Gr-r-eat rivalry

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI --

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Steven Marsh learned his craft at the University of Tennessee, where the Volunteers had some powerful enemies in the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators.

You want to talk about rivalries, about big games in which your fans simply will not accept defeat?

The Eskimos linebacker can tell you everything you need to know.

"You can find out a lot about a football player when there's 100,000 people in the stands and it's roaring and rocking,'' said Marsh, who'll be quite at home in tomorrow afternoon's fever pitch at McMahon Stadium.

"You have to be ready. You have to be on top of everything that week.

''And you really have to be ready at the start because early in the game the intensity level is higher than anything you'll see all year.

''As the game goes on, it becomes more like another game, but at the start, when the intensity and adrenaline are pumping, that's when it's really good.''

At the University of Nebraska, offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo knew that when Oklahoma, Colorado or the Texas Longhorns were across the line of scrimmage, you either took your game to another level or got run over by a fired-up opponent who did.

"Players get hyper and for some reason better,'' said Edmonton's 315-pound giant. "Whoever you play against in a big rivalry game like that, you have to know that on that day they're going to be better than they usually are.''

APPLIES TO THE STAMPS

That will most certainly apply to the Calgary Stampeders, who can bring their city to its feet, move one game out of second place and vanquish their worst enemies with one inspired effort against the visiting, but wholly unwelcome, Eskimos.

Defensive end Joe Montford has seen the Toronto-Hamilton Labour Day rumbles from both sides, and looks forward to getting his hands dirty in his first Battle of Alberta.

"When I was in Hamilton, the fans would say to me, I don't care if you only win one game, as long as you win Labour Day,'' grinned Montford, adding you can't have a rivalry unless the fans say so.

"That's what makes a rivalry for me. It starts off with the fans and the city and once you feel that vibe, it gets contagious and flows down to the players ... and next thing you know the equipment managers are going at it.''

FUNNY THINGS HAPPEN

Or guys are cold-cocking referees with helmets.

"Funny things always seem to happen in these kind of games,'' laughed Kabongo. "And it does start with the fans.

''When we went to Boulder, their fans would just hate us, they'd be throwing stuff, screaming awful things, but it was fun to play in those games. Those are great memories.''

The Eskimos are met with similar receptions in Calgary.

No matter what the standings or what the situation, Calgarians have little trouble stirring up the hate. Esks cornerback Davis Sanchez says it's easy to see why. He was a Stamp, after all, and hated the Esks as much as anyone.

"Teams that are good, and franchises that are consistently strong, you're not going to like,'' said Sanchez, the target of Ed Hervey's errant Riddell. "Everyone loves Saskatchewan, everyone loves Ottawa because they're not winning every year.''

The Eskimos aren't exactly lovable losers.

"Teams like Edmonton and Montreal, people are going to hate,'' he continued.

"So being in Calgary, I didn't like Edmonton because they were good, and they were cocky. And I think we still have that.''

With a whack of new players in the dressing room this season, Labour Day '05 will give head coach Danny Maciocia his best look yet at how his guys react under fire.

"And it's always good on the road, in a hostile environment, to see how a player handles it,'' said Maciocia.

"In a game like that you're going to have your highs and lows.

''There's going to be a point and time in the football game when you face some adversity.

''That's when you're going to find out exactly what kind of individual you have and what kind of football team you have.''


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