Bull's-eye squarely on their back

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

They completed a four-year climb to the top of the mountain, and now the tough part starts.

Staying there.

Every team will be gunning for the Calgary Stampeders next year following Sunday's 22-14 Grey Cup win over the Montreal Alouettes.

And with the 97th version of the Grey Cup in their own backyard, it's going to be tough for the Stamps to repeat their success of 2008.

The hunger and desire following three straight years of first-round disappointments is gone. Now they have a sense of entitlement that comes with a title.

Considering the Stamps kept the streak of host team Grey Cup failures alive by beating the Alouettes in their own backyard also means the odds are stacked against them next year.

With the big game at McMahon Stadium, the pressure to repeat and be the first host team since 1994 to win will be immense right from Day 1.

"What it's going to take is going into next year knowing you're 0-0 and nobody cares what you did last year," said defensive tackle Howard Hodges.

"That's the only way you can do it. People aren't going to lay down because you won a Grey Cup. If that was the case, whoever won the Grey Cup the first time would've won it every year.

"Everybody is going to be gunning for us. We're on top, so they'll be gunning for us."

The last team to win back-to-back CFL titles had a guy named Doug Flutie at the helm, and that was more than a decade ago.

A year ago at this time, the Stamps put John Hufnagel in charge of the football operations, and he went about putting his mark on the organization.

The biggest moves were keeping George Cortez as offensive co-ordinator and then hiring Chris Jones to run the defence. With only two returning starters, the Stamps built a strong unit that was playing its best by the end of the season.

There isn't going to be a complete rebuilding this off-season, but changes are inevitable.

Cornerback Brandon Browner is going to try and sign with an NFL team, while linebacker JoJuan Armour may decide to retire.

A lot can change in the six months before next year's training camp opens.

In his post-game comments, Hufnagel said he expects to bring more talent into the organization and make everyone earn their spot all over again.

The real question is do the vets have the desire to tough it out for another 18 games plus a playoff run to get back?

"We've got a long road, but, yeah, there's going to be pressure to get there," said defensive lineman Randy Chevrier, who won his second ring.

"But pressure is what makes you perform. Pressure produces accountability, and this is a team that plays well under pressure. The more pressure there is, the more we throw it back as performance."

The offence appears set, as the line was solidified with the drafting of Dimitri Tsoumpas and Jesse Newman.

With Henry Burris' return, there is a basis of talent to build around with receivers Ken-Yon Rambo and Nik Lewis.

For now, the Stamps are savouring Sunday's victory and the joy of getting to the peak in the CFL.

"It's been a bumpy ... a long, long road," said receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, one of the original signings in 2005 that helped changed things. "In Calgary, it's been a tough four years for us. I'm so thankful I'm still playing on this team."


Videos

Photos