Wally Buono and Dave Dickenson have a long history together as coach and player. Dickenson was a quarterback on Buono's teams for nine seasons with the Calgary Stampeders and B.C. Lions.
One will block the other's path to this year's Grey Cup when they go head to head, coaching against each other in Sunday's West Division final.
Dickenson, in his first year as head coach of the Stampeders, faces a man who has been a head coach in the CFL for 22 seasons. Of the five Grey Cups that Buono has hoisted, Dickenson was in on two of them – one as a Lion in 2006 and the other as a Stampeder in 1998.
Dickenson's Stampeders (15-2-1) and Buono's Lions (12-6) clash Sunday at McMahon Stadium for the right to play in the Grey Cup in Toronto on Nov. 27.
"Wally, he runs a tight ship and the players know what to expect," Dickenson said Monday. "A lot of the strategy of the game-time stuff is done by his assistant coaches. I'm sure he has input. It's not that different than what I do. I've got a little bit more input on the offence and I think he has more input on the defence.
"Wally loves the game. He's been at it a long time. The game's been good to him. He'll tell you that. I thought he did a great job this year. I know he's given me some recognition in the media and I have to give it back."
The Lions, one of just two teams to beat Calgary this season, topped the Stampeders 20-18 in their season opener June 25. The Stampeders lost their regular-season finale 17-8 to the Montreal Alouettes.
Calgary edged B.C. 44-41 with an overtime field goal July 29, and beat the Lions decisively 37-9 on Aug. 19 in Vancouver.
The Lions are coming off a 32-31 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the division semi-final Sunday.
Lions quarterback Jonathan Jennings scored a spectacular rushing touchdown with a minute and a half to play. Bombers kicker Justin Medlock missed a 61-yard field goal attempt to win the game at B.C. Place.
Calgary concluded its regular season with a bye, which puts three weeks between that loss to the Als and the division final. While flurries are in the forecast for Calgary this week, Sunday's outlook is mostly sunny with a high of two degrees for the afternoon kickoff.
After 10 days away from the field, the Stampeders resumed practice last week not knowing who their division final opponent would be. Dickenson is fine with their extended break after watching the Lions and Bombers hammer away at each other Sunday.
"I think our guys would rather have that rest," Dickenson said. "To tell you the truth, not playing against such a quality opponent in the West semifinal – either team could have won or lost that game – so I think any team who had the bye is going to take it.
"We know we've got to be ready. Try to get after them early so they don't ride the momentum they just got from winning the game."
The energy was where Dickenson wanted it when the Stampeders reunited on the field last week, but he said execution must improve by Sunday.
"Football is a timing-rhythm type of game. We may be out of rhythm," Dickenson said. "Throws weren't as sharp in our three practices, but I don't feel that's an excuse by any means.
"Mentally, there's no reason we shouldn't be at our best. It's professional football. You better show up."