Heading into the stretch drive for the CFL post-season, the Calgary Stampeders have won the pole position.
Now they need to power through to the checkered flag.
If somebody other than the Stamps hosts the West final this November, it will because they made a move to pass the frontrunners.
With a 40-3 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday at McMahon Stadium, the Stamps (8-5) took over the West Division.
They control their own destiny but now face a first-place showdown next Saturday against the Lions (7-6) at new B.C. Place Stadium.
“We’re still king of the hill no matter what everybody else is doing,” quarterback Henry Burris said. “But we have a team coming hard after us.”
With all the angst that was created during September when the Stamps lost three of four starts, things instantly changed once the calendar turned to October.
It helped they were facing the basement-dwelling Roughriders, but one thing the Stamps had been missing is a killer instinct, and they found it Saturday.
Despite the struggles, the Stamps are in first place with five games remaining in the season. On paper, at least, there are a couple of easily winnable games against the Riders and the Toronto Argonauts (3-10).
Beating a rival like Saskatchewan by 37 points obviously helps the psyche, but there were many positive factors.
When the defence did allow some yardage, they created turnovers, with three of them coming on their own side of half.
The entire team also showed the energy and the enthusiasm missing during the slide. Head coach John Hufnagel said as much to the team when he met with them Sunday morning to review the victory.
“He was, like, it was a good win, but we have a lot of work to do,” defensive back Keon Raymond said. “This is a step in the right direction.
“This is something to build off. The confidence of our team is starting to get back to where it was earlier in the season. We’re ready to make a nice playoff run.”