to Saskatchewan and go six years without a post-season victory, none of the players need to be reminded the only thing that matters this season is winning a playoff game.

Having already locked up a playoff spot, what's up for grabs now is obviously home field advantage and -- most importantly -- the bye into the West final that comes with the division crown.

Fact is, avoiding a West semifinal would be as good as a playoff win as it puts the club one step away -- the closest its been since the unlikely championship run in 2001 -- from the big game in Montreal.

And while players, coaches and fans could lose hours of sleep piecing together different scenarios over the final three weeks, the reality is there's no better opportunity than now for the Stamps to prove they can finally beat the defending champs and put themselves in the driver's seat.

"To me, it's all about getting that momentum and coming in to the playoffs on a positive note," said veteran o-lineman Jeff Pilon, in the midst of his ninth season in Red & White.

"If we beat Saskatchewan in a big game, we're on a big high and it's hard to beat a team on a big high. I'm looking to see if we can come out under this pressure and play the way we play. To me it's all about attitude and 'Hey, we're playing Stampeder football.' Get guys feeling good about ourselves."

After a noticeable pause, the longest serving Stamp adds: "We haven't had that in as long as I can remember."

Having lost two heartbreakers and winning once so far against the Hoppers, a Stamps win would even up the season series and give them the series tiebreaker (based on points for and against one another), which could be crucial.

A loss and Burris is right -- the Stamps would need help, even though their next two opponents are the Blue Bombers and Tiger-Cats.

Although it's quite likely their playoff seeding with be determined by the outcome of their season-ending game against B.C., today's game will be the ultimate test in determining whether the Stamps are strong enough mentally to rise to the occasion.

Their inability to do so has been their trademark of late.

That can all change with a win today.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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