Stamps game for long slate

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:07 AM ET

CALGARY - By now, all the new guys are accustomed to the size of the field and the size of the playbook.

The size of schedule, on the other hand, is something that is tough to prepare for.

With an 18-game regular-season slate, the CFL campaign lasts longer than any other gridiron league on the globe.

“Oh man, I couldn’t do a push-up for two or three months after my first season,” confessed Calgary Stampeders fullback Rob Cote, who now has five pro campaigns on his resume.

“I was just so beat up. It’s a lot of games.”

The Stamps (7-5) will host the Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-8) in Saturday’s matinee at McMahon Stadium, marking the 13th outing on their schedule this season.

By contrast, they play 16 regular-season games in the NFL, up to a dozen in the NCAA ranks — although it varies by school — and eight at the CIS level.

Linebacker Akwasi Antwi, a rookie out of Mount Allison in the CIS’ Atlantic University Sport conference, estimates his longest season was 10 games, including playoffs.

Until now, that is.

“It’s kind of like two seasons, but in one year,” Akwasi said.

“But at the end of the day, you’re still playing the game you love. I’m just happy to be here. Even though it’s a longer season than what I’m used to, I’m still excited to wake up and come here every morning.

“After the season, you have months to rest up.”

Some of these guys will need it.

The Stamps boast a veteran-laden roster, but they’re also depending on rookie starters at several positions and field a lot of freshmen on special teams.

Starting with Saturday’s showdown, the Stamps have six regular-season games remaining.

The plan is to earn a one-week bye by winning the West Division and then prepare for a pair of playoff tilts.

And it’s already been a month-and-a-half since the bye week.

“Breaking down is one thing. And making sure that they’re staying tuned in and they don’t lose interest,” said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel.

“During the break,

I directed my message especially to the young guys — get away from football because you’ve already played a season, you’re going to get a week off-season and then you have another season coming up.

“You don’t want it to be a surprise to them.”

Slotback Nik Lewis arrived at McMahon Stadium before Hufnagel signed on as head coach, but he, too, was warned.

“I remember (Matt) Dunigan told me, Wait ‘til Week 15 rook, you’re gonna be dead,’ ” Lewis said with grin. “I remember going out and I yelled at him and said,

‘I’m still here, having a good time.’ ”


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