Burris ready for quarterback matchup

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:00 PM ET

Henry Burris understands the type of pressure his quarterbacking counterpart Darian Durant is facing this week.

Burris has been in those cleats before.

The Calgary Stampeders star gunslinger spent parts of three seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Smilin’ Hank knows first-hand football-crazed fans from Maple Creek to Moosomin and every rail stop in between will be counting on Durant to guide Gang Green back to the big game.

“The entire week leading up to this game, (the Riders) will be the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Burris said Thursday. “Of course, the fans are telling them how great they are, and they have had a good season. When you are suiting up for your first playoff game as a starter, there’s a lot riding on it. You have to make it a memorable game and do everything correctly.”

The Stamps and Riders hook up for the West Division title fight Sunday at Mosaic Stadium, and Burris and Durant are the undisputed ring-leaders of their respective units.

Marcus Crandell, a former quarterback on both sides of the storied prairie rivalry and now an offensive assistant coach for the Riders, characterized the game as showdown between a grizzled veteran and a rising star ready to take his place among the heavyweights.

“Henry has already been a big part of this league, he’s done a lot for this league and he’s given the fans some exciting football throughout his years,” Crandell said. “And Darian is an up-and-comer. He’s a young guy who’s very, very talented, very smart as a quarterback, and he’s growing.

He continues to get better each game and each week.

“I think it’s going to be a good matchup — indirectly, of course. Both those guys deserve to be here in this situation and they’ve shown they’re two of the best in the West this year.”

Crandell silenced some of his naysayers by leading the Stamps to an improbable Grey Cup victory after an 8-10 campaign in 2001 and claimed another championship ring as the backup to playoff hero Kerry Joseph two years ago.

Durant, meanwhile, has already accomplished something few of his predecessors have been able to.

In his first full season as Saskatchewan’s starter, the former North Carolina Tarheel guided the Riders to their first West Division crown since 1976, when legendary Ron Lancaster was taking the snaps at Taylor Field.

But, as Burris pointed out Thursday afternoon at McMahon Stadium, that won’t be enough to satisfy the 31,000 screaming fans that’ll take Taylor Field by storm two days from now.

“When you are the home team, you sit at home during the bye knowing you are one step from being in the show,” Burris said. “You have to come out to play a huge game to be in the show. You have to come out and prove you are not a fluke.

“People going into the season said the Riders wouldn’t be in this position. They went out and earned it, but they have to do it again.”

Question is, can Durant withstand the pressure?

“I think the biggest thing is staying focused and realizing that we have some unfinished business here,” Crandell said. “We set out for a goal and that’s to win the Grey Cup. This is just a stepping stone. We need to lock in on that and that attitude, and Darian has.

“He knows that this is just a step.”


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