LaFrance, resur­gent Roughrid­ers look to ride mo­men­tum in game against Red­blacks

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - GLOBE SPORTS - EVAN RADFORD

Kienan LaFrance has over­come in­jury, frus­tra­tion and the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing play­ing time to a for­mer NFL third-round pick to be­come the late-game work­horse for the resur­gent Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers.

Thanks to two re­cent, high-pro­duc­tion fourth quar­ters, the third-year CFLer has helped power the Roughrid­ers above .500 to an 8-6 record and into con­tention for a play­off spot at third place in the West di­vi­sion.

LaFrance and the Roughrid­ers will look to ride that mo­men­tum into Fri­day’s game against his for­mer team, the Ottawa Red­blacks (6-9), in Regina on Fri­day night.

Two weeks ago, LaFrance and the Roughrid­ers erased a 17-point deficit in Ottawa to beat the Red­blacks 18-17. They fol­lowed that with an­other come-from-be­hind win against Toronto a week later, as LaFrance’s fourth-quar­ter ball car­ry­ing set up Tyler Crapigna’s win­ning field goal in a 27-24 vic­tory.

“We’ve been play­ing some good ball lately, but I think that to win every game in the last quar­ter of the sea­son, we need to look for­ward to be able to play well in all as­pects,” LaFrance said in an­tic­i­pa­tion of Fri­day’s re­match with his for­mer team.

The 2017 sea­son has been one of pro­gres­sion for the Win­nipeg­born rusher, who won the East Di­vi­sion cham­pi­onship and the Grey Cup with the Red­blacks last year, gain­ing 230 yards in those two games.

A train­ing camp leg in­jury kept the 26-year-old off the Riders’ game-day ros­ter for the first four games of the sea­son. He had to wait un­til the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Sept. 9 to get the start at run­ning back af­ter team­mate Cameron Mar­shall went down with an in­jury.

“No one wants to be in­jured. It was a lit­tle bit frus­trat­ing at the be­gin­ning,” he said. “I had to get over it a cou­ple of times. And as cliché as it sounds, it de­vel­ops the per­son I am to­day as just be­ing able to over­come that stuff. I’ve been play­ing for a few weeks now, and it didn’t stop the flow for my­self.”

His per­se­ver­ance and pa­tience have paid off. The Riders’ coach­ing staff chose Lafrance over newly signed for­mer NFLer Trent Richard­son to carry the load for his team in each of its past two fourth quar­ters.

Over those two frames, Lafrance tal­lied 77 to­tal yards and one touch­down, along with sig­nif­i­cant car­ries to grind down the game clock.

“I’m not gonna lie, that’s what I ex­pected go­ing into the game, that’s what I ex­pect every day,” he said of his fourth-quar­ter play.

Lafrance said the sign­ing of Richard­son – the third-over­all pick in the 2011 NFL draft – two weeks ago is just part of putting the team in the best po­si­tion to win games.

“I can’t re­ally look at it as a shot to me or as a dis­re­spect thing. But when it comes to play­ing and it comes to what I’m here to do, I’m here to play and I’m here to do my job. And I be­lieveI have the con­fi­dence in my­self to not be sur­prised when they put me in that sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

Roughrid­ers’ head coach Chris Jones likes his of­fence’s de­pend­abil­ity on the ground of late.

“I told our of­fen­sive line to­day, ‘Sta­tis­ti­cally we don’t look like a team that’s able to run the ball.’ But it was there when we needed it down the stretch against a very good Toronto de­fence at home, [the Riders’] sec­ond game on the road.

“We played very well and we’re able to con­trol the foot­ball.”

LaFrance noted that to win on Fri­day, his team will need a well­rounded game from all three as­pects of his team.

“[Ottawa has] a good de­fence. Tip your hat to those guys – they stop the run well, they have good DBs. Just over all, their de­fence needs re­spect.

“We need to go out and play our game, and touch on all as­pects of run­ning and pass­ing and spe­cial teams,” he said.

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