It was easy to see that the Stampeders were feeling a little disrespected following their 22-14 win over the Bombers in the West Final on Sunday afternoon.
As the West Division Champions trophy was being handed to Dave Dickenson, a players voice could be heard calling out with heavy sarcasm “Cuz we trash, right? Oh we trash…” which encapsulated the feeling of a whole lot of the Stampeders players on the day where they booked their third straight Grey Cup appearance.
There were several players talking about media reports that suggested that Winnipeg’s offensive line would be too much. That Andrew Harris was going to manhandle them as he did to Saskatchewan the week before. That somehow a three game slide following the clinching of a playoff spot meant that they wouldn’t be able to handle the leagues highest scoring offence.
The Stampeders responded in a way defensively that should worry fans of the Redblacks. They allowed 14 points, with only 12 of those coming against the defence, with zero touchdowns and just 262 yards to the Bombers. Those numbers are 16 points and 102 yards below average for Winnipeg on the year.
It’s clear the team felt they had something to prove and had not just a chip on their shoulder, but an entire potato.
After the game, Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson addressed the media and suggested that the CFL world has gotten tired of seeing them win. “They enjoy seeing us fail. Let’s be honest about it.” But also let a little optimism shine through adding “I’m hoping to rally the troops a little bit. I hope that people understand the journey we are on, the team we have, and the type of players we’ve got and appreciate us for that.”
He expanded on those thoughts saying “I get the sense throughout the league that everyone was looking for a new team to show up, new storylines….”
Dickenson’s quarterback wasn’t feeling any different when he spoke to reporters after the game. “Be honest with us, did y’all want us to be there?” Mitchell echoed his coach.
Mitchell explained he didn’t intend to be disrespectful with the question. “We all understand people want change. You want to see up-and-comers changing the game. I’ve spoken on this a couple times. Of course you don’t want to see us out there. It’s our job to come out there and prove y’all wrong.”
The Stampeders pivot was careful about offering any bulletin board material for Ottawa though. When responding to Postmedia’s Danny Austin about the “poetry” of going into the home of Calgary’s fiercest rival and potentially winning the Grey Cup on the Eskimos field, Mitchell said “I’m not going to disrespect Edmonton in that way and I’m not going to disrespect Ottawa in that way. To say that we’re doing this, and we get motivation from the fact that we’re playing on our rivals field, or that I can go sit in Mike’s (Esks QB Reilly) locker, has zero things to do with the game.”
Despite his experience in B.C. in 2014 where he remembers having to go on a silent count against the Ticats, he is non-committal on where the fans loyalties will lie next Sunday. “I don’t know if Western fans want us to win or want us to lose. I don’t know. We’ll find out on play one and go from there.”
Both the coach and the QB seem off-put by the attempt to see any setback as the crack that causes the mighty colossus that has been the Stampeders over the last decade to topple. Every year pundits call for the Stampeders to take a step back, falter, and not be the week in and week out favourite.
However, this is the fifth Grey Cup appearance in seven years.
Dickenson knows that people are waiting for another Western representative. His response? “Guess what? Isn’t happening.”