REGINA — Mark’s Labour Day Weekend will roll on as this Sunday the Saskatchewan Roughriders welcome in their West Division rival, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, to Mosaic Stadium.
Sitting atop the West Division with an undefeated record, the Saskatchewan Roughriders look to remain perfect on the year with a win in front of their home crowd while Winnipeg hopes to move up the standings with a victory.
The game itself has always been a stage for the dramatics. In recent memory, there was a 14-point comeback by the Riders sealed the win 2018 and in 2019, a Brett Lauther last-minute field goal put the Green and White on top 19-17.
Even with the years of animosity that these two teams have for each other and the significance of the day, Bomber’s head coach Mike O’Shea insists it’s just another game.
“It’s game five and it falls exactly where it should fall and that’s on Labour Day which is an exciting time for CFL fans,” said O’Shea.
While the game itself may just be another date on the schedule, Andrew Harris noted that there is added preparation when it comes to playing in Regina.
“It’s always a great, exciting back-to-back game against Saskatchewan,” said Harris. “The most annoying part though is the crowd noise we have to listen to every day during practice – it gets kind of annoying and redundant. But, it’s part of the process in preparing and when we come out to Mosaic. It’s always live there and it’s always a fun environment to play in and a hostile one. There’s nothing better than shutting up 35,000 fans in their building and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”
The 34-year old flourished in his first game of the 2021 season against the Stamps after missing the first few weeks with an injury. On 17 touches, the former 2019 rushing leader recorded made his return in style, recording 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on the night.
Having played on both sides of the Labour Day Classic, Bombers’ QB Zach Collaros is familiar with the atmosphere and the emotion that this game generates.
“I think from an emotional standpoint and a crowd noise standpoint, we really are going to have to weather the storm, especially early,” said Collaros. “It’s an amazing atmosphere, especially early in the first quarter there, after the team runs out. We’ll have to settle in and try and execute our game plan the best we can.”
In the lead-up to Sunday, the Bombers added depth to their wide receiving room, bringing in a face many Saskatchewan fans will be familiar with as the team signed former Rider Naaman Roosevelt.
Roosevelt, 33, spent five seasons with the Roughriders (2015-2019), recording 4,134 yards, 20 touchdowns, was named the Riders Most Outstanding Player in 2016 and a West Division All-Star in 2017. While Roosevelt’s status for the game is unclear as he was placed on the suspended list while he completes travel requirements, current Bombers wide receiver, Rasheed Bailey believes Roosevelt will be a great addition to their roster.
“It’s going to be good to have a new face, some new energy,” said Bailey. “I can’t wait to meet him, heard he’s a good dude. But, hopefully, he can come in and fit in with what we’re trying to do here and fit in with the culture and how we do things here.”
On a personal level, Bailey has never played in the Labour Day Classic but he certainly remembers the 2019 Western Final against the Roughriders in Regina.
“It was pretty interesting, it was very loud,” said Bailey. “It was nasty. I’m excited.”
Knowing that Winnipeg is still defending a title and a game behind them in the standings, Riders’ head coach, Craig Dickenson is intending to play them as such this Sunday.
“Our guys that were here know that Winnipeg is the defending Grey Cup Champion and they look like it on film, but they’re a good football team, all three phases,” said Dickenson.
For the current Riders, especially Ed Gainey, Sunday’s Labour Day game means more to them knowing what Winnipeg did to them and their chances for a title in 2019.
“I always think about 2019, 2018; they put us out a few years in a row,” said Gainey. “I sill got a bad taste in my mouth. When it comes to Winnipeg, all I want to do is win. If we not doing that, we doing something wrong and the last few times, they got the best of us.”
Through three games so far this season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive line has been extremely successful with a group that is fairly new. Allowing only four sacks on the season, Rider’s O-lineman Cameron Jefferson will have his hands full with Willie Jefferson this week. With that matchup a few days out, Cameron has studied the tape and knows what to expect of Willie.
“He’s not your typical D-end or rusher,” said Jefferson. “He’s taller than most guys, arms longer than most guys, he moves really well, he’s pretty fluid. We have all seen his vertical, he can jump for his size too so just got to be ready for everything.”
Kickoff is slated for 6:00 p.m. ET on TSN, RDS and ESPNews or you can follow along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.