Stampeders try to finally clinch first place against Lions

Gemma Karstens-Smith, Canadian Press

Dave Dickenson wants his Calgary Stampeders to taste victory one more time before they head into the playoffs.

The squad started the year strong but has dropped its last three games in a row and Calgary’s head coach said it’s important to generate some “good feelings” ahead of the post-season.

Calgary’s last win was on Oct. 8, when it beat the Montreal Alouettes 12-6.

“A lot of time, winning breeds winning, losing breeds losing,” Dickenson said. “If we want to make an impact in the playoffs, we have to have a better feeling coming out of this game.”

The Stampeders (12-5) will be in Vancouver this weekend to take on the B.C. Lions (9-8) in their final regular-season game.

Both teams have secured a playoff spot, but Calgary needs a win or a tie to clinch first in the West and secure a bye in the first round.

Micah Johnson said having a week off would be huge.

“We’re not machines,” the defensive lineman said. “Any time you can get rest it’s always good, so I feel like that bye week is huge, especially with the type of injuries, the kind of banged-up team we’ve been.”

But to win, the Stamps will have to get past the Lions’ defence, which has been strong in the second half of the season.

Dickenson said B.C. has a good pass rush and is very physical.

“We’ve just got to take what’s there,” he said. “We’d like to establish control at the line of scrimmage with our offensive line. I feel like that’s where games are won – up front.”

Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell will be looking to mix things up in order to compete with the B.C. defence.

“Sometimes when you’re playing a good defence you try to force things to prove they’re not as good as they are. And I think you have to understand that good defences are who they are for a reason,” he said. “So exploit what you can, but be smart, take care of the football. Because when you win the turnover battle you win the game.”

Mitchell has played in all of Calgary’s 17 games this year and leads the league in touchdowns throws with 34.

He’s also tossed for 4,846 yards but said he isn’t thinking about potentially breaking the 5,000-yard mark Saturday.

“It’s one of the things that at the end of your career you can look back and say you did it a couple of times and what not,” Mitchell said. “But it’s a testament to what everybody’s done this entire year. … A lot of different guys have had to catch footballs this year.”

The Lions are cemented in the cross-over spot, but the squad still has a lot to play for Saturday, said quarterback Travis Lulay.

He added that they’re keen to recover from last week’s ugly 35-16 loss in Saskatchewan.

“As a pro, no one in that locker-room feels good about that performance a week ago. We want to build that confidence back up,” said Lulay.

“It’s taken so much work for us to get back in position to be a playoff team that we don’t want to let that go to waste. We don’t want that to continue to slide, we don’t want to let doubt creep in. We want to go out and play a good, tough football game.”

Saturday will also mark head coach Wally Buono’s last game at B.C. Place.

The winningest coach in CFL history said he’s appreciative of what’s being done to commemorate the occasion, but is still focused on winning, especially in light of last week’s loss.

“We were so bad. For me not to treat (Saturday) like another game would be sending the players the wrong message,” Buono said.

“We’re at the time of the year where all the work that you’ve done, all the hours that you’ve put in, all the sacrifices, it comes to reality.”

The fact the Lions are playing the Stampeders is fitting, considering that Buono spent 13 years in Calgary.

Facing Dickenson _ who previously played for the Lions – also provides a little extra motivation.

“If I kick Dave’s butt will I be happy? I’ll be very happy. But I’ll still love him,” Buono said.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS (12-5) AT B.C. LIONS (9-8)

SATURDAY, B.C. PLACE

FINE CONVERSATION: B.C.’s Odell Willis took to social media earlier this week to voice his displeasure at being fined the league maximum for a hit on Saskatchewan quarterback Zach Collaros last Saturday. The defensive lineman said he had been leading with his shoulder, not his head, but got the maximum punishment anyway. Willis later apologized and the situation appears to have been addressed. Willis tweeted a photo of himself with CFL commissioner Randy Ambroise on Friday, thanking him for “the conversation.”

BIG TAKE DOWNS: Calgary’s Alex Singleton leads the league in defensive tackles with 115. It’s the second season in a row that the Stampeders’ linebacker has passed the 100 mark. He’s the ninth player in CFL history to post back-to-back 100-tackle seasons.

RECORD SETTER: Lions wide receiver Bryan Burnham will have a chance at the record books when he hits the field Saturday. The 28-year-old is just 14 yards away from hitting the 1,000 yard mark for the third year in a row. Burnham would be just the fifth Lion to accomplish the feat.

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