Best in West, finally

UPDATED: 2008-11-16 02:52:23 MST

Stampeders get over hump and head back to Grey Cup


Stamps defensive end Mike Labinjo recorded three sacks in his club's 22-18 win over the Lions yesterday in the West final. (Al Charest, Sun Media)

The Calgary Stampeders are headed back to the site of their last Grey Cup win with a weight off their shoulders.

The West Division champions leave Tuesday for Montreal without the proverbial monkey that was on their back the past three CFL seasons when they suffered first-round exits.

Henry Burris threw a touchdown pass to Ken-Yon Rambo and ran for another score as the Stamps beat the B.C. Lions 22-18 yesterday at McMahon Stadium in the West final.

They will face the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup next Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

"For the entire team, we needed this," Burris said. "We earned this over our four-year stint here."

It was the defence and special teams that came up big for the home side in front of a soldout crowd of 35,650.

Defensive end Mike Labinjo had three sacks, two huge tackles for losses on a goal-line stand in the third quarter and another key forced fumble that swung the momentum in the Stamps' favour.

This was the club's fourth win this season over the Lions.

"It was probably fitting," said Stamps safety Wes Lysack. "I wouldn't have it any other way than beating B.C. You talk about cliches, but they've been a thorn in our side for three years.

"We knew coming into the season if we wanted to get to where we wanted to be, give ourselves a chance to win the Grey Cup, we would have to get through B.C.

"To cap it all off by beating them a fourth time feels pretty good."

The Lions had to settle for six Paul McCallum field goals and scored no touchdowns, despite dominating the time of possession in the first half.

Running back Stefan Logan piled up 130 yards on 18 carries, and both Ryan Grice-Mullen and Geroy Simon had 100-yard receiving games.

But that meant nothing because the Stamps tightened up when close to their own goal-posts.

"Defence ... six field goals," said Stamps slotback Nik Lewis. "Wes and I were talking before the game, and he said if the offence struggles, we have the defence to keep us in it. They did.

"We defied all odds this year. When we were told we couldn't win, we won.

"I want that Cup. We're coming into your place, Montreal. It won't be easy, but we're going to get it."

The home side also won on special teams, as returners Demetris Summers and Markus Howell made things happen every chance they had.

After a lacklustre first half offensively, Burris hit Rambo with a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 12-9 at the break. The Stamps had just 76 net yards to that point.

The Stamps finally took control in the final frame, as Burris capped an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to make the score 22-15.

[b]Throughout the game, it seemed Lions players were getting in Stamps faces with chatter.

The eventual game-winning TD shut them up.

"They were talking, weren't they?" Rambo said. "They said a whole bunch of crap this week. That sounded real good, all that yap.

"I'm from Missouri. You have to show me. This is the Show-Me State now.

"All that yapping sounds good during the week. But you have to come out and perform. Did they?

"They stopped talking in that fourth quarter. When the going starting getting tough, they shut up. It's funny how that happened.

"They said they were a great team, but they weren't better than us the whole season."
First-year Stamps coach John Hufnagel didn't temper the celebration afterwards but argues there was no playoff hump to get over.

"I never thought they had a playoff monkey," Hufnagel said. "When I was here (in the early 1990s), we won a lot of playoff games. I was pleased they were able to get it done.

"Sometimes those things are said, maybe unjustly, but before you win a game with the players that are in that locker-room, that's going to be said."

Not any more.

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It's only fitting. The 2 first place teams in the league faceoff, the 2 best QBs faceoff, the 2 rookie head coachs faceoff. Well earned by both teams, and Montreal will make a new Grey Cup rivalry with a Alberta team. Can't wait. Finally Montreal plays someone else other than Edmonton or B.C.

You deserve the celebration red.....yes, your team truly is "the best in the West"'s absolutely official. Now, go be best in the league and beat the Als. We're pulling for you guys.

Isn't it great for the league to have two rookie head coaches facing off in the Grey Cup final? It is high time we got some new blood into our coaching ranks!

Thanks Deb and I am sure Wally will be doing his magic in the off season to produce yet another good team next year. To all the BC fans thanks for being great sports this year. Sporty I am sure is going to get his Stamps jersey on now. I am sure he has one in his closet.

....congrats to your team red, you deserved the win...I thought bad Henry was going to show up (he tried a couple of times) ....but he fooled everyone , good luck in the Cup...

Funny you say that Dad! There has never been a bad Henry out there it is only that he has played against some very good defenses. The Lions are as everyone knows a good defensive team. And now realizing Calgarys defense has come of age. We are now teasing Mike Labinjo with AC's picture for next weekend.

…Well i guess i was referring to the Kevin Glenn type pass he threw for an interception on his 20…those things can come back to haunt you…but hey…overall he played a solid game… :thup: