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Riders defeat Blue Bombers 25-12 in first pre-season test

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Trevor Harris on May 20, 2024. The green and white successfully beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 25-12 in their first pre-season challenge of the year. (Courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders) Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Trevor Harris on May 20, 2024. The green and white successfully beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 25-12 in their first pre-season challenge of the year. (Courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders)
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In their first Canadian Football League (CFL) pre-season game of the year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“I thought guys were flying around. I thought they were playing fast. There’s just a different aura around this team. I’m just grateful to be a part of it and I think it’s going to be a special season here in Riderville,” quarterback Trevor Harris said following the win.

Even though Harris was only on the field for a couple of possessions during Monday night’s game – he was still ecstatic to be back following his devastating season-ending injury last year.

“It was amazing. It was just one of those things where I came to grips with as I walked down the field today,” Harris said. “I just thought about what had happened and the work that had gone into coming back to this point. I learned so much and I grew so much from it.”

The Riders’ first possession ended with a turnover on downs after A.J. Ouellette was unable to convert on third and two. But Harris did go 2/3 and 72 yards on their first drive. That included a 65 yard pass to wide receiver, Shawn Bane Jr.

After the first quarter the Bombers led 3-0.

Saskatchewan started the second quarter with its second drive of the game that ended in a 24 yard field goal from Brett Lauther to tie the game at three.

Harris was 7/9 and 123 yards so far and would not return to the game.

The Rider’s defence was proving its dominance in the first half as Rodney Clemons, Diontae Williams, and Tre Crawford all recorded sacks.

“That’s who we expect to be is being able to put pressure on the quarterback. Obviously you know we’re not going to throw a huge blitz package the first pre-season game and we also want to identify who our true rushers are. But it was really good to see how we affected quarterbacks and get them off their spot,” said head coach, Corey Mace.

Mace officially has a game under his belt as the new head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But despite the green and white taking the win, the rookie head coach was still hard on himself when it came to his personal performance on the sidelines.

“I did okay. I was probably too aggressive in a couple of things. But you know there’s certain things that I think we’re trying to build on. I have a lot of trust in certain position groups and I made that very vocal. It might not be the last time I get too aggressive on some things,” he smirked. “I probably gave myself a C plus, definitely some work for myself to do.”

Quarterback, Mason Fine entered the game for the team’s third possession but was unable to garner a first down.

Fine would only stay in for a short time as the team decided to give three more of their backups some time at the helm.

“Fine has to be smart with his body and there was a situation with him so we just wanted to be smart so he can continue to compete at a high level. We just want to see other quarterbacks (too) and we try to get equal reps and equal mental reps for people. I think the plan of attack was good,” explained Mace.

Linebacker Zakoby McClain got the green and white the ball back though after a successful pick.

“It means a lot. All of my hard work and and determination has paid off. Coach always tells us to get in your hole and read the quarterback and so I did what coach said. And it came right to me,” said McClain about his interception.

The Riders took advantage of the possession and found the end zone on a 1 yard rush touchdown from running back Frankie Hickson.

Lauther missed the extra point which left the score at 9-3 with 2:49 left until half.

A massive 53 yard field goal from the Bombers shortened the lead to 9-6 with 1:45 to go in the second quarter.

Just under a minute to go until half linebacker Diego Fagot recorded another interception for the Riders. That led to a successful 41 yard field goal from Lauther to make it 12-6 for Saskatchewan heading into halftime.

The second half opened with a massive run from Jerreth Sterns on the kickoff. That landed the Riders in good field position as quarterback Shea Patterson entered the game for his first snaps.

Wide receiver Ajou Ajou opened the half with a one-handed catch from Patterson en route to a 38 yard touchdown. The Riders opted to go for two and were successful. 20-6 for Saskatchewan with 13:17 to go in the third quarter.

“It was good to go out there and go to work. I’m just thankful for the opportunity. You know touchdowns feel good, so it was nice. My family was there watching. It meant a lot,” Ajou stated happily following the game.

Lauther missed a 53 yard field goal with just under 8:00 minutes to go in the third but still earned a single to make it 21-6 for Saskatchewan.

The sacks continued for Winnipeg as defensive lineman Habakkuk Baldonado recorded his first of the game.

The score would stand as the fourth quarter got underway and the Riders gave quarterback, Jack Coan, an opportunity to showcase his skillset.

Lauther missed another 43 yard field goal attempt with 12:14 to go in the game. But it came as the kicker was seen on the sideline sitting down following an awkward fall while working on practice kicks.

However, he did redeem himself with 4:31 to go with a successful 37 yard field goal to lengthen the lead to 19 points, 25-6 for Saskatchewan.

With 2:22 to go, the Bombers recorded their first touchdown of the game but were unsuccessful with their two-point attempt to keep the score at 25-12.

That would stand as the Riders recorded their first win of 2024. Even though it does not count in the standings – the team is still grateful to come out on top.

“We came here to do what we wanted to do and that was win a football game,” said Mace.

“Obviously it’s a pre-season game it doesn’t matter when we’re going in the regular season. But if you’re keeping score, you might as well try and win the games. And I think winning is a habit. It’s a cliché. But you have to try and win games no matter what,” Harris added.

The Riders will head back to Saskatoon for two days of training camp on Tuesday and Wednesday. They will head to Edmonton for their second pre-season game on Saturday, May 25 against the Elks.

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