July 5, 2022

Divisional Derby

Saddle up and hold on to your hats, Stamps fans.

Even though it’s only early July, the time of year when the city gears up for the Calgary Stampede, the CFL’s West Division has already been a wild ride right out of the chute.

Winnipeg is now 4-0 and two teams – the Lions and Stampeders – are currently 3-0, while the Roughriders are 3-1. All four of those squads are 2-0 at home and yet to drop a divisional game.

That leaves only the Elks, who are 1-3 but coming off an emotional win, looking to reign in the rest of the West.

“I look at the standings (every game) from Game 1,” admitted defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade following the team’s first post-bye week practice. “Especially as a defence, what’s really (important) is how we play in this building and letting everything else take care of itself. If we are successful here, there’s no way we won’t be near the top of the standings. So we definitely keep track of it, but we’ve got to play our game.”

Sure, the Stamps’ unblemished record through three games is exactly what they wanted, but Orimolade knows that their work will be cut out for them the rest of the way.

“No one is resting on a 3-0 start,” emphasized the fourth-year rush- end. “Honestly, we have to press harder. We’ve seen a breakdown of how we’ve done in the first three games and I would say as a defence, we still have a long way to go.”

After all, the team got off to a subpar start last year and had to work their way back into playoff contention.

Their 8-6 record in 2021 was good enough for third place in the West, but with the way things have started off this season, it’s very likely that an improved winning percentage will be required for postseason play.

“I think it’s still early, to be honest,” he said. “I think we have a lot to prove and I would say the other teams (in the West) do as well, except maybe for Winnipeg who has won the last two (Grey Cups). We’re just taking it a game at a time and we’ll see how we are in this next game.”

The East Division has struggled in comparison, as Toronto (1-2) and Montreal (1-3) currently sit atop the table. Ottawa and Hamilton have combined to go 0-7 so far but don’t have nearly as much ground to make up as they otherwise would out West.

To further demonstrate the divide, West teams are 11-1 thus far when facing Eastern competition.

Orimolade is well aware, however, that no team can be taken for granted, regardless of their record or division.

Keep in mind that Calgary was down by 10 in the second half to the Alouettes and then had to erase a 21-point deficit late in the third quarter against the Tiger-Cats.

“We’ve played two East teams so far and we played them really close,” recalled the Ivy League’s defensive player of the year in 2016 while with the Dartmouth Mean Green. “On any given night, an East team can beat a West team. So this is just how it’s going right now.”

Thursday’s matchup in Edmonton is another chance for Calgary to prove it deserves to keep its spot among the West’s elite.

Yet creating much of any separation in the standings may seem as tall a task as an eight-second bull ride at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

“Every game is definitely a big game, for sure,” said Orimolade. “Each game has a lot of weight to it. We’ve just got to make sure we win.”