Another 'must win' for Stamps

WES GIlLBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:27 PM ET

The mantra hasn’t changed.

This time, though, it rings true.

As the Calgary Stampeders have repeated countless times since training camp, “the next game is” — without even a sliver of doubt this week — “the most important game of the season.”

Simply put, the winner of Sunday’s showdown between the Stamps (10-4) and host Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-5) has the inside track on West Division bragging rights and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

“It’s business as usual,” insisted Stamps safety Wes Lysack. “It is, but it’s probably our biggest game of the year. Regardless of the standings, we always talk about how we want to win, but Saskatchewan knows to get to the Grey Cup that they have to go through us, and we know that if we want to go to the Grey Cup, we have to go through them.

“So it’s a huge game.”

It’s a huge week.

The Stamps returned to work Wednesday after a 46-19 Thanksgiving Day drubbing in Montreal, getting an earful from head coach John Hufnagel — “I told my message this morning to the players, and it will stay in the locker-room,” he said — and then hitting the field for what was an all-business practice session.

Sure, Mother Nature is still playing nice, but it’s starting to feel a lot like November at McMahon Stadium.

In fact, it’s starting to feel a lot like last November.

To refresh your memory, the Stamps settled for second spot in the West Division last fall and were eventually eliminated in a 30-14 playoff loss in hostile territory at Mosaic Stadium.

If they can beat the Riders this weekend in front of 30,000 screaming members of Gang Green, this year’s West Division final will — in all likelihood — be contested in Cowtown.

“This is the second year straight that we’ve played Saskatchewan in this type of setting, so we have a lot of experience playing in these types of games. It’s a good place to be, and we feel good about our chances going in there,” said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. “This is what you play for. I mean, if we were at the bottom like everybody said we would be before the season started, then we wouldn’t be playing for these types of games. Now that we’re battling up top with the Riders, this is what you live for.

“This is what you play hard for, to put yourselves in these situations where you do play for the conference regular-season title and try to get that bye. That was one of our goals that we set out to get and it’s still something we can obtain, so we’re looking forward to making sure we do the right things this week.”

As several players alluded to after Wednesday’s practice, it can’t get much worse than the lopsided loss in Montreal.

After a convincing victory over the Alouettes two weeks ago at home, the Stamps traveled to Molson Stadium and were embarrassed in the rematch.

“We look unstoppable one game, and the next game we look like the Bad News Bears,” said Stamps receiver Ken-Yon Rambo. “We’ve gotta get consistent with it.”

And it’s gotta happen soon.

After all, the next game is the most important game of the season.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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