Ray gets ball for Esks

Eskimos QB Ricky Ray (left) gets the start on Sunday against the B.C. Lions in the Western final...

Eskimos QB Ricky Ray (left) gets the start on Sunday against the B.C. Lions in the Western final and Jason Maas couldn't be happier. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

If there were an Oscar for best quarterback in a supporting role, Jason Maas won it yesterday.

Ricky Ray, who is two-for-two in winning Western finals and getting the Edmonton Eskimos to the Grey Cup, has been named starter Sunday against the B.C. Lions to try and make it three-for-three.

"I supported it 100%. It's the right decision," said Maas, the backup who brought the Eskimos back from the nearly deceased to win the Western semifinal to earn the right, in the eyes of many, to get this game.

"The character of all the great ones is to come through. Ricky Ray is one of the great ones. He'll come through," said Maas.

"We believe in Ricky. He's going through a lot. I'm a friend of his and a teammate of his. Ricky will shut people up and light the fire. Ricky started every game. He got us here. I believe he'll play a great game. The whole team does," he said of the quarterback who broke the all-time CFL pass completion record, but hasn't thrown a touchdown pass for five weeks.

"I don't think they'll need me," Maas predicted of Ray going all the way. "When the journey is difficult it makes it even more satisfying and when Ricky looks back at 2005, I believe he'll look back at it being something special."

CONTROVERSY CLIPPINGS

Head coach Danny Maciocia, who could have wallpapered his office with the clippings of three days of quarterback controversy -- as projected in this space yesterday -- changed his mind and decided to announce Ray as his starter now.

"Jason made it extremely easy," said Maciocia. "It didn't take two minutes. He said 'This is the way to go.' "

Both quarterbacks wanted it all said and done before they took the field for their first practice yesterday. And Maciocia came to see the benefit of going public now.

"Let's get all our focus on the B.C. Lions," is how Maciocia put it. "We've never had a quarterback controversy and Dave Dickenson gave me the ultimate compliment in today's paper (the Sun) when he said what he did."

"I can't speak for Danny Maciocia." Dickenson said in a telephone interview. "But, by playing Ricky all the way all year, he avoided this sort of thing. I think Danny had situations where he should have put Jason Maas in there, but he avoided what we've been going through for two years here by doing things like he did."

"We made the decision collectively as a group," said Maciocia, including third-string QB Jason Johnson and coach R.D. Lancaster.

"Ricky has a lot of experience in the Western final, even for a young guy," said Maciocia.

"He started his first game against B.C. and he's 5-2 against them."

And Maciocia suggested maybe there was a reason Ray wasn't as successful as normal against Calgary.

STEALING SIGNALS?

He didn't come right out and accuse the Stampeders of stealing signals, but "We used two or three different guys sending in the signals in the second half, two guys as dummies and one guy live," he said.

Funny how this has worked.

It's taken until this late date for Edmonton to really appreciate the makeup of Maas, a man who will be leaving here at the end of the season to restart his own career as a starter, almost certainly in Hamilton.

"These are the cards I've been dealt. I'm dealing with them," Maas said.

"Sometimes it takes extraordinary circumstances and for things to go bad to find out what people are made of," said Maas.

"I've dealt with a lot of things in my life. I've overcome a lot of things. That's what life is all about. This team knows they'll get everything out of me, no matter what happens."

And he believes they'll get everything out of Ricky Ray on Sunday.

Best quarterback in a supporting role I've seen since Tom Wilkinson made way for Warren Moon.


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