Riders season at the Banjo Bowl
author: Nathan McCarville| sports writer
Green is the colour / Shawn Doll
there is optimism brewing for Rider Nation
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have delivered a four-game winning streak that has given Rider Nation a newfound bout of confidence they have become known for by the rest of the Canadian Football League, a confidence that had been attributed to the fans who religiously flood the stands with green and white mesh with two key characteristics: a fierce loyalty to the players on their team, and extreme volume in the stands.
Losing to both east and west conference contenders alike, the Riders’ season did not seem promising. However, the Riders’ rough start has boiled down to a formidable streak that first began with the Riders home game against the Calgary Stampede on August 19 that lead to a result of 40-27 for the Riders.
The Roughriders gave Calgary their first loss of the season, who previously had a perfect season. Calgary, who, despite being such a good team on paper, has been the runner-up to the Grey Cup for the last two years, losing to the Ottawa Redblacks in 2016, and the Toronto Argonauts in 2017, despite these two teams doing much worse than their Calgarian opponent in the regular season.
The Riders were the first to put points on the scoreboard in the August 19 game against Calgary, the inception of their winning streak, with a successful field goal attempt by Lauther, repeating the action once again 5 minutes later, pushing the score up to 6. These little moves on the scoreboard culminated in a big move when Marshall of the Roughriders intercepted Mitchell’s pass intended for one of his Albertan teammates. The interception resulted in a touchdown and then a successful convert by the victors in green and white.
The Stampeders didn’t score until three minutes into the 2nd quarter when Daniels ran the ball into the endzone, though the act was closely followed by the Riders once again foiling the Stampeders when Samuel Eguavoen blocked Calgary’s punt and subsequently recovered it, running the ball 30 yards for a touchdown. The Riders, who had at that point pushed their score up to 24 points, stopping the Stampeders from getting anything but six points. The 3rd quarter brought another 7 points for the Riders, Marshall rushing the ball three yards for a touchdown. Frustrated, Calgary finally started to have an effect on the scoreboard, pushing their score up to 12, and finally 18 when Mitchell made successful passes to Stampeders Juwan Brescacin who got a touchdown, and then Jorden who also got a touchdown for the Stampeders. Two successful field goals by Lauther kept the distance between the Riders and Stampeders on the scoreboard, pushing the Riders up to 37 points and maintaining a 10-point arm’s length between the two competing teams. Lauther’s final field goal in the 4th solidified the success of the Riders and began the 2018 record that the Riders continue to stoke today.
The BC lions offered more opposition to the Riders, not allowing the Riders to climb any more than three points above them on the scoreboard. Though being good competition for the Riders still resulted in a loss for the Lions, a game which ended with a final score of 24-21 for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Labour Day Classic, a tradition that has gone on for over a decade where the Winnipeg Bluebombers come to play a game on Saskatchewan’s home turf, offered an exciting spectacle for fans. The game remained close; the leader at any time (a title that flipped and then flopped back and forth between the Blue Bombers and the Riders), managing to take a lead of only 4 points at most throughout the tense game, save for the end where the Riders pulled through with a touchdown with 1 minute and 29 seconds left in the game. Nick Marshall rushed the ball 1 yard for a touchdown, pushing the Riders up to 30 points and then 31 points with a successful convert kick by Brett Lauther.
The Riders’ lonely seven points on the scoreboard were followed up by the Bluebombers field goal, giving 3 points to the Winnipeg-borne team. The scoreboard didn’t change again until Winnipeg’s touchdown instigated by a successful pass from Matt Nichols to Kenbrell Thompkins and then a successful convert kick by Justin Medlock. Though, as Medlock’s foot found the sweet spot between the posts, so did it hit just the sweet spot on the Riders end of the field for Spencer Moore to return Medlock’s punt. Happily for the Riders, the punt return resulted in another touchdown as Moore evaded and outran ever Bluebomber on the field all the way into the endzone.
Three minutes later, Winnipeg’s Chris Streveler threw a successful pass to Darvin Adams who got another touchdown for the Bluebombers, followed by another successful convert kick by Medlock. The second quarter ended with a score of 17-14, and the beer break began with a loud gaggle of Winnipeg fans in my section loudly projecting the 3-point lead, though I don’t think a pair of Rider fans would do any different in a foreign stadium.
The score was tied in the next quarter with Lauther’s field goal, adding to the tension of the game. Though the score barely moved throughout the 3rd where Medlock matched the play by Lauther and completed a successful field goal for Winnipeg, the quarter ending with a score of 20-17 for the Bluebombers.
The first touchdown by the Riders in the fourth quarter made the stadium explode with excitement as the Riders finally took back the lead thanks to Zach Collaros’ pass to Marcus Thigpen, the Riders keeping the lead for the rest of the game.
The fourth, and hopefully not final game of the Riders streak was held in Winnipeg where they played against the Bluebombers for the second time in short order. The game known as the Banjo Bowl has been a tradition since 2004, where a board member for the Bombers, David Asper, keyed the term after a former Winnipeg placekicker, Troy Westwood, referred to people from Saskatchewan as “a bunch of banjo-pickin’ inbreds” before a Western division semi-final.
The result of this year’s game, 32-27, has once again proven that, even if the above-mentioned conditions were met, which I would think for the vast majority is false, the Riders showed that at least Saskatchewan knows how to play football.
The Riders are set to play against the Ottawa Redblacks at the Mosaic Stadium this upcoming Saturday, where we will be able to see if the streak will continue.