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Ottawa Redblacks look to dispel the ghosts of last year’s Grey Cup loss

Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Jerrell Gavins celebrates a play against the Edmonton Eskimos on Nov. 20, 2016.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Ottawa Redblacks believe last year's Grey Cup loss will serve them well as they look for a different result against the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday.

The Redblacks, making their second straight appearance in the CFL championship game, lost 26-20 to the Edmonton Eskimos last season and for many the sting remains.

Beating the Eskimos 35-23 in the East Division final was the first step in retribution, but the Redblacks still have some unfinished work.

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"This year is a little different as we understand what the end goal is," said wide receiver Brad Sinopoli. "As great as it was to win here, we have bigger things in mind. Let's just say we're focused. We're excited, but we're really focused."

Activities leading up to the Grey Cup can be overwhelming for players and Sinopoli says it's important to keep things in perspective.

"Going through the whole week is a lot when you don't know what to expect," Sinopoli said. "There's a lot more attention on everything and guys tend to maybe overthink the whole week and the game. There's a lot of hoopla around it and you have to realize that it's just a football game in the end."

Players aren't the only ones who benefited from last year's Grey Cup experience.

"It definitely helps to go through it once," said head coach Rick Campbell. "I have a better game plan to make sure I know exactly what I'm doing as far as the stuff I need to do football wise and then the other stuff I need to do for media and other things."

Taking on the Stampeders will offer a significant challenge for the Redblacks. Calgary finished the season 15-2-1 and advanced to the Grey Cup after a 42-15 thrashing of the B.C. Lions.

Calgary is considered the heavy favourite, and the Redblacks have no issue with that.

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"We deserve to be the underdog, they deserve to be the favourite," Campbell said. "We know when we play good football we can play with anybody.

"We're going to put our best foot forward and control what we can control and if we play good football and limit turnovers and penalties we feel we can play with anybody."

By all accounts this was a challenging season for the Redblacks filled with injuries, a quarterback controversy and an unending struggle to find consistency. Yet, in the end, Ottawa found a way to win when few believed they were capable.

Sinopoli summed it up in one word: "resiliency."

"The record wasn't there and all year we were kind of fighting people telling us that the East wasn't good enough and we're really not good enough, but none of that really matters," Sinopoli said. "We were in a position to get to where we are and we played a really tough game in the East Final in tough conditions and we stayed the course all year. We knew as long as we had the opportunity that's all we needed and now we're here."

The Redblacks don't expect running back Mossis Madu Jr. or offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers to play Sunday as both continue to recover from injury; linebacker Taylor Reed is probable.

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