Stamp of success

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

CALGARY -- Every CFL team wants three items heading into the playoffs: momentum, confidence and home-field advantage.

The Edmonton Eskimos don't have any of those coveted things in their possession.

Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

The Green and Gold had everything in their hands, but lost it all with one of their worst performances of the year yesterday afternoon in the most important game of the regular season.

The Calgary Stampeders hammered the Esks 43-23 at McMahon Stadium to take second place in the CFL West Division and keep momentum and confidence sitting in their locker-room.

An Edmonton win would have propelled the Eskimos to first place and given them the right to host the West final in two weeks. Instead, they wake up this morning in third.

"It is a major, major swing to go from potentially first to third," said OL Bruce Beaton.

"You know you work so hard and then to have a shot in the last game to accomplish the most you can accomplish in the regular season...and to just come out and have it handed to you like this is very, very disappointing."

It means the Eskimos will be back in Calgary this Sunday to play the West semifinal against the hottest team in the CFL.

The Stamps have won seven of their last eight games - and more importantly, have won two straight against their provincial rivals.

In fact, they have dominated Edmonton for 10 consecutive quarters, outscoring the Esks 81-39.

But it was the visiting team that came out strong yesterday, scoring a TD on their first possession.

But that was the end of the good news for Eskimo faithful.

Calgary responded with two touchdowns and a single while Edmonton countered with two measly points before halftime.

At 15-9 in the third quarter, the Eskimos still had a chance, but the Stamps grabbed the Esks by the throat and then delivered the knockout blow with two huge plays in the span of three minutes.

With Calgary just past midfield, QB Henry Burris rolled out of the pocket and hit MarTay Jenkins, who eluded the grasp of Kelly Wiltshire by mere inches and sprinted to the end zone to complete the 50-yard play.

It put the Stamps on top 22-9 and typified the Esks' defensive struggles.

"We didn't put enough pressure on Burris - and a guy like that, with his talent, you have to have somebody in his face all the time," said linebacker A.J. Gass.

Desperately needing to answer that strike, Ricky Ray began to march his troops down the field, but watched the game disappear with a poorly thrown flutterball that rookie Jermaine Chatman grabbed and took 67 yards to pay dirt.

It was suddenly 29-9 and left the Edmonton offence in a brutal spot.

"It is advantage them when they get a big lead and they get a chance to start teeing off with some of their blitzes," said Beaton.

Ray proceeded to throw two more picks before finally being pulled with Calgary leading 43-16 late in the fourth quarter.

Ray finished with 228 yards, three picks and no TDs, extending his drought in that key category to five straight games.

His counterpart, on the other hand, continues to be the hottest passer in the land, throwing three more TDs and topping 300 yards.

But the face of the Stamps isn't gloating. Instead, he's focused.

"It gives us confidence," said Burris of the win. "But I wouldn't say we're going to be overconfident (on Sunday) because we learned early on (this season) that we can't be overconfident against anybody."

The Eskimos, on the other hand, need to learn to clear their minds in a big hurry.

"These are proud individuals and we are going to talk about it and hopefully the conversation won't be longer than 30 seconds," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

That conversation happens today - and so does the next round of preparation to solve the Stampeder puzzle.


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