Stamps kick off week preparing for 'aggressive' Eskimos

 

 
 
 
 
Calgary Stampeders' head coach John Hufnagel knows what the Eskimos bring to the table.
 

Calgary Stampeders' head coach John Hufnagel knows what the Eskimos bring to the table.

Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press

It’s been more than 10 weeks since the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos last clashed, but there are some challenges that aren’t easily forgotten.

“They’re the same aggressive football team,” Stamps’ head coach/GM John Hufnagel indicated. “They present a lot of problems; they have great athletes on their defence. Chris (Jones) uses them very wisely, puts them in good positions for success. They have a strong defensive line, an excellent pass rush, so the same team we played previously.”

In the three meetings during the 2014 CFL regular season, the Stamps were victorious three times and will try to make it an even four when they host the Eskimos in the Western Final on Sunday at McMahon Stadium. Edmonton earned the right to contest the division final by getting by the Saskatchewan Roughriders 18-10 on Sunday afternoon in the West semi. If anything, the game clearly displayed a defence that is at the top of its game, picking off five Riders’ passes and sacking the quarterbacks seven times.

“I thought it was going to be a defensive game, a physical game, and that’s exactly what it was,” Hufnagel noted. “Edmonton made more plays, Saskatchewan needed to make some plays down the field and they only made one.”

It’s not official whether Esks’ quarterback Mike Reilly will start on Sunday, but that’s the prevailing sentiment. He took over from an ineffective Matt Nichols and, though he wasn’t spectacular, he undoubtedly was a calming influence on the offence.

“He didn’t do much as far as running,” Hufnagel noted, “whether it was his health or how the game was. He didn’t look any different to me as far as what he was able to do on the field. I believe he’ll be the starting quarterback and he’ll be Mike Reilly.”

Also on the Stamps’ radar is running back John White, who handled 19 carries for 134 yards.

“He’s an excellent running back,” Hufnagel said. “He gets 100 yards a game for them. He’s a very strong runner, great change of direction, tough to bring down. He plays hard so he will be a challenge for us.”

As far as his own running back, CFL rushing leader Jon Cornish, Hufnagel fully expects him to be in the lineup and ready, having undergone the concussion protocol.

“He’s a big part of our offence. Obviously, we’ll try to use him. We need to have a good mix, a good balance, to our game plan on Sunday. We need to execute so we can have a good balance and running the football is a big part of it and being successful on first down. You don’t want to be second-and-long very much versus Edmonton’s defence.

“I believe the team that has more production on the ground will have more of a chance to succeed. I also believe the biggest factor in winning the football game is turnovers. In a playoff game, you just can’t give the other team unnecessary opportunities, which a turnover does create.”

Hufnagel also expects receiver Maurice Price (concussion) to be able to play and he’s optimistic about defensive end Charleston Hughes (foot) returning to action, though this week of practice will tell that tale.

The game will be a big test for quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who has his first opportunity to lead the Calgary offence from the start of a playoff game. Hufnagel has nothing but confidence in the young man.

“Bo’s played sparingly in playoff games before,” he explained. “I put him in a very difficult situation in the Western Final two years ago on a third-and-one midfield play and asked him to throw the ball 50 yards for a strike and he did. I don’t think the game will be too big for Bo.”

Asked whether he’s put the kibosh on trash talk this week, specifically via social networks, Hufnagel chuckled.

“Not yet. I’ll have a little chat with them tomorrow.”

 
 
 
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Calgary Stampeders' head coach John Hufnagel knows what the Eskimos bring to the table.
 

Calgary Stampeders' head coach John Hufnagel knows what the Eskimos bring to the table.

Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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