Quarterbacks have history of heroics

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Too bad Henry Burris and Ricky Ray didn't grow up in the same neighbourhood.

Seems like every time the star gunslingers are on the same football field, playground rules apply. As in, last touchdown wins.

"It's kind of like the last guy that has the ball in his hands seems to be coming away with the win," Ray said. "There have been a few times where we've had the lead -- we've gone down and scored -- but there's a minute left on the clock and you're waiting over there anxiously because you know (Burris) has done it before and he has the ability to bring his team back and get those wins.

"Same thing with me. They've gone down and scored to reclaim the lead and we've gotten the ball back with a little bit of time and we've been able to make those plays, as well. It's been weird. Like I said, the last guy to get the ball sometimes wins."

With these two guys, who'll renew acquaintances in today's West Division semifinal at McMahon Stadium (2:30 p.m., TSN), it seems to happen more often than not.

You don't need to be a sports historian or even a devout follower of three-down football to realize Burris and Ray both have a flair for the dramatic. In fact, of the four meetings between the Stamps and Eskimos so far this season, two have ended with a last-minute major.

Ray was the hero of an Aug. 13 showdown at Commonwealth Stadium, hooking up with slotback Fred Stamps for a 23-yard touchdown strike with just nine seconds remaining on the clock. It was the third lead change in the final four minutes and gave the Eskimos a 38-35 victory over their provincial rivals.

Burris returned the favour less than a month later, engineering a game-winning drive of his own in the waning seconds of the Labour Day Replay. The Stamps were staring at a 14-point deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Smilin' Hank chipped away at the lead and capped the comeback when Jeremaine Copeland escaped double coverage and made a grab in the endzone with only 22 ticks left on the clock to seal a 35-34 road win.

"We both want to do whatever it takes to win the game," Burris shrugged. "As kids growing up, whenever you tried to mimic being a quarterback -- Joe Montana or Brett Favre or Randall Cunningham or Damon Allen or whatever -- you always dream of getting that ball with two minutes to go and you're down four or five points and you have a chance to race your team down the field and throw that game-winning touchdown.

"Whenever you get in that position, you always have to be confident that you can make it happen."

Over the past few seasons, Burris and Ray have combined to serve up some of the most exciting finishes in recent CFL memory. They've been thrilling, nerve-wracking, dramatic ...

Just not surprising.

Jason Tucker, a former Eskimos star who now earns his paycheques as Edmonton's receivers coach, hauled in a game-winning TD against the Red & White in July of 2008 and referred to Stamps' last-minute clincher as "deja vu."

"If you don't know, you should know by now," Tucker said of Ray's knack for late-game heroics. "If you give him the opportunity, he can make something happen.

"He wants the ball in his hands in the last second."

And Hank?

"Henry is a great quarterback -- he's been doing it for years now," Tucker said. "If he gets the ball in his hands, too, he can do the same thing. You've gotta respect that if you give him enough time, he'll do the same thing."

Perhaps they'll treat fans to another thrilling fourth quarter as the sun sets tonight at McMahon Stadium.

"You almost don't have to watch until the last three minutes, and then you will see points being scored," Copeland said.

"When you have two great offences and two great quarterbacks like that, anything can happen."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA

BY THE NUMBERS

Battle of Alberta quarterback comparison

HENRY BURRIS, STAMPS

- Named Grey Cup MVP in 2008

- West Division all-star QB in 2005, 2008

- Stamps' career passing leader (23,559 yds)

RICKY RAY, ESKIMOS

- Named Grey Cup MVP in 2005

- West Division all-star QB in 2006

- Eskimos' career passing leader (32,270 yds)


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