CALGARY -- It was just before midnight on Saturday, June 25, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers slotback Milt Stegall was in the visitors locker-room at Taylor Field in Regina.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders had just obliterated the Bombers 42-15 in the CFL opener for both teams, and Stegall, if you didn't know any better, was so emotional that he was close to tears.
"We gotta have a sense of urgency," Stegall declared that night in June. "That's the problem. You can't keep saying 'OK, this is one game, we'll be OK.' No! It was the first game, and we got smashed. Maybe that's the problem. 'We can't win? OK, it's the eighth, ninth game, it's time to wake up now.' We gotta wake up right now.
"... I don't know if this is my last year or not, but I'm not going to go through this."
STILL IN SLUMBER
The Bombers are still in their slumber at 1-5, and Stegall is this close to "going through" what he vowed he wouldn't let happen.
"I knew somebody was going to bring that up," Stegall said sheepishly after the Bombers arrived in sunny Cowtown yesterday afternoon. "We still have 12 games left, so I still have a chance to cover that. I'm giving it time."
The Bombers will battle the Calgary Stampeders (2-3) tonight at McMahon Stadium (6 p.m. CBC/CJOB), and it's a crucial clash for both squads, who currently occupy fourth and fifth place in the West Division.
"It's urgent," Stegall said. "It's time to call 911 and get it done."
They say every contest in an 18-game schedule is a big, but tonight's game certainly fits the bill. Bombers head coach Jim Daley, who despises looking ahead, even mentioned the "p" word -- as in playoffs -- when discussing the game's implications.
Only one-third of the season is complete, but the third and final playoff in the West looks like it's going to be a three-horse race, since B.C. and Edmonton are firmly entrenched at the top of the loop.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have lost three in a row and sit in third spot at 3-4, which means the Bombers aren't that far out of it.
A Calgary win tonight, however, would mean Winnipeg falls even further into the basement. Some believe it would seal their fate as a non-playoff squad.
"We're on the edge, and it's raining, and it's 20-below. So it means the ice is about to start forming," Stegall said. "And when that happens, we're going to slip and fall off the edge.
"The crazy thing about it is we still have an opportunity because of what's been going on. That's the CFL for you.
"But everybody has a sense of urgency. We can't think 'If we lose this game, we still have a chance.' We can't think that way. We have to say, 'We're gonna win this game so we're back in the picture.' And hopefully everybody else is thinking that way."
Both teams are coming off losses. The Bomber defence displayed putrid tackling skills in its 34-27 road loss to the Toronto Argonauts on Monday, while the Stamps got lit up by B.C. quarterback Dave Dickenson in the Lions' 40-27 triumph last Friday night.
The Stamps beat the Bombers 21-15 at Canad Inns Stadium on July 7 in the first of three meetings between the teams this season.
"There's a lot on the line," Calgary head coach Tom Higgins said. "If we were to be able to win this one, the third's almost irrelevant, because then we're ahead by a whole game. So the significance is paramount."
However, Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn, who is 1-2 as a starter this season and didn't play against the Stamps a month ago because of an injured ankle, feels too much is being made of tonight's result.
"The outcome of this game, win or lose, is not going to make or break our season," he said.