2nd chance suits Stallions Victory over Calgary in Grey Cup would be the ultimate revenge

November 15, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

O. J. Brigance said a better script could not have been written.

The only Canadian Football League team Baltimore has failed to beat during its two-year history is the Calgary Stampeders.

And what better way to break that string than to knock off Calgary in Sunday's Grey Cup?

The Stallions will get the chance they have waited for since Aug. 6, when they dropped a 29-15 decision at McMahon Stadium.

That day, Calgary quarterback Doug Flutie threw for 405 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore's offense was going into a slump it wouldn't shake for three more weeks.

And the opponents did not exactly face each other on equal terms.

Calgary came into the contest on nine days of rest. The Stallions were playing their third and final game of a nine-day road trip. They were four days removed from a 19-12 victory at Edmonton, during which they lost free safety Lester Smith for the season with a broken foot, and nearly lost quarterback Tracy Ham to a sprained ankle.

The Stallions turned to backup Shawn Jones, but called on Ham in the first half, after Jones failed to move the offense consistently. Ham gave the Stallions a spark, but they tired in the second half, when their defense spent most of the time on the field, and Baltimore managed only two points.

The slate has been wiped clean. The Grey Cup will be decided by the two teams with the best records in the CFL, and each team has seven days to prepare.

"It's a bit more of an even playing field, and that's all you ever want as a player," said Brigance, Baltimore's middle linebacker.

"If we wrote the script, we couldn't have come up with anything better. We'll have a full week of rest this time around. I'm really looking forward to the two best teams coming in with the same amount of rest. And in a way, I'm kind of happy that Flutie is playing."

Few teams would wish to see Flutie, but if they win, the Stallions do not want any perceived blemishes on their Grey Cup title.

Four weeks after Baltimore's loss in Calgary, Flutie had the flexor tendon surgically reattached on his throwing elbow, and was expected to miss the rest of the season. But, while backup quarterback Jeff Garcia kept the Stampeders rolling atop the Northern Division standings, Flutie healed remarkably fast.

He returned in the regular-season finale against the Toronto Argonauts, played poorly in the playoff opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then was brilliant in Sunday's 37-4 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos for the divisional championship.

"I'd rather be playing Ottawa, but the two best teams are playing each other for the Cup, and that's the ideal situation for the league and the fans," linebackers coach Daryl Edralin said. "All that's happened in the past is meaningless. This time of the year, you can't compare teams and players from three months ago. I think we're at the top of our game."

So does veteran defensive halfback Ken Watson, who would like nothing better than to beat his old team with everything on the line. Baltimore is 0-2 against the Stampeders.

"I wanted to play them," said Watson, who signed with Baltimore last year after playing for two years in Calgary, including a Grey Cup championship season in 1992. "For one, it's the best two teams with the best two records. Two, we've beaten everybody else except Calgary. And with him [Flutie] back in, that means they're at their best, and we want to beat the best."

"We're a different team since the first Calgary game," added offensive tackle Neal Fort.

In the past three months, Baltimore has acquired free safety Chris Johnson to replace Smith. Cornerback Doug Craft has solidified the hole created by Karl Anthony's season-ending knee injury, and rookie Demetrious Maxie has replaced veteran defensive tackle Robert Presbury. The Stallions also have added veteran slotback Gerald Alphin to replace the injured Reggie Perry, and the entire team has fresher legs, thanks in part to a bye week in mid-October.

"They're 2-0 on us. We have something to prove against them," Fort said. "I'm really excited to get them."

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