CALGARY -- Two powerhouses take to Friday Night Football looking to claim West Division supremacy, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium in Week 7 action.
In what’s been dubbed the Wild West Showdown, one of the league’s most impassioned rivalries of late could be about to reach new heights, with the league’s hottest teams meeting for the second time already this season.
On the field it’ll be a chess match between two veteran teams led by two elder statesmen, with Kevin Glenn and Darian Durant calling the shots from under centre.
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Just as heated will be the battle off the field, too, as Roughrider fans invade Cow Town with hopes of making Friday night’s atmosphere a tougher one for the home team.
“There will be some green in the stands,” second-year head coach Corey Chamblin told Riderville.com. “I think we’ve tweeted out something, we want to pack in some green – 50-50, I’d love to have that so it would be a neutral game.”
Chamblin may only be in his second season as a Roughrider, but he’s already been with the team long enough to know that no fans travel better than Rider fans. What’s more, having spent three seasons as a defensive backs coach in Calgary he knows quite well what it’s like to have opposing fans intrude on your territory.
“I know in the past when we were there it was a little different to see all that green, and it was a little disheartening also because that’s your home turf and you want to see your own colour,” Chamblin continued. “That’s why we want to put it out there and we want to pack it with green.”
Defensive lineman Tearrius George also knows the frustration of having opposing fans infringe on your territory, after spending his first two seasons in the league as a Stampeder before becoming a Roughrider in 2011.
“You’ve got to get upset,” said George, whose three sacks lead the team among defensive linemen. “When I was there it was all red all year, and then that one game half the stadium turned green, I didn’t know if the fans switched or what happened.”
“It shows you the power the other team has in your city or your stadium.”
Of course, as nice as winning the battle in the stands would be, the Riders aren’t about to lose sight of the battle on the field. As if the Riders – undefeated through five games – needed re-energizing in the first place, they now return from the bye week with what is easily their most important game of the season to date.
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The emphasis for not just coaches but veteran leaders as well is to keep everyone focused on the task at hand, rather than what’s down the road.
“It’s an important game because it’s the next game,” said Chamblin. “I just think there’s a lot of hype around this game and of course like they’re saying, it could be a chance for [Calgary] to tie.”
“You can tie this week, at one point everyone was in first place, and then it separates – You just want to make sure that this is the next game, and the biggest game of the week.”
Chamblin’s ‘one game at a time’ mantra has served the team well, as every week the Riders have overcome specific challenges to become a stronger and more confident bunch.
Before the bye, Saskatchewan had to go on the road without Durant in the lineup to face a hungry Ticats team. Yet despite being young and relatively unproven, Drew Willy threw three touchdown passes in the first half to lead the Riders to an impressive 32-20 win heading into the bye.
Usually the week off that comes in August is a welcome sight for players, but for some of those on this team in particular, it was hard to think of anything other than football.
“We’ve all been talking – even on the bye week we were texting each other, talking about how we can’t wait to get back to Calgary, play them,” said running back Kory Sheets, who leads the league in rushing with 712 yards, and is on pace to shatter the single-season rushing record.
“We’re excited to be here. We’re very motivated, the team is together, we’re all focused.”
Winning is an addiction, and the Roughriders appear hooked. But with success also comes the challenge of not only staying hungry, but also continuing to back up that success.
That was Chamblin’s message to the team this week.
|The last time they met|
Friday, July 05, 2013
Saskatchewan 36, Calgary 21
Kory Sheets had another big day on the ground, while Darian Durant threw two touchdown passes as the Riders exploded in the second half en-route to a 36-21 win over the Stamps at Mosaic Stadium.
“The message at the end of practice was simply, it’s not about talking, it’s not about having desire, because both teams have desire to win – it’s about having that action,” said Chamblin.
“Every day we say everything starts with an attitude and it ends with an action.”
The Stampeders and their fans, on the other hand, are probably sick of hearing it. Since knocking the Riders out of the playoffs last season en-route to a Grey Cup appearance, the Stamps have been forced to listen to just how dominant that team in Regina is.
In reality, these teams are separated only by a 36-21 Roughrider victory back in Week 2, when the Stamps surged to an early lead but were overtaken by a red-hot Durant and company in the second half, during which the Rider defence pitched a shutout.
Durant went 26-34 for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns that game, and on Friday, the Stamps seek revenge as well as a return to the top of the West Division standings – and will get some help from defensive back Keon Raymond, who couldn’t play back in Week 2.
“The first game when [Durant] played, I didn’t play, and I have the majority of my interceptions against the Riders,” Raymond, who had five interceptions in each of his last two seasons, told Stampeders.com.
“I think Darian Durant made a statement last time when we played them, he knew we were a different secondary without me playing out there and I think just my presence, me being able to play, being a veteran guy out there and being able to communicate makes a big difference, and hopefully we can create some turnovers.”
Stopping Durant, whose passer rating of 136.9 puts him on pace to break the league record of 118.8 set by Dave Dickenson in 2005, will be a challenge in itself. But on the other hand, so will finding a way to beat a defence that’s allowed a league-low 87 points this season.
Glenn returns under centre to take on that task, and the veteran pivot knows the Riders will bring their bag of tricks to McMahon Stadium.
“I think one thing is they’re a very aggressive team, they try to disguise a lot of their coverages, they do multiple fronts, multiple things in the back-end,” started Glenn on Friday’s opponent. “They’ve got a bunch of guys who are interchangeable, so the one thing you can’t get caught up in is the numbers.”
The always-reliable Glenn is once again putting up respectable numbers in 2013, with a completion percentage of 71.0 and just two interceptions, and while he’d love to put an end to the Riders’ undefeated record, he realizes that what’s more important is getting the two points and moving into a first-place tie.
“When you’re playing a game where you’re in the business of winning, I don’t think it matters what the other team’s win-loss record is, you just want to go out there and win,” Glenn told the team’s official website. “It will be a good spoiler to come in here into our house with an undefeated team in front of our home crowd and give them a loss, but more importantly just to get better as a football team.”
“Get better as a football team and get another win under our belt, it’ll push us closer to them in the standings and it’ll help us with the head-to-head battle, because once it gets late in the season those wins earlier in the season are going to help.”
Meanwhile, off the field, the battle will continue to intensify as Friday’s game nears. Chamblin and the Riders are still pulling for that 50-50 split, but whether that is achieved or not they can be sure that both teams will be playing in front of a ravenous crowd.
“They’ll have it packed,” said Chamblin. “They’ve deemed it the Wild West Showdown, 12-round bout fight, all that, so they’re hyping the crowd, they’re doing everything they can to make sure they have that extra man there.”
Kickoff is at 9:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Riderville.com/Stampeders.com