Esks, Als kick into high gear

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

MONTREAL -- One full week of hype is almost over.

The host Montreal Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos will finally play in the CFL's East Division final today at Olympic Stadium (11 a.m., TSN).

Seven days of hype has focused on quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo, the running game and the defensive secondary on both sides.

But three players have sneaked under the radar.

Here is a trio to watch in today's game and why.:

1. NOEL PREFONTAINE, ESKS

This isn't for the reason you might think. While the kicker/punter might be called upon to make a clutch field goal today, his punting will be key.

In the only two cases where the opposition has returned a punt for a touchdown this year, Prefontaine has kicked the ball rather low.

The Eskimos' coverage unit will need plenty of hangtime and the ball placed between the hashmarks and the sideline.

2. TRISTAN JACKSON, ESKS

The Alouettes did a great job against the rookie returner this season, keeping him to a 1.4-yard average per punt return.

After breaking down film this week, Jackson feels there are some holes to hit today.

"I'm very excited," Jackson said. "(It's been) a great week of practice."

But Jackson might see double-duty today.

Will the Eskimos use him as a running back? He had two carries for 18 yards in Regina Oct. 25.

He hasn't carried the ball since, but the team did have a practice out of the media's sight yesterday.

It's interesting to note Jackson was a running back in high school, gaining 508 yards in the first two-and-a-half games in his senior season before tearing an ACL.

3. DAMON DUVAL, ALS

The kicker hasn't played in nearly 21 days but is regarded as one of the top placement punters in the game.

The last thing the Als want is Jackson getting the ball in the middle of the field for a return. But Duval will also have to be quick on punts because one of the Esks' two blocks this year came against the Alouettes.

SANCHEZ SPEAKS UP

After nearly three football seasons in Montreal, DB Davis Sanchez is starting to reveal his thoughts on the trade that sent him packing from Edmonton.

Of course, this all comes with Sanchez facing the Eskimos today in Montreal, with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup Nov. 23.

The cornerback claims he earned close to $360,000 in 2005 when he signed with the Eskimos on the free-agent market.

Sanchez believes the signing bonus in Edmonton was close to $200,000 that year on a front-loaded four-year deal.

A source close to the Eskimos organization disputes those figures, claiming Sanchez had a $100,000 signing bonus and a total 2005 package of closer to $200,000.

Whatever the figures, it was a boatload of cash for a non-import defensive back who suffered a hip injury and didn't play in 11 games.

Traded to the Als in 2006 for Robert Brown and Reggie Durden, Sanchez now states he didn't want the deal.

"I didn't want to leave," Sanchez said. "I'm not out there for a free lunch. I never had a chance to earn the money I made."

Those are rare words in professional sports.

Sanchez claims there is no personal vendetta against anyone in the Eskimos' organization, even though speculation is attitude plus money were factors in the trade.


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