Stamps aren't taking lowly Lions lightly

Calgary Stampeders' Romby Bryant runs from Edmonton Eskimos defensive back Jason Goss. (Al...

Calgary Stampeders' Romby Bryant runs from Edmonton Eskimos defensive back Jason Goss. (Al Charest/QMI AGENCY)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:29 PM ET

It is, by definition, a trap game.

One team is 6-1 and has won eight consecutive games against its division rival.

The other, at 1-6, is trying to avoid stretching its recent losing skid to seven straight against any opponent.

You could put the B.C. Lions' endzone at the top of Whistler Mountain and most experts would still pick the Calgary Stampeders to bring two points home from Friday's clash on the West Coast.

But don't dare telling that to Stamps head coach John Hufnagel.

"He lets us know every day that we can lose, we are capable of losing and if we come out and we don't play the ball that we can play, we will lose," said Stamps middle linebacker Juwan Simpson. "He makes that point in practice, in meetings, whatever. If he doesn't see us practising up to our potential, he'll definitely have something to say about it. He's done a great job of keeping that in our heads.

"You can't be worried about records or stats, because on any given game day, somebody can lose."

On paper, Friday's meeting at Empire Field is a mismatch.

The Stamps sit atop the West Division standings, while the Lions are sharing the basement suite with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Calgary's defensive unit has allowed fewer points than any other outfit. No team is scoring less often than the boys from B.C.

You won't find those stats pinned to the bulletin board in the Stamps' locker-room, though.

"The numbers don't matter once you get on the field," said Stamps receiver Arjei Franklin. "We understand that."

Hufnagel won't let them forget it.

The Stamps head coach meets with the media after each practice, and you can almost see him flinch when somebody mentions B.C.'s record or refers to their recent struggles.

On Sunday, he told reporters, "We'll prepare to win this game like we do each and every game."

On Monday, he reiterated this week's preparation plan was "the same as it's been for every other team we play."

After Tuesday's practice session, nobody bothered to ask. What else could Hufnagel say?

He's been telling his players to forget the Lions' record, too.

"He tells us not to talk about it and not to think about it, and I think that's moderately effective," said Stamps running back Jon Cornish. "Any team in the CFL is a good team. I mean, this is professional football, and there's very little difference between the top and the bottom. If you go into any game thinking the record is any way reflective of the quality of their team, you're wrong.

"I know this is cliched, obviously, but each game is a new game and you have to go into it with the exact same idea."

Cliche or not, that's the mantra around McMahon Stadium these days.

Hufnagel is as intense a coach as you'll find in the three-down football ranks, and that energy filters through the organization.

No matter which team is next on the schedule.

"Trust me, Huf is not going to let us get complacent," said Stamps receiver Ryan Thelwell. "I promise you when I say we are not looking past these guys, we're not looking at their record. We know it's going to be a tough game."

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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