RID­ERS CLOSER TO GREY CUP

Play­ers ready for Argos in East fi­nal

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - MUR­RAY MCCORMICK mm­c­cormick@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/mur­raylp

OT­TAWA The Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers are hop­ing to ex­e­cute a dif­fer­ent kind of re­verse.

They as­pire to re­verse tra­di­tion by be­com­ing the first West Di­vi­sion team to win an East Di­vi­sion ti­tle since the CFL’s cross­over play­off for­mat was adopted in 1996.

Saskatchewan, which fin­ished fourth in the West and crossed over into the East for the 2017 play­offs, moved to one step away from a Grey Cup berth Sun­day by de­feat­ing the Ot­tawa Red­blacks 31-20 in the East semi­fi­nal.

Next stop: Toronto, where Saskatchewan will op­pose the Arg­onauts on Sun­day.

“Just to be able to get into the East fi­nal is ma­jor,” Rid­ers cor­ner­back Jovon John­son said. “We know that we have one game to win to get to the Grey Cup, which is the ul­ti­mate goal and has been the goal for ev­ery guy in the locker-room. We’re go­ing to be fo­cused and de­ter­mined to get that done.’’

The Rid­ers are the ninth team to ac­cess the play­offs via the cross­over. Only three have pro­ceeded to a di­vi­sion fi­nal.

The win­ner of the Roughrid­er­sAr­gos show­down will meet the West cham­pion — the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers or Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos — in the Grey Cup game on Nov. 26 in Ot­tawa.

This sea­son, the Roughrid­ers swept their two-game series with the Arg­onauts, win­ning 38-27 at Mo­saic Sta­dium on July 29 and down­ing the Argos 27-24 at BMO Field on Oct. 7.

“They are a good team and, if any­thing, they are prob­a­bly a dif­fer­ent team from the last time that we played them,” Roughrid­ers mid­dle line­backer Henoc Muamba said.

“They have im­proved tremen­dously. They have a great head coach (Marc Trest­man), who we all have a lot of re­spect for. They have a Hall of Fame quar­ter­back in Ricky Ray. They also have (run­ning back) James Wilder, who is pretty good back there, too. Still, I like our odds and our chances against any team in the CFL right now.’’

The Roughrid­ers are hop­ing to im­prove their chances by ad­her­ing to a well-es­tab­lished for­mula for suc­cess.

They are stay­ing in On­tario be­tween games against East op­po­nents, as they did dur­ing the 2016 and 2017 reg­u­lar sea­sons. Saskatchewan has swept the twogame set in both years.

“We’ve al­ready had a dress re­hearsal so we know what to ex­pect,’’ Muamba said.

“We know how to han­dle be­ing away, be­cause it’s the ex­act same thing as be­fore. Hope­fully we can come away with the win like we did last time.’’

They very well could if they per­form as they did Sun­day against the Red­blacks, who could not counter Saskatchewan’s all-around game.

Mar­cus Thig­pen led the Rid­ers’ ground at­tack with 15 car­ries for 169 yards, in­clud­ing a 75-yard touch­down run.

Kevin Glenn com­pleted 18 of 28 passes for 252 yards while throw­ing a touch­down pass — a 29-yarder to Bakari Grant — and run­ning for an­other ma­jor. Those ma­jors came on the Roughrid­ers’ first two pos­ses­sions. Grant had three re­cep­tions for a team-high 85 yards.

De­fen­sively, the Rid­ers forced four Red­blacks turnovers. John­son and Sa­muel Eguavoen had in­ter­cep­tions, Mike Edem re­cov­ered a fum­ble, and the Red­blacks turned over the ball over on downs.

Ot­tawa’s Trevor Harris at­tempted 60 passes — a record for a CFL play­off game — and com­pleted 37, pil­ing up 457 yards. How­ever, the Roughrid­ers held Harris in check at sev­eral cru­cial junc­tures.

“It wasn’t an overly clean game, but we did a lot of re­ally good things,” Rid­ers head coach and gen­eral man­ager Chris Jones said. “Any­time you can go on the road for a play­off game against a very solid op­po­nent … that group over there won the Grey Cup last year.

“It’s a good group with a good or­ga­ni­za­tion and good coaches. To be able to come into their house and beat them like we did is a good, solid win.’’

The Rid­ers haven’t reached the Grey Cup game since 2013, when they beat the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats 45-23 at Mo­saic Sta­dium.

“What we’ve done so far is a bless­ing and at the same time we know that it’s only one step,’’ Glenn said. “We knew com­ing into this one that we were fight­ing for three games. We knew we had to take care of the first one and we did.’’

To be able to come into their house and beat them like we did is a good, solid win.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Roughrid­ers’ Jovon John­son makes an in­ter­cep­tion in front of Ot­tawa Red­blacks re­ceiver Juron Crider on Sun­day. The Roughrid­ers won 31-20.

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