Tricky busi­ness

No clear favourite in West fi­nal be­tween Stam­ped­ers, Es­ki­mos

The News (New Glasgow) - - SPORTS - BY SCOTT CRUICK­SHANK

Stam­ped­ers head coach Dave Dick­en­son seems as cu­ri­ous as any­one to find out which team is go­ing to be in­stalled as the CFL Western fi­nal favourite.

Will it be Dick­en­son’s crew, which fin­ished with the best record in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League, but dropped its last three reg­u­lar-sea­son dates? Or will it be the Ed­mon­ton Es­ki­mos, who top­pled the host Win­nipeg Blue Bombers in the West semi­fi­nal Sun­day?

It’s tricky busi­ness for odd­s­mak­ers.

“I’ll be in­ter­ested in see­ing what the bet­ting line is,” Dick­en­son told re­porters Mon­day at McMa­hon Sta­dium. “I know a lot of peo­ple sur­veyed will be tak­ing Ed­mon­ton. And that’s OK. I cer­tainly don’t feel like we’re go­ing to go in as heavy favourites, which could, in our minds, maybe help.

“It’s go­ing to be a dog fight. It’s go­ing to be one of those games that I feel either team could win.”

The Bat­tle of Al­berta is slated for Sun­day in Cal­gary, where lo­cal ob­servers have been do­ing some se­ri­ous hand-wring­ing. The Stamps’ three-game los­ing streak is their long­est since 2007.

Nev­er­the­less, Dick­en­son has faith in his group.

“We have to play with con­fi­dence,” he said. “You get con­fi­dence by ex­e­cut­ing and do­ing your job the right way. We had a lit­tle bit of a hic­cup lately, but I’m cer­tainly ready to play an­other game. I have faith that we’re go­ing to play well and keep the things that were caus­ing us pain out of the plan — penal­ties, turnovers.”

In the coach’s mind, the af­ter­noon’s out­come will be de­ter­mined on three fronts — quar­ter­back, de­fen­sive line, spe­cial teams.

The passers — Bo Levi Mitchell for Cal­gary, Mike Reilly for Ed­mon­ton — make this a mar­quee matchup.

No one threw for more yards (5,830) or touch­downs (30) this sea­son than Reilly. Mitchell, as usual, fin­ished among the CFL’s lead­ers.

“The last few years, Mike and Bo have been bat­tling to see who that top guy is,” said Dick­en­son. “These two guys have been win­ning a ton of foot­ball games. Lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent types of player, (but) both are win­ners. Both guys com­mand re­spect. Also they are guys that seem to play best in big games.”

For the Stamps to pre­vail and ad­vance to the Grey Cup in Ot­tawa, Mitchell & Co. need to gen­er­ate touch­downs.

“You can’t set­tle for field goals,” said Dick­en­son, whose team col­lected a league-high 27 three­p­oint­ers from in­side the 30. “That’s been one of our Achilles heels all year — we need touch­downs. If we get that, hope­fully we win.”

His­tory, how­ever, dic­tates that it’ll be a coin toss.

In 23 play­off meet­ings, Ed­mon­ton has won 12, Cal­gary 11. They have split 12 Western fi­nal meet­ings.

“They’ve been one of the best teams, the last three, four years,” said Dick­en­son, whose club won two of three get-to­geth­ers this sea­son. “We’ve had back-and­forth games with them al­most ev­ery time. I think our teams match up fairly evenly.”

The Stamps’ big­gest draw so far was Labour Day’s visit from the Es­ki­mos, which was wit­nessed by a gath­er­ing of 33,731.

CP PHOTO

Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers’ head coach Dave Dick­en­son watches from the side­line dur­ing the first half of a game against the B.C. Li­ons in Van­cou­ver, B.C.

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