Protege meets the old Lion in Western final

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

CALGARY -- Finally, the truth came out yesterday.

Stampeeders coach John Hufnagel 'fessed up to the fact he relishes facing his mentor, Wally Buono, in today's West Division final.

"People asked and, deep down inside, I was hoping the B.C. Lions would go out and win that football game and my first Western final as a head coach would be against a very good friend," Hufnagel said of the man he worked alongside here for seven seasons in the 1990s.

"I'm very pleased to have this opportunity."

The duo revolutionized CFL football by introducing the five- and six-receiver sets now used in every level of football.

"I did have a sense back then that Wally was doing defence and Huff was doing offence and Wally left him alone with that,"injured Stamps QB Dave Dickenson, who first joined the Stamps in 1996, said of the pairing.

"Wally would tell him what's tough on defences. So if Huff had an idea, he would ask Wally how a defence would react to that and Wally would say 'it would stress us here and cause problems there' and then Huff knew he was on to something."

Fitting, then, that today's matchup boils down to how well Buono's defence fares against Hufnagel's scary-good offence.

Should the Stamps prevail, the irony is that Buono will then essentially have been beaten at his own game. Hufnagel admits almost everything he's done to add structure to the Stampeders is based on what he learned here during their time together.

"This program here that I believe in is a lot of Wally and if you rank it from 1-10 I'd say eight-10ths is a direct derivative of his program," said Hufnagel.

Hufnagel has made a great return to the city in which he played and coached, improving the Stamps from 7-11 to 13-5.

"If John ever wanted to come back and work for me he wouldn't have to ask," Buono says. "But he's way overqualified to be an assistant coach. The CFL needs men like John -- they're hard to find."

Together, they were deadly.

Apart, neither one can lose in the other's eyes.


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