Do Esks fans bring brooms?

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:13 AM ET

EDMONTON - The last time the Eskimos won both games of the Labour Day doubleheader was 2004.

The last time the Eskimos swept the season series against the Stampeders was 2004.

The last time Edmonton played host to a Western Conference playoff game was 2004.

Indeed, isn't that what tonight's second game of the annual Labour Day series is really all about?

If the Eskimos win it, they sweep the season series with the Calgary Stampeders, go two points up on their southern rivals -- effectively four points up, considering they'd get the nod in the event of finishing in a tie at the end of the season -- and stay at least three wins ahead of B.C. and four wins ahead of Saskatchewan.

Head coach Kavis Reed, however, isn't encouraging fans to bring brooms to Commonwealth Stadium for the 7 p.m. start which kicks off the second half of the season in the CFL. Sweep?

"That word will never come out of my mouth," he said, adding that despite what happened in Calgary, not only on Labour Day but with the 24-19 win there July 23, he "would bet" his team will still go into this game as the underdog.

Indeed the line, which favoured Calgary by 8 and 9 points Monday, favours Calgary by 3 in this one.

Considering the Eskimos lost their last home game 36-1 to the B.C. Lions and have lost the last four editions of this game to the Stampeders, that seems reasonable.

The Stampeders were interviewed about being overconfident going into the first game and showed every sign that they were that and then some. And there's a long history of the losing team being challenged to dial it up for the second game while the Labour Day winner is happy to get the split and satisfied with the accomplishment.

The 28-point loss by the Stampeders, the Eskimos should know, was their second-worst Labour Day drubbing ever (38-4 in 1990). There's heat on John Hufnagel's team.

"Those guys in that room executed very well to win that game. If we don't match that, we're going to be in for a long night," said Reed.

Reed made the point that the Eskimos' Labour Day win will be hard to be repeated because of several factors.

And he didn't mention the one about the overconfident cocky Stampeders themselves.

There was an ambush of sorts involved by the Eskimos coaching staff, which had 17 days to prepare a game plan.

"It was important to throw in a wrinkle in there that would go against our own self scouting," said Reed.

"I think that played a part in it. But we're not going to be able to expect to be able to do the same thing and be able to get away with it again. They are too well coached for hat and Henry is too smart a quarterback for that," he added of the Labour Day game, in which Burris fumbled twice and threw two interceptions that led to 24 point for the Eskimos off turnovers.

Quarterback Ricky Ray says you never know what's going on under a lot of those helmets on either team when you get into this Monday-Friday Labour Day business.

"I've been in a lot of these games. I've seen it all," he said.

The mental makeup of football teams often gets revealed in the CFL's compelling Labour Day business.

Reed doesn't want to make this game bigger than the last game or the next game, but his quarterback says it doesn't get much bigger at this stage of the season.

"It's a big opportunity to get a lead on these guys," said Ray and left it at that.

Fred Stamps, who missed four games due to injury, is back and focused on what he suggests the veterans see as the obvious.

"This is a game we've been waiting to play for the last four or five years," he said of first-place and playoff positioning.

"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but we're not at the beginning of the season anymore. We're going into the second half. This is when and where you want to put yourself ahead."

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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