Esks, Stamps built-in rivalry

When Edmonton and Calgary get together on the football field, sparks fly, regardless of the game’s...

When Edmonton and Calgary get together on the football field, sparks fly, regardless of the game’s effect on the standings.

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:20 AM ET

Bring on a good ol’ fashioned rivalry game.

The 2010 regular season’s first instalment of the Battle of Alberta at McMahon Stadium Sunday (6 p.m., TSN) couldn’t come soon enough for the Edmonton Eskimos.

While the Calgary Stampeders have a mirror-image 5-1 record to Edmonton’s 1-5 display, standings are traditionally tossed out the window whenever the two clubs meet.

“That’s the thing, you can throw everybody’s record aside. These are the biggest games of the regular season for us against Calgary,” said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. “And we’ve got three of our next four against these guys. It’s a good opportunity for us to plough our way back into things. It’s a good opportunity for them to keep separating themselves, so there’s a lot riding on these games.”

The difference is Calgary is thinking about winning a division championship while the Eskimos might soon be losing their jobs.

But on Sunday, the only thing that matters is the opponent across from them.

“I think it’s always a good time for extra juice,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall. “Especially for us because we’ve been somewhat up and down. Everything’s always at stake but there’s something special about an Edmonton-Calgary rivalry.

“The last time we were down there, they knocked us out of the playoffs. We had our opportunities but we didn’t capitalize on it and now it’s a year later and for us to go the other way, this is a great way to start. There’s definitely extra incentive going out there because they had our number last year.”

Hall’s team dropped three of four regular-season meetings in 2009 before falling in the West Division semifinal, 24-21, in Calgary.

“They beat us in the playoffs. When we went down there early twice in the beginning of the season we didn’t play very well,” he said.

In fact, the Eskimos have only won once in Calgary in the past four seasons, a 37-16 blowout on Labour Day 2008 that saw Stampeders quarterbacks Henry Burris and Dave Dickenson leave early due to injury. The Stampeders went on to win seven of their last nine regular-season games on the way to a Grey Cup championship.

It’s the kind of turnaround the Eskimos can only hope for.

“The way that we’ve been struggling, to go into the bye week and to go out there and play well and to defeat them, that would be great momentum as we head into the middle part of the season,” said Hall — not that his players need any added incentive in preparation for Sunday. “The rivalry between the two teams (exists) because the reality is the cities don’t like each other, the teams don’t like each other and it’s going to be a very physical war out there.”

IN AND OUT: KR Skyler Green (groin), RB Calvin McCarty (hand), DB Lenny Walls (ankle) and DB Weldon Brown (undisclosed) were back on the sidelines during practice. DE Kai Ellis joined the walking wounded Friday, but has been known to take time to rest before games this season.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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