EDMONTON - There is nothing like a rivalry playoff win to gain some confidence.
But Sunday’s 33-19 victory over the Calgary Stampeders did something more for the Edmonton Eskimos as they prepare for Sunday’s division final, it gave them an identity.
Or, at least, gave it back.
For the past six seasons, Calgary finished ahead of the Eskimos in the standings, leading to a lopsided rivalry that saw Edmonton lose in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs before getting swept 3-0 in the season series last year.
But 2011 saw the Eskimos finish in second place ahead of the Stampeders thanks to a 2-1 season-series advantage in a tie-breaker that decided even 11-7 records.
That led to homefield advantage, where the Eskimos were the ones doing the ousting this time around.
“Calgary’s our Battle of Alberta, one of our biggest rivals,” said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. “We’ve played pretty well against them this year, which we haven’t the past couple years. They’ve kind of had our number, so it was nice getting back on the winning side of that rivalry.
“Now with B.C., they beat us three out of four this year so it’s kind of like another team that we’ve got to make that move forward and get a win against them.”
While last week’s win over Calgary has allowed some returning players to look ahead now, rookie head coach Kavis Reed said the identity-rebuilding process was complete in the first four weeks of the season.
“The hurdle was getting over the Calgary situation,” said Reed, who inherited an Eskimos team coming off a 2010 season being outscored 144-40 in three losses to the Stampeders. “In Week 4, we played them in Calgary, we were able to have a pretty successful outing. And now, it was almost like: ‘Yes, we are good enough, we are tough enough, we are fast enough,’ because that truly was the gauge that we had, because Calgary’s an outstanding football team.
“Once we got over that mental hurdle by Week 4, I really felt that this team took off. Now, having gotten to the second round of the post-season, I think it’s just further indication that we are a true-character football team.”
Part of the 2011 Eskimos identity just sprouted up over this month, which the club calls Eskimovember.
“The defence, they’re always doing their own thing, growing their hair or growing beards,” Ray said. “Offensively, we do our own thing, but definitely the Mo-vember thing just gives us a little bit more to talk about in the locker-room.
“A little more to laugh about, seeing all these guys with crazy moustaches. It’s No. 1 for charity, but definitely brings us together as a team.”