Esks 'ignorant', says Reed

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:15 AM ET

VANCOUVER - It's not the kind of statement you expect to hear before the big game.

"I like our ignorance factor," said Edmonton Eskimos' head coach Kavis Reed.

A significant percentage of this Eskimos team can't relate to what the Grey Cup is, how many times greater it is than a division final as a game, a festival and especially as a party our so-called Grand National Drunk.

And that's a good thing, Reed said of this afternoon's get-to-the-Grey Cup West Division final, with the winner returning to BC Place for next Sunday's 99th edition of the Canadian classic.

"It's good to be ignorant of certain things.

"It was like our first Labour Day game. Two-thirds of our locker-room didn't have any knowledge of that game."

The Eskimos scored a 35-7 win in McMahon Stadium that Monday.

Reed wasn't asking Ricky Ray, Andrew Nowacki, Mathieu Bertrand, Patrick Kabongo or Taylor Inglis - the sole survivors of the 2005 team that beat the Lions here and then came back to win Edmonton's 13th Grey Cup in overtime against the Montreal Alouettes - to show everybody their championship rings this week.

"You don't know what the Grey Cup is until you get there. It's a great experience," said Ray, who admitted his biggest concern going into the semifinal against Calgary was how hungry the team might be, whether they'd simply be satisfied having secured Edmonton's first home playoff game since 2004.

"My first year was my first Grey Cup. I hope we have the same hunger to get there like the team had the first year I got here."

Ray has been taking the temperature of the team all the way to this game.

"It feels just like last week," he said. "We're still pretty loose. Guys know we're real close.

"I don't think we're going to be satisfied with just winning last week when we're this close."

Reed said he feels he can usually get a handle on his team by Day 2 of practice.

"I try to take the pulse of the locker-room every day. I expect a pretty good performance.

"Practices have been crisp. Our entire staff has done a very good job preparing our team for this game.

"I think we're going into this game just as hungry as the other three teams," he said of the first total turnover in final four teams in the entire history of the CFL.

"Nobody expected us to be in the West final," Reed said of the team which missed the playoffs last year.

"We're here. But our goal was to be in the last game."

There's some scary stuff for the B.C. Lions in some of the statistics, the main one being that Edmonton has twice defeated the Lions here in West finals and returned to win Grey Cup games the following week.

But add this: the Eskimos have won five of six West finals between the two clubs, including the ones in Edmonton.

With the Eskimos playing in a record 39th division final, with a chance to play in their 23rd Grey Cup and win it for the 14th time, it's also the 53rd time in 63 seasons they've been in the playoffs.

Edmonton also has more playoff wins (55) than any CFL club and the highest winning percentage at .573.

While a betting line spread of 6-6 points suggests the Eskimos need to get some breaks to win this game, Edmonton led the league with a plus-16 turnover ratio after being dead last in the category with a minus-23 last year.

"I've waited for this since 2007. To get this close ... I can't wait," said receiver Fred Stamps.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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