Burris was all business

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

CALGARY -- Hank didn't tank, the D didn't break and somehow the Calgary Stampeders left the B.C. Lions in their Wake.

It wasn't a masterpiece, but despite facing Cameron Wake's vaunted defensive line and a long line of critics who said he'd never win a big game, Henry Burris is off to the Grey Cup.

And he's taking 42 of his closest friends with him.

"I did not want to get on any airplane without any of my compadres," said the Stamps quarterback, who was already going to La Belle Province as the West finalist for the Most Outstanding Player award regardless.

CHAMPAGNE

"I'm so excited all of us are going out there to get that champagne bath."

No, not at the strip clubs.

At the Big Owe, where next Sunday the Montreal Alouettes and Anthony Calvillo will play host to the type of game some figured Burris would never reach.

And while a litany of first-half penalties, dropped balls and missed assignments made it look for a time that Burris was about to have the Stamps' fourth straight playoff loss land right on his shoulders, second-half heroics saved the day.

And saved his reputation, too.

"Until you win it people are always going to question it," said Burris, at the helm for 15 playoff turnovers over the last three years before yesterday's 22-18 win.

"We've been through our growing pains and we've learned from what happened in the past.

"It was tough, but as a leader you have to stay in that zone necessary in order to get the offence going."

That couldn't have been easy, as the Stamps headed into the halftime break with just four first downs and 96 yards offence.

However, despite the fact the Lions countered with 248 yards, the Stamps were only down 12-9 thanks to a 22-yard touchdown strike to Ken-Yon Rambo with nine seconds remaining.

And while Burris's lone interception early in the second half stymied momentum gained from the major, he rallied to gain 186 yards in the air the rest of the way.

More importantly, he punched in the game-winning touchdown plunge from the one-yard line and made a key 10-yard run in the dying minutes to help run out the clock.

"He won the game with that last little boot when he ran -- that's what he does," Rambo said of his pivot, who rushed for 32 yards and was 17-of-27 for 236 yards, one pick and one touchdown.

"He wasn't perfect but made plays today. I've been here four years and everybody's been talking bad about Hank when it comes to playoff time. I'm so happy for Hank - he took a whole bunch of crap.

"To all his doubters and his critics -- take that!"

Eluding the rush and spreading the ball around to eight different receivers against a Lions defence that featured five all-Canadians and the most feared man in the CFL --Wake -- Burris avoided the mistakes that have plagued him throughout his playoff career.

STEPPED UP

And while Mike Labinjo's defence and Demetris Summers' special teamers were clearly the game's heroes, they all stepped up hugely for their undisputed leader.

"We wanted to get that monkey off Hank's back -- we as a defence took pride in that," said Labinjo, who put in a defensive effort for the ages.

"I feel like guys laid it on the line for him. He's the leader, the heart and soul.

"I love Hank, and it sucks what he's had to go through."

So, did Burris feel vindicated?

"I don't think I'll feel that until we get to the Grey Cup," said Burris, who had only won once as a playoff starter in Saskatchewan.

"Unless we can get that win right there because that's the true respect you can earn by winning a championship.

"To win the west the way it was this year was tough, but to go out and beat a great Montreal team in their home town ... that would do it."

Of that there is no doubt.


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