A career Hamilton Tiger-Cat until his recent trade to the Edmonton Eskimos, Gable was more familiar with Hamilton’s football rivalry with Toronto.
But the running back is learning how hotly contested games are between the Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders, particularly when the stakes are a trip to the Grey Cup.
The Stampeders host the Eskimos in Sunday’s West Division final with the winner advancing to the CFL’s championship game Nov. 26 in Ottawa.
“When I got here and when I was about to play against Calgary, it was a big deal,” Gable said Saturday. “Everyone was like ‘make sure you win that game.’ They don’t like each other.”
After his Oct. 2 trade, Gable revived Edmonton’s ground game that was averaging just 66 rushing yards per game from Weeks 9 to 13.
In five games wearing green and gold, Gable has 473 yards on 89 carries and four rushing touchdowns. He ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the division semifinal against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“He’s elusive, he can make guys miss. His ball security has been tremendous for us,” Edmonton head coach Jason Maas said.
“Our offence has continued to run efficiently with him back there. We’re just getting better each time he gets another game under his belt.”
Gable gives the CFL’s No. 1 offence yet another weapon in Sunday’s game at McMahon Stadium.
Their offence sluggish, the Stampeders won games in the season’s second half on the backs of the top-ranked defence in the league.
But Calgary’s front four and secondary will have their hands full against a multi-pronged attack, which was on full display in a 39-32 win over the Blue Bombers in the division semifinal.
Quarterback Mike Reilly threw for 334 yards and a trio of touchdowns, as well as rushing for 32 yards, against the Bombers.
Receivers Derel Walker, Vidal Hazelton, Adarius Bowman, Brandon Zylstra and Cory Watson give the Eskimos quarterback a plethora of options.
“The worst part is, you’ve got to be ready for everybody, which you do prepare for every week, but I guess other teams you can focus more on one player than another,” Stampeders middle linebacker Alex Singleton said.
“They’ve got five good receivers, a good running back and a good quarterback. We’re going to have to stop them, make them one dimensional. Hopefully take out their running game and force Mike to beat us with his arm a lot.”
Calgary posted the CFL’s best record at 13-4-1, but lost three in a row to end the regular season including two at home. Edmonton (12-6) rides a six-game winning streak, including their playoff win, into Sunday.
After falling 30-7 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Oct. 20, the Stampeders backed into first in the division the following day when Winnipeg lost to Toronto.
Both quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and Singleton indicated Saturday that the Stampeders limited their playbook after locking down the division final at home to avoid showing their hand for the post-season.
Mitchell didn’t play in the regular-season finale to save his throwing arm for the playoffs.
“Once you’ve locked up first place, yeah, you want to play good football,” Mitchell said. “Obviously you don’t want to go out there and lose football games.
“But we wanted to do certain things and not show too many things.”
Maas doesn’t expect to see an overhauled Calgary defence Sunday.
“I’d be shocked if they came out and played a completely different defence, something we’re not exactly prepared for,” Edmonton’s coach said. “Will they have a wrinkle or two? I’m guessing they would. ”
Rookie returner Tunde Adeleke has spent time in Calgary’s backfield this season and will again Sunday. The Carleton product fills in at strongside linebacker for Shaquille Richardson (knee).
Defensive end Cordarro Law, who sat out the entire regular season with a leg injury, recently returned to practice, but Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson left Law out of Sunday’s lineup.
“They’ve got too many weapons to not be close to your best,” Dickenson said.