Eskimos fans hope to ride momentum into McMahon Stadium for weekend Western Final

Eskimos fans hope to ride momentum into McMahon Stadium for weekend Western Final

Eskimos fans are licking their chops at the thought of what's at stake this weekend at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. 

Self-described super fan Matt Machado is pumped up for Sunday's CFL Western Final, and he's not afraid to fire off the first shot in what will be a week filled with trash talk.

'Completely different beast'

"When it comes to the playoffs, you throw every single record in the season out the window, you throw the standings out the window, you burn season stats," said Machado, who is amassing a small army of diehard Eskimos fans to head down to Calgary for the game.

A season-ticket holder in Section O at Commonwealth Stadium, Machado said he already has 68 fans confirmed to attend Sunday's game. All of them will sit in upper Section B at McMahon. He hopes to increase that number to 100.  

"This is a completely different beast in the playoffs, everybody goes in 0-0. You start with a fresh slate. There is no doubt in my mind the Eskimos can beat the Stampeders on Sunday. The only concern I have is how cold that beer's going to be. "

Some may wonder at Machado's confidence. But his team certainly has momentum.

As dominant as the Stampeders have been in Battle of Alberta matches, winning two of three meetings this year, the team finished the season on a three-game losing streak, the first time that has happened since 2007.

Edmonton is coming off a 39-32 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in last Sunday's semi-final.

'Two of the best quarterbacks'

"Any time you've got a chance to beat Calgary to go to the Grey Cup, it makes the Battle of Alberta that much more special," said Machado, who was at McMahon Stadium in 2014 for an Eskimos loss. He was also at Commonwealth Stadium the next year when his team beat the Stamps, then went on to win a league-leading 14th Grey Cup.

The Esks' up-and-down year started with seven straight wins, followed by six straight losses, then another six wins, including last weekend.

A healthy lineup and the addition of running back C.J. Gable in an early October trade has boosted the Eskimos offence.

'We're coming to spoil the party'

"Mike Reilly is having six weeks that no one has ever had," said CFL analyst Davis Sanchez, who watched the Eskimos starter complete 23 of 33 pass attempts for 334 yards on Sunday, with three TDs and no interceptions.

"It's two teams going in different directions but with two of the best quarterbacks in this league, so it's going to be a serious battle for sure," said Sanchez, who won two Grey Cup championships as a player, one with Edmonton in 2005, and another in 2009 with the Montreal Alouettes. 

"It's going to be a good game, buckle up and enjoy the ride," said Machado. "We're firing on all cylinders right now. The Eskimos are a force to be reckoned with and Calgary doesn't stand a chance. The only thing Calgary's got going for them right now is that game is on home soil. But we're coming to spoil the party."

Discipline, discipline, discipline

Sunday marks the first CFL Western Final for Eskimos head coach Jason Maas.

Maas took the club to the Eastern Final last year, losing 35-22 to the Ottawa Redblacks. 

One key to a win on Sunday will be discipline, something Maas said his team finally figured out after going six games without a win earlier this season. The players started holding each other accountable and put up a board with keys for players who were playing disciplined, and pushups for those still making mistakes on the field.

"During our losing streak, our guys finally said, 'Enough's enough, we're fed up with this crap.' They started to find each other, we started to do the pushups, we started to do extra stuff," said Maas, whose team won five of its last six regular-season games.

On the other side of the ball, the Stampeders have been virtually unbeatable at home. But they've showed some areas that need work, including discipline, after losing their last three games of the season. 

"I've watched them for many years and they don't generally hurt themselves," said Maas. "If they continue to do that to us on Sunday, I'd feel better about our chances of winning."

No matter what happens on Sunday, one thing is guaranteed. Alberta will be represented at this year's 105th Grey Cup in Ottawa.