CALGARY — One name you likely won’t hear connected to the Montana coaching search this time around is Dave Dickenson.
The former Great Falls CMR and Montana legend has already got a pretty good gig.
Dickenson is in his second year as head coach of the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders and getting his team ready for a second straight appearance in the Grey Cup championship.
“It’s just a crazy week,” Dickenson told media on Monday. “It’s a fun week. I love to be a part of it every year, but there’s a lot of things that go on in a Grey Cup week that you don’t usually see, but you just have to prioritize so that the things that are most important should be about the game. Everything should be good from there.”
Over the weekend, Calgary held off Edmonton to win the Western division final and is set to face the Toronto Argonauts (9-9) on Sunday for a league title. The Stampeders beat the Argonauts twice in the regular season and are heavy favorites on paper, but the same could be said for last year’s Grey Cup when Calgary lost to Ottawa in overtime.
So Montana’s “Legend of the Fall” is making sure his team stays focused on the game during a week full of press conferences, luncheons, awards ceremonies and hype.
“The thing about it with the players – you get pulled in a lot of different directions,” Dickenson said. “You’re trying to be a good teammate and a good family member. You got a lot of fans, and you got people that are from Calgary and you’re trying to give them time as well, but ultimately you got to be a bit selfish.”
Calgary (13-4-1) beat Toronto 41-24 on the road in Week 5 and 23-7 in Week 10, but the Argonauts have won six of their past nine games since that time with an offense that has improved as the season has gone on.
“(The Argonauts) have really turned it on the last seven, eight games,” Dickenson said. “They’ve done an excellent job — very balanced, very aggressive, good tacklers and playmakers on defense. They’re a well-coached team that has a lot of talent, and they keep kind of putting new guys in new positions to cater to their strengths. The back end (of the season) is different. They deserve to be here, as well. I thought they were the better team, I thought they outplayed Saskatchewan (in the Eastern Final), and they’re going to come in as rested as we are, so ultimately should be a great matchup.”
Dickenson won’t be the only face on the Calgary sideline familiar to Montana fans. Former Montana State linebacker Alex Singleton is the team’s nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award. His Calgary teammate, former Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, won it last year.
The man they call “Super Dave” won two state championships at CMR, he won a national championship at Montana and has won four Grey Cup championships as a player. But a win on Sunday would be his first as a head coach, in just his second year at the helm. The Stampeders have won eight CFL titles in their history.
“In the CFL there really isn’t much difference between one team and the next,” Dickenson said. “That’s what’s always kind of amazed me about how many wins we’ve had because the talent level is very, very similar. So you just have to believe that when it’s time to make a play, when the game is on the line your guys get it done. We just got to understand that either team can win it. It’s which team is sharp, focused, takes care of the ball, limits penalties, same things as always, but that’s what wins football games.”
Sunday’s kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. (MST) and will be broadcast on ESPN2.