All-Alberta semifinal a formality?

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:03 PM ET

On paper, the game is a mismatch.

The Calgary Stampeders won three of their four meetings with the Edmonton Eskimos this year and, if not for a last-second Fred Stamps miracle, it would’ve been a clean sweep.

The point spread is 6.5, the hosts have a burr in their bonnet and they can’t help but feel they’re destined to return here in two weeks for the Grey Cup.

The question is, as hosts and defending champs, are they too fixated on Nov. 29?

Or perhaps preoccupied with getting some revenge next week in Regina?

That’s certainly what most local fans are thinking about as Sunday’s all-Alberta West semifinal is considered a mere formality at this point.

Truth is, the real excitement around town for Calgary sports fans these days revolves almost entirely around the Flames, thanks in part to a first-place flop by the Stamps last weekend in Regina.

So, how does John Hufnagel’s bunch guard against looking past this game?

How, on a day of remembrance, could the Stamps make sure they don’t forget what’s most important?

The players lined up Wednesday to insist it won’t be an issue, but history shows Grey Cup hosts and defending champions almost always find ways to self-destruct.

That’s the challenge that lies ahead for the Stamps this Sunday — an obstacle Henry Burris is convinced his club is prepared and humble enough to overcome.

“After being embarrassed the way we were Saturday, it’s not hard to focus on this game,” said Burris, following the club’s first practice since the loss in Saskatchewan that cost them a bye into the west final.

“We know we want to get back there to Regina but we want to make sure we’re playing better. Our focus now is not on other teams, we’re worried about how we play.

“Our focus is on this game because we have to play much better to win this game or the west final.”

Reminding themselves they were really only one win better than Edmonton this year and that Ricky Ray still possesses the ability to steal a game all by himself, the Stamps say that while they haven’t openly discussed the dangers of underestimating their provincial foes every player is aware anything can happen when these two meet.

“We have a long road to take now but if we look past this game then all the other games are non-issues,” said running back Joffrey Reynolds.

“I think as a veteran it would be a big let-down to the coaches and every person in our room to not perform the way we should.”

And everyone in southern Alberta.

Perhaps if anyone in Red and White is looking for the type of motivation bound to grab a player’s attention they should look no further than reminding the group that a loss will result in either Edmonton or Saskatchewan taking over their locker-room for the Grey Cup game.

It’s a humiliating prospect no one wants to discuss.

“It’s been mentioned before and players think about it,” admitted Randy Chevrier.

“In 2003 when I was with Edmonton we used the ’Riders locker room and I’m sure they weren’t too happy about that. We could have thought more of that if we won Saturday, but we didn’t.”

John Hufnagel said Wednesday he didn’t feel the need to remind players of Sunday’s importance, nor will he.

“I’m glad we had an extra day to get over the loss because it was a disappointing loss... we had an extra day of mourning,” said Hufnagel.

“Now it’s full attention on the Edmonton Eskimos because we know how dangerous a team they are. I don’t think we’re thinking past them.”

They might be the only ones.


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