Canadian Football League

Monday, November 07, 2005

Stamps clinch home Canadian Football League playoff date

The joke is over. The Calgary Stampeders capped a season of recovery Sunday by dumping the Edmonton Eskimos 43-23 and clinching second place in the CFL West.
"This is only the first half - we've got to get the victory next week," said quarterback Henry Burris, who threw for three touchdowns and 311 yards while running in another major on his own.
Calgary's win leaves the Stampeders and the Eskimos with identical 11-7 records, but Edmonton slipped to third place in the CFL West after losing twice to their southern Alberta rivals. A rematch at McMahon Stadium happens next Sunday.
The winner will play the B.C. Lions.
"It's great to get the home field advantage, but next week it won't matter," said Burris, whose off-season signing was viewed as the key to the Stampeder rebuilding effort. "We'll start all over and we've got to win that half."
Calgary led 15-9 at halftime, but cracked the game open in the third quarter on cornerback Jermaine Chatman's 67-yard interception return after picking off a Ricky Ray pass.
Ray had spent the first half making short quick passes to sidelines and Chatman told the coaching staff at halftime he wasn't going to let that continue.
"He went to the well one too many times," said Chatman on the field after the game.
The win caps the Stampeders' amazing road to respectability after three years of missing the playoffs and becoming the laughing stock of the CFL.
Heading into the playoffs, the Stampeders are red hot. They've won seven of their last eight games and finish the regular season with a 5-4 record at home.
That's a far cry from the 15 wins the Stamps had over the last three seasons. That remarkable turnaround under head coach Tom Higgins should make him a strong contender for the CFL's coach of the year.
"We can be champions, but we have to take it one game at a time," said Higgins, who parted with the Eskimos after Edmonton was ousted from the playoffs by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season.
Higgins refused to crow over the team which cast him off after 11 seasons.
"I'm very proud of all those guys there," said Higgins. "I know their backgrounds, I know their wives, their girlfriends, their children. It is one classy group of athletes there, but at the end of the season someone has to be sad. And if I have to choose one, I'd rather be the one smiling."
The loss stunned the Edmonton Eskimos, who will not have a playoff game at Commonwealth Stadium for the first time since 1999.
Ray gave up three interceptions as he went 24 for 40 in passing, racking up 228 yards. He failed to throw a touchdown for the fifth straight game, but he did run in one major.
Edmonton kicker Sean Fleming struggled, missing two field goal attempts in the second quarter. Coming into the game, the 14-year Eskimo was good on 16 of his last 19 attempts.
Jason Maas, who relieved Ray late in the final quarter, went three for three and passed to Jason Tucker for a touchdown.
Edmonton also had a touchdown from Troy Davis on the first drive of the tame.
Eskimos coach Danny Maciocia was disappointed with his team's performance Sunday, noting that there many players who will have to step up their game for next weekend's rematch. He didn't single out Ray for criticism despite three interceptions, noting that the entire team will have to regroup.
"We have an intense week ahead of us," said Maciocia.
On Sunday, Burris connected with Brett Ralph, Martay Jenkins and Nik Lewis for touchdowns. Joffrey Reynolds and Nik Lewis ran in two more.
Lewis, last year's rookie of the year, carried the ball eight times for 145 yards. Seven of those carries were for first downs. He finished just shy of the league pass receiving title, an honour gained by Edmonton's Tucker, but shrugged that off.
"The first year you think about that, but right now it's winning the game," said Lewis, whose mother came from Texas for the game. "Putting up victories gets us somewhere I've never been before and that's the Grey Cup."
The Stamps got offensive help from unlikely places, such as Jenkins' major, which came on a 50-yard pass from Burris and ignited the announced crowd of 31,017.
"It felt good to just be able to display my speed to the world," said Jenkins.
Notes: Fans had a chance to say goodbye to retiring Jamie Crysdale, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the summer. An emotional Crysdale predicted fans may not have seen the last him, predicting the Stamps would make it to the Grey Cup: "I might just have a chance to play one more time."


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