Stamps enter bye on high note

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:04 AM ET

CALGARY - As individuals, many are jetting away for a week of vacation.

As a group, the Calgary Stampeders have already reached a desirable destination.

That would be first place in the CFL’s West Division standings, a perch the Stamps (5-2) share with the provincial rival Edmonton Eskimos (5-2) as John Hufnagel’s charges split for the bye-week.

For the first time in several seasons, the Labour Day Classic should live up to its lofty billing.

“We wanted to get a win going into the bye — that’s always the key,” said Stampeders slotback Ken-Yon Rambo after Friday’s 45-35 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“You don’t like the bad taste of a loss on your tongue for a whole week. That’s what you think about every day. It’s good to think about a win every day.

“It feels good. That’s how we’re supposed to be. That’s what kind of team we are. We have to go out there and just play our ball all-around — offence, defence, special teams …

“If we play our type of football, then the sky is the limit for this team.”

The bye-week also comes at a good time for the Stamps, who have been beset with a plethora of injuries over the last few weeks.

The Stamps’ first battle after the bye-week, an Aug. 27 matinee against the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium, is already being billed as a possible Grey Cup preview.

After that, they have back-to-back dates with the Eskimos, a team which started with five straight wins but has been ransacked by injuries in the past two weeks.

But the Stamps aren’t getting too far ahead of themselves.

Take it from quarterback Henry Burris, who side-stepped a couple of would-be sacks during Friday’s victory and was even more elusive in his post-game media scrum when a Regina-based reporter asked a question about a big game that’s scheduled for Nov. 27 at a refurbished B.C. Place Stadium.

“There’s a long ways to go,” Burris said. “This team, we’re keeping things in perspective. Grey Cup is something that’s way in the distance, and you’ve got to earn your way to that show.

“Right now, it’s all about winning one game at a time and getting prepared one game at a time, because we’ve got three very big ones coming up.”

Or take it from Hank the next morning on Twitter.

“Big win but the work still continues!!!” he wrote.

For Hufnagel and his assistants, the bye-week isn’t exactly a vacation.

Although the team won’t return to the practice field until next Monday, the Stamps’ coaches will be busy self-scouting and analyzing the team’s performance through the first seven outings of the season.

Friday’s road victory over the Riders showed there’s still room for improvement.

After racking up four majors and a field goal in the first half, the Stamps’ offence cooled after the break, registering only one first down on four second-half possessions before engineering a late touchdown drive.

On defence, they surrendered 511 net yards and five scores, although interceptions by halfback Keon Raymond and linebacker Robert McCune and a forced fumble by safety Demetrice Morley could all be counted among turning points in the game.

And they’re still getting dinged for way too many penalties, including 16 fouls for 155 yards in Regina.

“There’s things that I’m very pleased about, and there’s things that I’m very displeased about, so I’m ambivalent,” Hufnagel told reporters Saturday morning. “But we are a winning football team at this moment. We’ve won four on the road, which is a great accomplishment. We’ve won our last three.

“So there are a lot of good things, but on the other side of the coin, there are lots of things that we need to clean up.”

The Stamps will have personnel moves to ponder, too, with fullback Rob Cote and star linebacker Juwan Simpson both likely to return after the bye-week.

Right tackle Stanley Bryant suffered a concussion against the Riders, while defensive lineman J’Micheal Deane missed the game due to a muscle strain but should be available for the clash with the Alouettes.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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