UPDATED: 2008-10-25 03:02:48 MST
Stamps clinch first in West with win over Ticats
By IAN BUSBY
HAMILTON -- The stadium was cleared out when Jeff Pilon, still in full uniform, wandered back and forth across the football field.
The veteran offensive lineman was just soaking in the feeling of being a first-place team for the first time since his rookie season of 2000.
[b]"These kids don't understand it," Pilon said about his Calgary Stampeders teammates, who were in the locker-room celebrating a 28-17 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
"It's been nine years with a lot of ups and downs.
"This is a big part of our goal. We're not there yet."[/b]
Backed by his offensive line, Joffrey Reynolds scored two touchdowns and racked up 128 yards along the ground as the Stamps (12-5) clinched first place in the West Division.
They will host the West final Nov. 15 at McMahon Stadium. The Stamps have one tuneup game before the post-season dance begins, next Saturday at McMahon against the B.C. Lions, who will be looking for a win to help them clinch second.
"You get into the post-season tournament and it's one-game sudden death, and anything can happen," said head coach John Hufnagel. "I know we've won our first playoff game already."
It wasn't exactly a work of art beating the Tiger-Cats (3-14).
Quarterback Henry Burris had an admittedly off night, going 17-of-26 passing for 227 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
But the Stamps dominated the other two facets, preventing the Ticats from scoring by creating four turnovers.
On special teams, Charleston Hughes blocked a first-half field goal that the Stamps turned into a quick three points.
"The defence picked it up and special teams did a real nice job," Burris said.
"If one facet of our job isn't playing up to par, the rest of them can pick it up.
"We can't have those letdowns ahead but there is something to work on going forward, when the games get more important.
"We're one game away from the show and that's a special place to be right now."
Although Ticats starting quarterback Quinton Porter was on the money with his passing, going 18-of-26, the Stamps didn't allow many yards after the catch.
Porter left in the fourth quarter having thrown for 212 yards and just one touchdown, but his longest pass was just 38 yards.
In his first home start, former Saskatchewan Roughriders star Kenton Keith was held to just 33 yards on nine carries.
Porter didn't throw an interception, but he did lose the ball twice by fumbling under pressure from Stamps defensive tackle Eddie Freeman, who had one of two sacks.
"I've never been on top with a team like this," Freeman said. "This means a heck of a lot to us. It means a lot in terms of my family along the defensive line.
"We were trying to set a precedent, and we're on the right path. We needed momentum and we have it.
"This makes life a little more relaxing. Not easier, because that isn't the right word, but we have that bye and we can rest some injuries.
"We will enjoy what we've accomplished over the past 20 weeks.
"It feels good to be on top."[url=http://calsun.canoe.ca/Sports/Football/2008/10/25/7200291-sun.html]http://calsun.canoe.ca/Sports/Football/ ... 1-sun.html[/url]