Riders hope to play spoiler to first-place Bombers in West Final
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are set to meet the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 2021 West Final, a rematch of 2019 with one key difference: the Bombers hold home field advantage.
That game two years ago at Mosaic Stadium, during a season where the Riders finished first in the west, ended in heartbreaking fashion to the team’s archrival.
Now, it’s the Riders who feel they can play spoiler in a season where the Blue Bombers have largely been dominant.
"They haven't played a meaningful football game in a while, right? I know what that feels like, in 2019, missing a couple weeks and trying to get back in the rhythm of things,” said Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo.
"Two years ago I guess we were in the same game but this one is here and now so yeah it's the biggest game of my coaching career, biggest game for this team. So we're looking forward to it and we know it's going to be a tough one,” said Head Coach Craig Dickenson.
The Bombers topped the CFL standings in 2021, are undefeated at home on the season and had 15 of their players named divisional all-stars compared to just two from the green and white.
But any feelings about the selections or lack thereof in the Riders locker room were helped by Sunday’s win over the Calgary Stampeders, according to linebacker Deon Lacey.
“We played against Calgary, they had some all stars, we sent them home,” Lacey said. “Now they snubbed cause they're not in the playoffs anymore so now we got opportunity to go show Winnipeg that we got all stars even though we didn't get the accolade."
The winning effort against Calgary did include four interceptions from Fajardo, a factor he acknowledges needs to be different against the blue and gold.
“I got to play clean football,” Fajardo said. “I can't turn the ball over like I did against Calgary because this is a really good defence that probably is going to find a way to create havoc for us."
One area where the team found success Sunday was in special teams, an aspect of the game they hope to replicate at IG Field.
“We're gonna have to bring our A game, and that's what we're excited for,” said running back and returner Jamal Morrow, who returned a punt for a touchdown Sunday. “We look up to a challenge, and so it's just everybody steps up, do their jobs, and there's definitely possibilities out there for big plays to be made."
The Riders said due to travel restrictions on those unvaccinated against COVID-19, one person on the team staff would not be making the trip to Winnipeg, although the team would not specify who beyond saying it’s not a player.
West Final kickoff between the Riders and Bombers is set for 3 p.m. on Dec. 5.