#CGYvsEDM | #CFLPink
EDMONTON -- The Calgary Stampeders have a chance to wrap up first place in the West Division on Friday night, as they visit the Edmonton Eskimos for a Week 17 clash at Commonwealth Stadium.
A win combined with a Saskatchewan loss clinches top spot for the Stampeders, who currently own a four-point lead over the second-place Riders and a six-point lead over the third-place BC Lions.
Sitting back in fourth place and eliminated from contention, meanwhile, is their Alberta rival, the Eskimos – yet even though 18 points separate the two teams, the Stampeders aren’t about to take this week’s opponent lightly as they aim for their fourth straight win.
With their only three losses coming to BC, Toronto, and Saskatchewan – the three other top-ranked teams in the league – that hasn’t been an issue so far.
“As a team, we haven't [taken anyone lightly] all year and we're not going to start,” quarterback Kevin Glenn told the Canadian Press. “We know that Edmonton has a very good team and their record necessarily doesn't indicate what type of team that they are.”
|Related: Stamps at Eskimos|
Follow tonight's game LIVE with
CFL Game Tracker
» Esks' Reilly not changing his approach
» Stamps control their own destiny
» Cauz: Cornish should win Lou Marsh Award
» Curan's next chapter could be a great one
» Smith makes early impact with Stampeders
» Steinberg's MMQB: Let the sprint begin
» 2013 CFL Playoff Scenarios
» CFL.ca Week 17 Game Notes
» Last Week for the Eskimos
» Last Week for the Stampeders
» Buy: Eskimos vs. Stampeders Tickets
Sometimes the most dangerous team is one with nothing to lose however, which is what Glenn and the Stamps know they’ll need to be prepared for this week. That’s especially true against the Eskimos, who aren’t your typical last-place, three-win football team.
The Esks boast undeniable talent on both sides of the ball and one of the top emerging young quarterbacks in the league, but with an uncanny six losses this season by five points or fewer they may not be what their record indicates.
“We have a lot of respect for Edmonton,” said Jon Cornish, the CFL’s rushing leader with 1,545 yards. “Having played them already, we know what they're capable of and how strong a team they really are.”
“I'd never take them lightly.”
If what happened on Labour Day serves as any indication, Cornish isn’t just being humble. Friday’s contest marks the third and final meeting of the Battle of Alberta this season after the Stamps swept the Labour Day home and home, but only by a combined total of 13 points.
The Stampeders jumped out to a 30-point lead in the second half on Labour Day, but four touchdown passes by Mike Reilly gave Calgary quite a scare. The Eskimos fell short on the final drive of the game with a chance to win it, and the Stamps barely held on for a wild 37-34 win.
The following week was another close battle that saw the Eskimos lead at the half, before the Stamps eventually pulled away with a nine-point fourth quarter on the way to a 22-12 win in Edmonton.
“They played us tough during the Labour Day game,” said linebacker Juwan Simpson. “We know we're getting a tough team and a tough quarterback that's going to fight for four quarters.”
“We know we've got a fight on our hands and we're ready for it.”
While cautious, the Stampeders don’t lack confidence heading into Friday’s clash, as they have their third three-game winning streak of the season and are coming off one of their biggest statement games of the season.
They toppled the Lions for the second time this season last weekend at McMahon Stadium, 40-26 as the offence stayed hot while the defence kept a talented BC attack well in check.
After leading all the way through the first three quarters, the Lions charged back to tie the game at 26 apiece midway through the fourth quarter. Yet the Stamps passed their latest test with flying colours, as Glenn hit rookie receiver Clifton Smith for his first career touchdown catch to reclaim the lead, before Chris Randle finished things off with an interception return touchdown.
|What are the writers saying?|
» Why Jon Cornish should be Canada's top athlete
» Curran's next chapter could be a great one
» The stage is now set for the Stampeders
Glenn and Cornish meanwhile continued to play some of the best football of their careers, as the veteran passer threw for 259 yards on 22-37 passing with a pair of touchdowns, while Cornish had 165 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 18 touches.
