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November 14, 2017

Stampeders rested, ready to rumble on Sunday

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Dave Dickenson is anticipating a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, toe-to-toe, hammer-and-tong slugfest.

One or the other of the combatants, he knows, is going to absorb a trademark uppercut like the Mattel Toys perennial Christmas gift favourite, and ziiiiiiiing!, get their block knocked off.

In the red corner, the Calgary Stampeders.

In the green, the Edmonton Eskimos.

“I think the fans,’’ reckons the Stamps head coach, “are ready for a heavyweight tilt.

“I know last year in the West Final it was as loud a crowd as we’ve had all year. It helped our guys against BC. The energy was there.

“But they’ve been there all year. Yeah, it’d be nice to fill up the building, keep everyone warm. It’s shoulder-to-shoulder up there.

“It’s gonna be a dogfight. One of those games either team could win.”

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Can Bo Levi Mitchell take his team to their second-straight Grey Cup? (Larry MacDougal/CFL.ca)

The Grey Cup-ticket-puncher everyone from High Level to Lethbridge, Grande Cache to Wainwright has hoped for is now only a few sleeps away.

The Stamps host the Esks in the Western Final at McMahon Stadium on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

“They’re very sound defensively,’’ assessed Dickenson of the Eskimos, 39-32 winners over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the road in Sunday’s Western Semi-Final. “They’ve got good players, added a nice piece with (Aaron) Grymes on the back end. Offensively, they were moving the line of scrimmage and with C.J. Gable in there, that gives them another dimension, another thing that’ll be tough on us.

“Special teams, in my opinion, have a big impact on any playoff game – as you saw yesterday, as well – and feel like with Roy (Finch) out there hopefully that can be the difference-maker for us.”

The Bo Levi Mitchell-Mike Reilly head-to-head quarterbacking match-up pits the current creme-de-la-creme of the glamour position against one another.

Reilly topped the league with 5,830 yards passing and 30 TDs, while Mitchell – the reigning MOP – had 4,700 yards and 23 majors.

“Doesn’t take anything from a Ricky Ray or anybody else out there,’’ agreed Dickenson, “but the last few years Mike and Bo have kind of been battling to see who the top guy is.

“There are a lot of other top players but I do think these two guys have been winning a ton of football games. Little bit different type of players but both winners, both command respect and both guys that seem to play best in big games.”

Much as Dickenson the QB did against his contemporaries during his days behind centre.

“If I was playing a good quarterback on the other side I knew I had to be extra sharp because you’re not going to be able to ride your defence,” he said.

“We have a good defence, so do they. But points are going to be needed to win this game. As a quarterback, going up against a guy you know will be movin’ the ball and has had success, you’d better bring (it).

Alex Singleton with go head-to-head with the red-hot C.J. Gable on Sunday (The Canadian Press)

“And you can’t settle for field goals. That’s been one of our Achilles’ heels all year. Touchdowns. We need touchdowns. We get (those), hopefully we win.”

The Stampeders return to the McMahon field on Wednesday to begin final preparations for Sunday’s kickoff.

Those three losses to finish up the regular schedule – the last two inflicted after they’d locked down first place, the bye and home-field for the Western Final – are in the past.

What matters is only now. Only Sunday.

“I want them to be themselves,” said Dickenson. “We have to have confidence. You get confidence by executing and doing your job the right way.

“We had a little bit of a hiccup late. I’m certainly ready to play a game, a meaningful game, that our guys show up and show what they can do.

“I have faith that we’re going to play well. I do. We’ll play hard. We’ve always played hard but now we need to play with focus

“Keep the things that were causing us pain out of the plan. Penalties. Turnovers, Let’s focus on playing fast, aggressive.”

Stamps-Esks.

Head-to-head. Toe-to-toe. Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em.

We await the bell.