Throw the regular season out the back-door and begin anew. That is the thought process of the Saskatchewan Roughriders as they look to advance to the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto at the end of the month. To do that, the Riders will have to first get by the Calgary Stampeders in the Western semi-final Sunday afternoon in the Alberta city.
The Riders go into the playoffs having lost their last four regular season games, but that means nothing now according to defensive lineman Keith Shologan.
“We’re 0-0 and we are on the road for the playoffs,” Shologan stated. “We practiced in the snow in 2010 and then we went to Calgary and beat them so we’re hoping to do the same last year.”
Shologan is one of more than a dozen Riders who were on the football team the last time they had a playoff game which was the 2010 Grey Cup loss at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes. Before going to Calgary and the Western final, the team was forced to practice in a prairie blizzard where preventing frostbite that afternoon was as important as the workout they faced. Darian Durant was also a part of that practice and he looked back on it following the team’s final practice Friday before heading to Calgary.
“I think the big thing is it made us veterans mentally stronger,” Durant said. “It also let us know that we can get the job done in that type of climate so hopefully what we went through today will rub off on some of the newer guys.” For Durant, this is his 5th year as the starting quarterback of the football team. He has twice led the team to the Grey Cup, but he has not been able to hoist it at game’s end having lost the title game both in 2009 and 2010 to the Montreal Alouettes. Getting there and not getting the job done is something that sticks in the mind of the 30-year-old Durant who knows you don’t get this opportunity every year and that you have to capitalize when the chance is there.
“The more you play this game and the older you get, the thing you realize is that nothing matters but a championship,” Durant said. “As a quarterback, you get measured by championships and that’s my goal. You can’t get there by yourself and there is no guarantee that you will get in the playoffs every year. I found that out last year and I didn’t like sitting at home while others were battling.”
If the Riders are to be successful, they will have to limit the progress of Stampeders running back Jon Cornish. The West nominee for Most Outstanding Player and Top Canadian is the kingpin of the Calgary offence. The Riders held Cornish in check in a September victory at Mosaic Stadium and one of the big reasons for that was the play of middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn. Lobendahn realizes that he will have to have a big afternoon if his team is to have a chance to advance to the Western final in Vancouver. Like any other game this year, he is more than up to the task facing him.
“Everyone steps their game up in the playoffs and this will be my first playoff game.” Lobendahn said. “I know what I have to do and I know he feels as if he has something to prove after what happened the last time we played. I know I wouldn’t be happy if he ran for 100 yards that afternoon and I would be looking to stop him. I know he wants to have a big game and I know I want to stop him again. It’s going to be fun.”
Head Coach Corey Chamblin is ready for his first playoff game as a head coach after being involved in many as an assistant coach with the Bombers, Stampeders and Ti-Cats. He says talk of his coaching staff being young and inexperienced heading into this game is way overblown.
“I don’t have anything to prove and my coaching staff has nothing to prove by winning this game,” Chamblin said. “As a team we have to prove to the CFL that we are the best team and the way to do that is winning the Grey Cup. First up is Calgary and if we can play a good team game we can get by them and go to B.C. I’m expecting our guys to come out and play sixty minutes of smash-mouth football and I expect them to do the same because it is the playoffs.”
Game time in Calgary is 3:30 Saskatchewan time. 620 CKRM will have pre-game coverage starting at 1 o’clock with “The Touchdown Club” followed by the play-by-play with Rod Pedersen and Carm Carteri. TSN will have the game on television.
GAME NOTES: • The Stampeders have not beaten the Riders in a playoff game since 1994. The two teams have met 5 times since then with the last meeting being the 2010 Western Final. • The Riders are trying to do what no team has done before in the history of the CFL. That is be in the Grey Cup one year, miss the playoffs the next and win the Grey Cup the year after. • In the three games between the two this year, Chris Getzlaf led the Riders in receptions with 17 for 223 yards and a touchdown • The Rider defense allowed 21. 9 points a game which was 2nd lowest in the CFL