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Keith was the man

Riders’ former running back was a game changer

Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

I miss Kenton Keith.

Watching Toronto Argonauts running back Cory Boyd shred the Saskatchewan Roughriders defence for 145 yards and 20 carries Saturday made me realize how exciting it is to watch a stellar running back.

Now, the Riders did best Toronto 27-16, but the fact is Boyd is an amazing playmaker and so was Keith when he was still with the Roughriders.

Keith truly had to work hard to earn a roster spot with the Riders. He fought to make it off of the practice roster for a couple of seasons before he even got a chance to start. This chance came in 2003, when Keith rushed for 709 yards and five touchdowns. From that moment on, Keith became the bona fide starter for the Green and White.

Over the next three seasons with Saskatchewan, Keith twice eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark, racked up 16 rushing touchdowns and added over 1,000, yards receiving and five touchdowns. He was named a West Division all-star in 2004 and 2006 and was also named the West most outstanding player in 2006 – a year in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards and earned over 500 receiving yards.

Stats aside, Keith was simply an entertaining running back to watch. He could juke defenders like nobody’s business. Keith had the speed to attack the hole and take the ball to the end zone on any play. During his years with the Riders, the running game was really a focal point for the Riders offence. There were always question marks surrounding the passing game so Keith was always relied on.

Now, it has been said by some that Keith was not the best team player. There were supposedly some incidents that never really surfaced to the public. Keith was arrested outside a nightclub in Indianapolis in 2008, but this was after his time with the Riders.

While Keith may have not always been a team player, he sure stepped up for his team when they needed him the most. He single-handedly helped the Riders defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 2003 West semifinal in Winnipeg. In the 2006 West semifinal in Calgary, Keith rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns as the Riders upset the Stampeders 31-21. A long touchdown run by Keith in the second half on the first play from scrimmage helped turned the tide for the Riders.

Now, I mean no disrespect to current Riders running back Wes Cates. Cates has played a crucial role for the Green and White over the last couple of years. Since coming over to the Riders basically after Keith departed, Cates has rushed for nearly 4,000 yards, and earned over 1,500 receiving yards. He played a huge role in Saskatchewan’s 2007 Grey Cup victory.

It is also hard to complain about the success the Riders have had recently. The Green and White have been one of the elite teams in the league over the last couple of seasons, largely thanks to Darian Durant and the passing game. They have not really had to rely on the running game as much anymore.

However, just imagine how much more dominant the Roughriders could be with an explosive running back like Keith to go along with their strong aerial threat. Cates is still a good all-around back, but his numbers are starting to drop.

The Leader-Post and TSN combined to make an all-time Roughriders team recently. Cates was chosen as the backup running back to George Reed. While I respect what Cates has done for the organization, I would have to disagree. If I had to hand the ball to Cates or Keith, I would pick Keith any day.

Keith could bring some excitement to the Riders roster – and that’s saying something.

RIDER REPORT

In the standings

9-4-0, second in the West Division.

Last week

The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Toronto Argonauts (6-7-0) 27-16.

This week

The Riders host the Argonauts on Saturday, 3 p.m., at Mosaic Stadium.

Top offensive players of the season

1. Andy Fantuz (slotback): 66 catches, 1,058 yards, five touchdowns and a 16-yard average.

2. Darian Durant (quarterback): 294-478, 4,171 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

3. Weston Dressler (slotback): 64 catches, 988 yards, five touchdowns and a 15.4-yard average.

Top defensive players of the season

1. Barrin Simpson (middle linebacker): 79 tackles and two sacks.

2. James Patrick (safety): 49 tackles and eight interceptions.

3. Lance Frazier (defensive back): 29 tackles, four interceptions and one sack.

Did you know?

Andy Fantuz has gained over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career.

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