When the Calgary Stampeders take on the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium, it will be a battle of teams heading in opposite directions.
The Stampeders (12-3) can clinch a home playoff date with a win, while the Eskimos (3-12) have already been eliminated from playoff contention for the fourth time in eight years since winning the 2005 Grey Cup.
Still, the Stampeders know they have to bring their best against their provincial rivals, who have the opportunity play the role of spoiler.
“We’ve got to take care of a very good team,” said Stamps linebacker Juwan Simpson. “We’re definitely not overlooking those guys.”
Led by quarterback Mike Reilly, the Eskimos scored 27 points in the fourth quarter when the teams met Sept. 2 at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium. The Stampeders narrowly escaped with a 37-34 win.
“They played us tough during the Labour Day game,” Simpson said. “We know we’re getting a tough team and a tough quarterback that’s going to fight for four quarters. We know we’ve got a fight on our hands and we’re ready for it.”
Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn insisted that the Stampeders definitely won’t take the Eskimos lightly.
“As a team, we haven’t done that all year and we’re not going to start,” said Glenn, who needs to throw for just 89 yards to move past Tom Clements and into 10th spot on the CFL’s all-time passing list. “We know that Edmonton has a very good team and their record necessarily doesn’t indicate what type of team that they are.”
Glenn pointed out that the two Alberta rivals have had very close games this year and dating back to last season as well.
“It’s going to be a rivalry that’s going to be well played on both sides,” Glenn said. “I think the team that’s focused and doesn’t turn the ball over will probably come away with the victory.”
Calgary running back Jon Cornish echoed the sentiments of both Simpson and Glenn.
“We have a lot of respect for Edmonton,” said Cornish, who ran for 130 yards and one touchdown to lead the Stamps to a 40-26 win over the B.C. Lions at home last Friday. “Having played them already, we know what they’re capable of and how strong a team they really are. I’d never take them lightly.”
With his performance against the Lions, Cornish surpassed his own record for most rushing yards by a Canadian in a season and also broke B.C. running back Andrew Harris’ record for most all-purpose yards by a Canadian. Cornish currently leads the CFL in both categories with 1,545 rushing yards and 1,865 total yards from scrimmage.
“I feel better than I did last year at this point, actually a lot better than I did last year at this point,” said Cornish, who has reeled off three consecutive 100-yard rushing games to give him seven triple-digit performances this season. “I want to continue to dominate. That’s something I’ve sort of become accustomed to at this point.”
For his efforts, Cornish was chosen as the CFL’s Canadian player of the week for the fifth time this season and 19th time in his career.
“I’ll maybe try and get one more before the season is out and try and get that 20th,” Cornish said. “It’s always nice to be recognized for your contributions. I think it’s still always nice after 19 times to hear about it.”
According to Glenn, Cornish is well deserving off all the recognition he gets.
“When it comes down to it, he’s a really, really good guy,” Glenn said. “You want guys like that to go into battle with. You want a guy that really is there to fight for his teammates when we’re on the field.”
Cornish also has an outside shot to break Willie Burden’s club record of 1,896 rushing yards that was set back in 1975.
“If I have a huge game in one of these next three, yeah potentially it could be on my mind,” said Cornish, who missed one game earlier this season with a thigh injury. “It’s not really something that I’m too worried about. I like to think of myself being in unexplored territory and undiscovered country, if you will.”