So much for the appetizers. Starting last night, the Baltimore CFLs were chewing on the meat of their schedule. In a seven-week stretch, they play five games against Western Division teams.
Sacramento was the first of two in a row against the West. Next Sunday, the CFLs play the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina, the previous coaching job of Baltimore's Don Matthews. The Roughriders are 5-0 at home this year.
It is perhaps no coincidence that 10 of Baltimore's 12 CFL veterans have played with Western Division teams.
"Teams in the West score a lot of points," said Baltimore cornerback Karl Anthony, who spent the previous four seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.
"A lot of the good quarterbacks are in the West -- Doug Flutie, Kent Austin, Damon Allen. They put a lot of points on the board. We've got to play tough defense against them.
"Ever since I've been in the league, the West has always been tough."
The CFLs are 1-2 against the West, losing to Sacramento and Calgary and beating the expansion Las Vegas Posse. Baltimore is 5-2 against Eastern opponents.
"Western Division teams are always stronger," said rush end O. J. Brigance, who played three years with the British Columbia Lions. "We have to win these games."
How good is the West? Even the CFLs' chief competition in the East, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, are a relocated Western Division team.
Fighting the dog days
Matthews talked to his players last week about maintaining their mental edge as the season hit the halfway mark.
"I explained to them that these are the dog days of the football season," Matthews said. "The excitement of the new season is over, the playoffs are still pretty far away.
"Mentally, they have to work harder at staying sharp. For us to get better, we have to realize what some of our problems are."
Happy in the slot
Rookie Reggie Perry, a quarterback and defensive back during his career at Southern Cal, signed with the CFLs as a wide receiver. But when he returned to the team in August from finger surgery, he found himself at another new position -- slotback. It's more to his liking, he says.
"I like it a lot because you get to be more physical," the 6-foot-2, 205- pound Perry said. "I run more inside routes. I'm not real fast, but at slot, I can use what speed I have and my strength to get open."
Cross country deal
When Sacramento coach Kay Stephenson traded running back Mike Pringle last May, he was certain not to send him to a Western Division club. Instead, Pringle wound up in Baltimore.
"I think the world of Mike Pringle," Stephenson said. "It was a tough decision. I certainly would not let him go to a team in the West."
Stephenson said one factor in the trade was the promise of second-year veteran Troy Mills, a 6-foot, 212-pounder who was expected to take Pringle's fullback job.
"I'm not surprised at what Mike's doing [with Baltimore]," Stephenson said.
Former Maryland lineman Mike Kiselak is Sacramento's starting center. Kiselak, 6-3 and 290 pounds, played at Maryland from 1985 to 1989. He moved from the defensive line to offensive guard as a junior and started all 11 games there as a senior.
Kiselak had NFL tryouts with the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Houston Oilers, and spent two years with the San Antonio Riders in the World League. A native of North Tarrytown, N.Y., he lives in San Antonio, where he owns a finance company.
At halftime, Colts Hall of Fame lineman Jim Parker and Orioles Hall of Famer Frank Robinson were inducted into the Ring of Honor at Memorial Stadium. . . . Pringle will conduct a punt, pass and kick clinic for 200 youngsters at the Lauer's Super Thrift in Riviera Beach today from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. . . . Pringle, Stan Petry and Michael Brooks will attend a "Back to School" rally at 1:30
p.m. tomorrow at Coldstream Elementary School.