Stamps running back critical to success

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

It was generally agreed last year the Calgary Stampeders would go as far as Henry Burris could take them.

Dispensing the choker label he carried with him several years previous, the West Division MVP ended up taking them to the top.

This year, the man counted on to spearhead the Stamps attack stands two steps behind Burris: Joffrey Reynolds.

As the league rushing champ, West MVP and jack-of-all-trades, the 29-year-old serial yard-eater is now the key to Calgary's hopes of seeing the Red & White in the Grey Cup game here Nov. 29.

More to the point, he's Calgary's crucial element to winning today's West semifinal against Edmonton.

"No way man," laughed Reynolds, when asked if he felt he is the main weapon in this year's offence.

"I tell you what, if you forget about Henry Burris, he'll burn you. So please do that."

Of course, Burris will remain a central figure of the Stamps offence by virtue of his position, talent and experience. But as the man in charge of dispensing the ball, he knows better than anyone that getting the ball to Reynolds through the air or on the ground will go a long way towards determining the success or failure of Calgary's quest to repeat as champs.

Demonstrating just how important a role he'll play in today's game, consider that in the two Stamps blowouts over Edmonton at McMahon Stadium this season, Reynolds rushed 33 times for 188 yards and three majors, while adding six catches for 96 yards.

He was a wrecking ball.

In the two close games in Edmonton, which were split, he was held to a total of 58 yards on 13 carries.

He was irrelevant.

Interestingly, only one of his nine 100-yard rushing games came against Edmonton, which is telling as only three of his 28 career 100-yard games have come against a Green and Gold squad he's faced more than any other club.

"They've always had a solid team and a solid defence," said Reynolds, trying to explain how he can have the lowest yards-per-carry average against Edmonton.

"I wouldn't say they have my number or anybody's number, it's just how we line up that day, the run plays called, the amount of run plays, and I'm sure (today) will bring its own different challenge, too. I'm looking forward to that."

Leading the league in rushing for the second year in a row, Reynolds went one further this season by leading the loop in yards from scrimmage, thanks to a game-plan that incorporated his receiving skills more than ever.

With injuries to receivers like Ken-Yon Rambo and Ryan Thelwell, he was key in taking pressure off the quarterback and the run game by providing yet another receiving outlet for Burris all year long.

Twice he found the endzone via the air, and 11 times he scampered in following handoffs, allowing the Stamps to capitalize in the red zone.

"Really, the advantage for us is to remain balanced, and that's how we've had a lot of success against them," said Reynolds, second in CFL majors this year.

"I think, a lot of times, if they do come out to stop the run, a receiver like Romby Bryant has a 200-yard game."

While the likes of Jeremaine Copeland, Nik Lewis and the rest of the Stamps' potent receiving corps provide plenty of challenges for the Esks, limiting the damage Reynolds does has got to be job one for the visitors.

"He'll definitely be one of their main focuses," said Stamps coach John Hufnagel.

"But you can't load up the box. We have a quarterback who is very competitive and Henry's going to do some damage getting outside. Believe me, they're going to try to keep enough people in the box to stop the run."

If so, he'll look elsewhere to inflict the damage that made him the West's most dangerous weapon and the key to today's game.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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