Bryant, Stamps catch fire

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

The defending champs have finally found themselves.

It took 17 weeks, but the Calgary Stampeders put together their most complete outing of the season Friday night at McMahon Stadium.

Just in time, too.

With two weeks remaining, the Stamps will need to win out to ensure they can get an important first-round bye in the playoffs and host the West final.

Beating up the provincial-rival Edmonton Eskimos 30-7 has boosted the confidence of the first-place Stamps.

"For the first time this year, I thought we have a team that is going in the right direction ... a full team," said head coach John Hufnagel. "A couple weeks ago, I more or less challenged the offence. This week, I challenged the defence. They prepared themselves excellently to play a good football game."

The Stamps were also strong on special teams, containing dangerous Esks returner Tristan Jackson and getting solid production from their own return units.

The offence put up four touchdowns and 454 net yards, while the defence created three turnovers and held the Eskimos to 321 yards.

It sets up a huge meeting with the B.C. Lions next Saturday in Vancouver.

After last night's 33-30 overtime victory by the host Saskatchewan Roughriders over the B.C. Lions, the Stamps remain tied with the Riders atop the CFL's West Division standings. The Lions (8-8) are three points behind the Riders (9-6-1) and the Stamps (9-6-1).

Several players gathered at Henry Burris' house last night to catch a different sort of battle. Watching UFC fighters duke it out will be much easier on the players who have fought through a stretch of three games in 12 days.

The Stamps now get a few days off before starting preparation Tuesday to face the Lions.

"Having all those games back to back to back, it's tough, especially this late in the season," Burris said. "It's been a demanding season, especially with the injuries we've had. This is a team that is coming into its own. Now guys said, 'It's time to sell out.' If we do what we're suppose to, we only have four games remaining.

"If we can't sell out for four games, we shouldn't be playing pro football, we shouldn't be defending champions. That still is us, and we're going down swinging. If there's any time to give it your best, it's right now."

The best sign the Stampeders are back on track with their offence is having a speedy wideout as their go-to guy.

Not since Ken-Yon Rambo went out with a knee injury in Week 4 have the Stamps had a consistent deep threat, and Friday, it came in the form of Romby Bryant.

The receiver, acquired in a Sept. 20 trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, had nine catches for 211 yards. Three receptions went 40-plus yards.

"A couple games ago, I underthrew him against Montreal," Burris said. "Last week, I overthrew him in the middle against Saskatchewan. I underthrew, then overthrew, so we should get it right this time. It's a growth process you go through. When you get in a game situation, it's a lot different.

"We're both relaxed now, and we have a good chemistry."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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