This is going to be a fun week!
The Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the Calgary Stampeders this Saturday in a massive West Division collision. However, as tempting as it is to jump into all the fun a Rider road trip to Calgary (Riderville 2) brings, we first have to go back and examine last week’s 35-14 home victory over BC.
It’s hard not to look ahead when you can see the finish line, and the Riders’ long-standing goal of finishing in first-place in the West this year, but the team did a great job of narrowing their focus down to last Saturday’s meeting with the Lions in Regina.
And simply put, had they not beaten BC, there would be no shot at first anyway. The Riders got off to a slow start, giving the ball away twice and falling down 7-0 to quarterback Thomas DeMarco’s Lions in the opening quarter. However, eight Lions giveaways (including four DeMarco interceptions) virtually handed the game over to Saskatchewan.
Sorry, but it’s true.
With the eventual victory, the Roughriders clinched themselves their first home playoff game since 2010. It came as a massive sense of relief for the team.
“Ohhh man it was a great night!” smiled Rider defensive end John Chick, who had a sack and a forced fumble in the win. “Just a lot of excitement there. We knew coming in the crowd was going to be into it and holy cow! It played the part so it was great.”
Roughrider head coach Corey Chamblin even allowed himself to pause and reflect on the accomplishment. Eleven wins represents a three-win improvement from last year, Chamblin’s rookie campaign on the sidelines, and a home playoff game is a benchmark for any football club.
“Hosting a playoff game is a positive,” said a grateful Chamblin after the game. “Being in my second year, rebuilding this team, I thank God and Brendan Taman for giving me the tools to build a team.”
God’s in on this? I might have known.
So now with at least second-place in their back pocket, the Green & White turn their attention to Calgary this week and McMahon Stadium where they lost 42-27 in Week 7 (Saskatchewan beat Calgary 36-21 in their only other meeting in Week 2 in Regina).
A sellout? That’s a virtual certainty since Rider Nation plans to occupy McMahon Stadium this weekend and help spur their team on to top spot.
However, we all know it’s unlikely. Even if the Riders pull this one out, they’d have to hope for a BC win over the Stampeders in the final game of the regular season and that’s highly unlikely.
There's still reason for hope, and heaven only knows what’s in store for this football club in a season which has had more twists and turns than a roller coaster.
“Oh my gosh,” Chick reflected. “The way we’ve grown from that lull we had. Coach talked about that this week. We were on that roll, then had that lull, and now that spark’s back. We know what we have in that locker room and we know what we have between all these guys.”
And how can I end this column without mentioning the simmering rivalry between Kory Sheets and Jon Cornish, the Saskatchewan and Calgary running backs respectively? Cornish goes into Saturday’s game 134 yards ahead of Sheets for the league rushing title with only two games left. I asked Kory on the postgame show how excited he is to go head-to-head with Cornish Saturday night.
“Who?” Sheets questioned. “Who?”
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchean Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.