Esks need best game

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

There's been plenty of talk about how the Edmonton Eskimos are going to claw their way back into playoff contention.

Improved lines on both sides of the ball leading to a better chance of more winning battles in the trenches.

Upgrading the quality of the assistant coaching staff.

One of the more deep and talented group of receivers to ever don the green and gold.

Even head coach Danny Maciocia's sidelines role in calling the plays.

A blue-collar attitude and mentality.

The game plan's in place, hashed and rehashed since the first training-camp whistle earlier this month.

Now it's time to walk the talk.

A curious preseason answered very little about this team's prospects once the shooting starts for real tomorrow night in Regina.

And, even though everybody to a man will tell you it's important to get off on the right foot, winning in Regina is a somewhat daunting task.

The Eskimos, winning in Pile O' Bones, does not compute.

The locals have won just once there since 2001, a 30-25 squeaker back in September Oh-six.

And, the most passionate fans in the CFL are sure to be doubly geeked as they celebrate their team's 2007 Grey Cup win against a team they most love to hate.

"It's already a hostile environment to walk into, but I'm sure they're going to be cranked up," said Maciocia. "They may even get their championship flag raised. I'm sure they'll be fired up to try and get another season going. They are the defending Grey Cup champions, so it'll be an exciting time for them.

"We'll be standing on the sidelines and witnessing it first-hand. After the festivities end, I'm sure the enthusiasm will carry on into the game."

Oh, goody. History's against them. The crowd's going to be into the joy juice and they've got something to celebrate for the first time in decades.

There have been many instances where a championship team gets overcharged by the crowd and falls flat on its face. Not that many of Saturday's crowd would be aware of that by the middle of the fourth quarter.

Still, it's not something any visitor can count on.

Quarterback Ricky Ray has been here for the entire period of the latest Regina drought.

"We just have to come out from the git-go and match their intensity," said Ray. "They've got loyal fans. They come out. They know how to cheer. It's just a tough environment.

"When you go play on the road, especially in Regina, it's loud and sometimes you can barely hear yourself."

Ray is keenly aware of the Esks' history in Regina and the fact they've won just one road game there during his tenure.

"It's been a tough place for us to play," said Ray. "Other than 2006, the only time we've won there that I can remember was winning the (2005) Grey Cup, but I wasn't playing. We just have to focus and let the crowd not sway the momentum."

The team has tried to help Ray out and plans to play either import lineman Garrick Jones or Calvin Armstrong to protect Ray from blindside hits.

"We definitely feel good about where we're at," said Ray. "It's just a matter of us going out and doing it."

Walkin' the talk.

Defensive lineman Fred Perry knows how much the Regina crowd means to the team.

"It's the fans," said Perry when asked why it was so tough to win in Regina. "Once the fans get behind you, you turn into a totally different team."

Now that he's here after three years in Regina, he knows how he's going to handle facing his old mates.

"I'm still going to feed off them," said Perry. "It's something I've been doing for years and I'm going to continue doing it."


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