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November 20, 2018

ONE GOAL IN MIND

Emanuel Davis (8) of the Calgary Stampeders and Greg Ellingson (82) of the Ottawa RedBlacks during the game at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, ON on Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

When Emanuel Davis went off in search of new digs, none of square-footage, green or garage space or recent upgrades were anywhere to be found on his wish-list checklist.

He promised himself strict adherence to a tried-and-true realtor’s sales pitch:

Location, location, location …

“Chance to win a championship. Chance to get a ring. That’s where I wanted to be,’’ reiterates the defensive back.

“I didn’t care where that was. I didn’t care who it was with.

“I had one thing on my mind.

“Only one.”

Today, settled into those new digs and feeling very much at home, he’s one game away from that one thing.

“This,’’ says Davis, “has been everything I’d imagined, I’d hoped for.

“And then some.

“The Stampeders’ organization has such a great reputation around the league, such a habit of winning, and you see why when you get here.

“I guess what I didn’t expect is what a close-knit group I was joining and how the guys would embrace me when I arrived.

“They made me feel welcome, a part of things, right away. We’re a real brotherhood. So if anything kinda caught me by surprise it was just how embracing those guys would be coming in.”

In joining Davis with fellow defensive back Brandon Smith, corners Tre Roberson and Ciante Evans, Tunde Adeleki/Adam Berger at safety and Jamar Wall at the SAM linebacking role, the Stampeders have fashioned the loop’s stingiest secondary unit.

“I’d rank this group right at the top of the charts, in my time, in my experience,’’ reckons Davis, a 2015-16 East All Star in Hamilton.

“We have a lot of veteran guys here who’ve been around the league. So there’s not a lot of teaching involved. We bounce ideas off each other, pick each other’s brains in the sense of: ‘What do you know that I don’t?’

“We play a kind of mental gymnastics with other in the meeting room because most of us have been around awhile, seen a lot and trust each other.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the course of the year and those experience, good and bad, have led us here. With these guys, I feel like we’re just clicking at the right time.”

During Sunday’s West Division tête-à-tête with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the DeVone Claybrooks-blueprinted defence as a whole (zero TDs allowed) and Josh Bell’s secondary gang as a group (156 yards allowed passing) were both beyond praise.

Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium, in the 106th Grey Cup, the Stampeders’ defensive resolve is sure to be put to the test by the Ottawa RedBlacks, full of swagger after eviscerating the Hamilton Tiger Cats 46-27.

Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, R.J. Harris, Diontae Spencer and William Powell released out of the backfield in a receiving role, the RedBlacks boast a formidable group.

“They do have a lot of dynamic players,’’ agrees Davis. “And in my opinion they use the CFL rules more to their advantage than any other team. In the sense of using waggles, motion, hiding guys, putting people in good positions.

“Always trying to keep your eyes wandering as a DB, not focused on anything, trying to misdirect you.

“They’re good at that.

“I was in the East for few years, I’m used to seeing those guys. That’s how I was groomed, by playing against that smoke-and-mirrors offence.”

In the East semi, RedBlacks’ quarterback Trevor Harris went all Sweeney Todd on the Ti-Cat secondary Sunday, slicing and dicing Jerry Glanville’s gang for 365 yards and six touchdowns, going an astonishing 29-for-32 (906%) in the process.

Harris may rarely be mentioned in the same breath as, say, a Bo Levi Mitchell, a Jeremiah Masoli, a Travis Lulay or a Mike Reilly but Davis and the rest of the Calgary D aren’t shy about expressing their open admiration.

“In my mind, he hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves,’’ Davis emphasizes. “He’s put up Ws – a lot of Ws – since getting the starting job in Ottawa. And he’s got a Grey Cup ring.

“So the proof’s in the pudding, isn’t it?

“He wins games. He wins championships. He knows how to rally his guys.

“That’s what elite quarterbacks are supposed to do.”

The one previous Grey Cup appearance for Davis arrived in 2013, he and the Ti-Cats were paddled 45-23 by the homesteading Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium/Taylor Field.

Sunday is a chance at atonement.

“The last time I won a championship?” The 30-year-old thinks on that only a moment. “My sophomore year in college. In the AAC conference, at East Carolina.

“It might not seem that long ago but it’s been long enough in my mind.

“A Grey Cup is only thing, the one accolade, I’m missing from my time in this league.

“I want to be a champion.

“I want to be on top of that mountain.”

There it is again.

Location, location, location …