September 9, 2011

Stephen: What a difference a year makes?

Mark Stephen

What a difference a year makes. 

The Labour Day match in 2010 saw the Calgary Stampeders head to Edmonton after two lopsided wins in Calgary. The Stampeders were on top in the west, well ahead of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Fast forward one year: Edmonton is tied for first place with Calgary and holds the tie-breaker. Moreover, the Esks are coming off a pair of wins in Calgary. Needless to say, it is a vastly different pair of teams set to conclude the Labour Day home-and-home series from last season.

The urgency of the situation is not lost on the Calgary Stampeders, who are seeking to redeem themselves after a one-sided loss at home

“Yeah, it’s quick turnaround and to me that’s the best thing possible,” said Calgary quarterback Henry Burris who passed for a season-low 132 yards on Labour Day Monday.

“Edmonton came in and did what they had to do on Monday. They played with more energy and more effort – they wanted it more than us. So here is an opportunity for us to right some wrongs.”

The list of wrongs for Calgary was a fairly extensive one. After scoring the game’s first touchdown, they committed four turnovers. The Stamps also racked up fourteen penalties and lost the field position battle.  

However, given the quick turnaround between games, the Stampeders had little time to dwell on their woes.

“They (players) really have to pay attention to detail during this week,” said Stampeders GM/head coach John Hufnagel. “Just make sure they thoroughly understand because they wouldn’t have had as many reps as they would in a normal week.” ‘

The Eskimos also had little time to celebrate their success in hostile McMahon Stadium. Receiver Adarius Bowman is expecting a far different Calgary team on Friday.

“Calgary is not a blow over team,” noted  Bowman who scored a touchdown in Calgary on Labour Day. “I have total respect for both sides of the ball, offence and defence. From the outlook of Monday’s game, I know those guys are going to be ready. It’s going to be a great game.”

If Calgary is looking for any solace, they can look at history. On twenty two occasions, these teams have played the Monday-Friday home-and-home series. On twelve occasions, there has been a split while each team has recorded five sweeps.

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed, having played in many of the back to backs, is well aware of the challenge facing the Eskimos.

“They’re (sweeps) very difficult,” said the Eskimos first year head coach. “Going out there on Friday night is going to be a difficult task. We are going have to be mentally prepared for a battle.”

The Stamps will again shake up the offensive line for the rematch. Edwin Harrrison comes off the nine-game injured list and will play at left tackle. Harrison has missed all of 2011 following an off-season training accident. 

Harrison made fifteen starts for the Stampeders in 2010 and was the team’s nominee for rookie-of-the-year. He becomes the third starter at left tackle for the club, with rookie Tony Washington, who started Monday, will watch the Labour Day rematch.

One thing the Stampeders have going for them is their road record. They have won their first four road games this year.

The last time they won four straight road contests to start a season was 1998, a year they won the Grey Cup. In fact, dating back to Thanksgiving 2010, the Stamps have won six straight road contests.

Given the standings in the west and the rough outing on Monday, the Stampeders will need some of that road magic to kick in.