EDMONTON - There is no such thing as an exhibition game when pride is on the line in the CFL’s Battle of Alberta.
And after what happened to the Edmonton Eskimos last season, there’s not much to be proud of as they close out their 2011 preseason schedule against the Calgary Stampeders Friday at Commonwealth Stadium (7 p.m., TSN2, 630 CHED).
“That was pretty bad,” Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray said of last season’s series, which went 3-0 in favour of Calgary. “We were playing our worst football at the middle of the season last year and Calgary really took it to us. That’s the worst part. They’re our biggest rivals and usually those games are hard-fought.
“Last year, we didn’t really hold up our end of the bargain.”
Heck, they didn’t even show up for a 52-5 Labour Day loss at McMahon Stadium, which was sandwiched by a 56-15 loss in Calgary and 36-20 defeat in Edmonton.
The 104 more points Calgary scored in the series meant the Eskimos would have needed to score an average of five more touchdowns each game to come out ahead.
It went beyond running up the score, but everything is fair in love and rivalry games, right?
“I think so. There were some lopsided ones there, you know what? But football is a game where if you’ve got them down, you’re going to keep them down and step on their throat,” said Eskimos centre Aaron Fiacconi. “They did a very good job of that last year. Unfortunately, we were the victim of that, which is an awful feeling. It was tough coming back to that locker-room, it was tough coming back to Edmonton after those games because we know how important it is.
“It’s something if we have the opportunity to do, it’s something that we should definitely try and set a goal four ourselves to finish when we can.”
Especially coming off a year where they could barely get started.
“We’re coming out every game trying to prove ourselves,” said Ray. “Nobody’s really expecting anything from us, but we’re expecting a lot from ourselves.
“We want to go out there and set the tone early. Last year, we got off to such a poor start that we got ourselves in a really bad spot.”
And there’s no better way to start than with a confidence booster to close out the preseason and head into league play on a winning note.
“They’ve taken it to us, definitely,” said Fiacconi. “There’s passion, pride on the line, the respect of the Eskimo nation, right? So there’s a lot at stake here and it’s going to start in this preseason game.”
Exhibition or not, this game counts for new head coach Kavis Reed.
“This is a rivalry. Calgary is coming here to win,” he said. “They’re coming here to execute at a high level and be the good team that they are. We have to match or exceed their intensity in order to have a chance.
“We want to make certain that this is a rivalry where it’s not unbalanced anymore.”
IN AND OUT: RB Arkee Whitlock (hamstring) did not walk through with the team on Thursday and is not expected to dress for Friday’s game. Ray will take his first in-game snaps after sitting out last week’s preseason opener.