Glenn is the league’s hottest passer over the past three games, with 817 yards, seven touchdown passes, a completion percentage of 65.2 per cent, and a quarterback rating of 109.7 over that span. Cornish’s numbers, meanwhile, are all-world.
In the win he broke his own record for all-purpose yards in a single season for a Canadian, and is on pace for the third-best season of all-time in that category at a projected rate of 2,264 yards.
“I feel better than I did last year at this point, actually a lot better than I did last year at this point,” said Cornish. “I want to continue to dominate. That's something I've sort of become accustomed to at this point.”
Cornish has reeled off three straight 100-yard rushing games to give him seven on the season, and has an outside shot of breaking Willie Burden’s club record of 1,896 rushing yards in a season set back in 1975.
“If I have a huge game in one of these next three, yeah potentially it could be on my mind,” Cornish added. “It's not really something that I'm too worried about. I like to think of myself being in unexplored territory and undiscovered country, if you will.”
While the Esks are missing one of their most important defenders in JC Sherritt from the lineup, one player they hope can slow down Cornish is Rennie Curran, one of a number of bright spots on this team heading into next season.
The first-year linebacker sits third on the team in tackles despite starting the year out on special teams only, and earned Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in last week’s hotly-contested 14-9 loss in Riderville.
Curran was a tackle machine and played a huge role in keeping the Eskimos in that game, recording 11 tackles and an interception in the win. He figures to play an important role in the team’s future, which looks bright with so many talented players in the front seven.
“Just coming up here and taking a chance on the CFL, my biggest goal was to get on the field,” said Curran, who spent time on NFL practice rosters with the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Curran’s play has quietly resembled that of Sherritt’s, who broke the single-season tackles record in 2012, which is fitting because it was Sherritt’s success in the CFL that piqued Curran’s interest.
“Just watching film, I saw guys like JC Sherritt and [Damaso Munoz] who are around my size and that’s one thing I knew, that if I could come up here they wouldn’t necessarily pay attention to my height,” Curran told Esks.com.
South of the border Curran might be considered undersized, standing at 5-11, 230 pounds – a mark some running backs even eclipse. But in the CFL, where his speed in open space makes him a game-breaker, has allowed him to make a significant impact early in his career.
|The last time they met|
Friday, September 7, 2013
Calgary 22, Edmonton 12
Jon Cornish led his team on the ground and in receiving, while Rene Paredes connected on five field goals as the Calgary Stampeders battled their way to a 22-12 win over the Edmonton Eskimos earlier this year.
“It’s about being a playmaker, it’s about getting out there and showing teams what you can do and when I saw that I thought I could really be successful here,” he continued. “My game has always been about speed, just flying around and making plays so I knew that this would be a good league for me to demonstrate what I can do with my abilities.”
While the Eskimos were eliminated from playoff contention after last week’s close loss in Riderville, they still believe they have plenty to accomplish over the final weeks of the season.
For third-year head coach Kavis Reed it’s about facing three difficult West Division opponents in Calgary, BC, and Saskatchewan, and using the results as a measuring stick to see where the team stands.
“Last week was a good test in a very difficult environment, and I thought our football team showed a lot of character,” said Reed.
“For us to be measured against three tremendously tough teams down the stretch, all Western teams I think is a good opportunity for us to grow as a football team moving forward.”
Also important for the Eskimos in the final three games will be the continued development of Reilly, who’s shown this season that he’s capable of being an elite quarterback in this league, but now has to do it consistently.
“At the end of the day after I watched the tape, it’s pretty clear to me that I need to play a lot better,” Reilly said on the topic of last weekend’s loss. “I’ve got a lot of stuff that I’ve got to improve on, and I’m excited about getting to work this week and trying to improve on those things.”
Kickoff is at 9:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from the Canadian Press and Esks.com/Stampeders.com