It’s playoff time at McMahon Stadium.
But Friday night’s big showdown with the Saskatchewan Roughriders is tantamount to a post-season CFL tilt.
After all, it is win or be eliminated from the Grey Cup chase for the host Calgary Stampeders.
“You talk about do-or-die scenarios your whole life — like when you’re a kid,” said Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier. “You’re just playfully shooting hoops in your backyard or whatever, and you always had your parent or somebody saying, ‘Hey, if you make this shot, you get this. If you miss this shot, you got to go clean the dishes or something.
“This scenario has been played out in our heads since we were kids, so this is fun for us.”
‘Pressure’ seems more the word of the day when the Stamps (4-11) face the incoming Roughriders (6-10) at McMahon (7:30 p.m., TSN, News Talk 770) …
And both clubs — you’d think — would be feeling that with the final playoff spot in the CFL’s West Division on the line.
“You just cut loose,” reiterated Maier. “Like these types of things go one of two ways — either you’re super uptight and you’re nervous, or you really embrace it and say, ‘Man, what an opportunity to just be aggressive and go for everything that’s right there in front of you.’ So I know which we’re gonna lean more towards — that’s for sure. And then you go from there and just understand the situations of the game, and that kind of dictates your aggressiveness.
“But I want to go for it.”
Trouble is Maier & Co. will have to do so without arguably their best player — at least offensively — in veteran Reggie Begelton.
The receiver’s ribs have bothered him since taking a hellacious hit two weeks in Hamilton, and even with last week’s bye, he’s not ready to roll.
“Listen … if he could play, he’d play,” said Stampeders GM/head coach Dave Dickenson of his 1,000-yard pass-catcher. “He’s been a warrior all year and just doesn’t, at this point, feel like he could run and survive. So we need to win the game and give him a chance to play meaningful football as the season goes on.”
Strangely enough, it could be worse.
With losses in four straight games during a time when the Stampeders sat two wins back of a playoff spot, they could’ve easily been eliminated sometime in the last few weeks.
But because they Riders have also been slumping — by dropping their last five affairs — the Stamps are still very much alive and kicking. A win moves them within one win of catching Gang Green for the final playoff spot, with ownership of the tiebreaker by virtue of a 2-1 season-series record versus the Riders and with one game in hand on their rivals.
So … yeah … they’re still in it.
“How ’bout that? Pretty crazy,” said Maier, with a grin. “Truthfully, the past few weeks was kind of like, ‘Oh, man … it’s not looking too good for us.’ But then as the weeks go on, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re still alive, you’re still alive.
“So now it’s like, ‘Alright, man, we’re obviously being given these opportunities. Let’s take advantage of it now — finally.’ So I think that’s kind of the sense of urgency that we have. So there’s still confidence to still believe. But now it’s just a matter of OK, how many more opportunities do we need before we say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna put our foot down here and make this happen?’ And that’s the mentality right now.”
Staring them right in that mentality, though, is the fact that a loss — or even a tie — does kill them in the playoff hunt and does halt a 17-year club run of making the post-season.
And they know that’s on them.
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“You know what? We’ve worked well all year. We just haven’t played well enough,” Dickenson said. “We don’t play enough winning football. But as far as the team’s temperature, the guys have been locked in and they’re working hard. It’d be nice for some good things to happen to us — that’d be great — and try to find some something positive about the season. We are very fortunate, I believe, to still be alive at 4-11.
“But we’ve got to take advantage of an opportunity.”
“Yeah … you don’t want to necessarily say that everything that’s gone down in the past doesn’t matter, because it definitely does,” added Maier. “You don’t want to be in this position necessarily. But you have a home ‘playoff’ game, so you get an opportunity to right your wrongs a little bit and see what happens from there. I mean … we’re grateful, man. It’s been a tough road, but it is what it is, and we’re excited to get this opportunity.
“It’s going to be a brawl, man — it really is,” Maier added. “If it’s not, then I don’t know what the hell happened.”
Stampeders WR/KR Tommylee Lewis (personal reasons) is also out for Friday’s affair, but RB Peyton Logan (hamstring) comes off the six-game injured list to help with return duties … OL Sean McEwen (foot) returns to the lineup and centre responsibilities after missing the 22-15 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats … Also in for the Red & White are FB/WR Rysen John; WR Floyd Allen; and LB Adarius Taylor … Out, as well, for the game are: RB Dedrick Mills; OL Rodeem Brown; and LB Charlie Moore (head) — the Stamps’ special-teams ace.