EDMONTON - The rubber will hit the proverbial playoff road Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Edmonton Eskimos will play in their 11th division semifinal against the Calgary Stampeders in a game that will tip the scales one way or the other in the ongoing provincial rivalry.
It will be a rubber match to determine not only which team moves on to face the B.C. Lions in the West Division final, but also which franchise will lead a series that is currently knotted 5-5 whenever they’ve met to open the post-season.
Homefield hasn’t exactly provided an advantage, either, as the two sides fought to even 2-2 records in Edmonton.
So the Eskimos are taking little comfort in using their own locker-room on Sunday.
“No, because we’re playing a very, very good football team,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “You want to be at home, obviously. You want to provide your fans with the opportunity to be in a playoff atmosphere. That was very important for us as an organization to give our fans that.
“But for us as a football team, we realize that Calgary is a very good football team.”
This season saw the visitors win in each of the three Battles of Alberta, including a 30-20 Stampeders victory in the Labour Day rematch.
But it was Edmonton’s 24-19 win in their first meeting and a 35-7 victory on Labour Day that earned the Eskimos the tie-breaker they needed to finish ahead of their rivals and host Sunday’s playoff game.
“They defeated us on our field and we know that they are capable of doing that again,” Reed said. “So our main focus is going to be we have to execute.
“This is more for our fans and for our organization to show our appreciation to them for supporting us through this time.”
That being said, the Eskimos will take any sort of theoretical advantage given them.
“Of course,” laughed quarterback Ricky Ray. “I mean you definitely don’t want to go be playing in somebody else’s stadium.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to host a playoff game here and it’s going to be nice playing in front of our home crowd, being at home and having their energy.”
While the Eskimos played at home in the 2004 playoffs, Ray was with the NFL’s New York Jets that season.
“The more advantages you can get in a playoff game is better. And playing at home is definitely a big advantage,” Ray said. “It’s going to be my first one since 2003.
“But definitely we want to go out there, get our crowd involved and make it tough for (Calgary).”