When Jordan Matechuk headed to Taylor Field Saturday afternoon as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (his second trip there as a pro), there were a few crazy fans in attendance.
There was a young female fan decked out in Ti-Cats garb sitting amongst a group of Rider Nation on the south side of the stadium.
The best was two old guys sitting near the 50-yard line downing cans of that Pilsener stuff everyone out here seems to like so much, while dressed in Hamilton Tiger-Cat shirts and going nuts every time (all 16 of them) Hamilton star receiver Arland Bruce touched the football.
He did all kinds of damage against a rather helpless-looking Rider defence.
They were pumped up before the game even started.
There was one guy wearing Matechuk's #51 Hamilton jersey topped off with a Saskatchewan Roughriders hat sitting on the north side of the building behind the Hamilton bench.
He might have looked a little confused to some but I don't think that he was.
There was also a woman dressed like a cat.
Those individuals all have one thing in common.
They probably all went home that night feeling pretty good.
For them, a close game was in order.
A Ti-Cat win would have been glorious.
Whatever the word is to describe what a Hamilton win that could help turn that team's entire season around. I forget what the word actually is but if Hamilton had won that game, there would have been a group right here in Yorkton that would probably still be celebrating it had it played out that way.Something along the lines of a milestone victory maybe?
Would've made the day perfect. Heading to Taylor Field, all dressed up in the colours of the visiting team even though simply being a resident of the province of Saskatchewan apparently automatically makes you a Roughriders fan.
It's kind of contagious.
It was one of those one-of-a-kind games. Several years back, this game wouldn't have even been close. Going back to 2004, 2005, Hamilton was the laughing stock of the entire CFL.
A game against Hamilton always used to mean an easy two points. Some teams would play their backups and even their third-stringers against Hamilton.
Not anymore they're don't.
Albeit, they've still got a few kinks to work out, this team is getting very, very interesting and equally exciting to watch.
They had the Riders looking a little hesitant at times, that hasn't happened very often lately. Darian Durant threw an interception in the end zone.
Even the cheerleaders didn't have much to get excited about in the opening 15 minutes.
Good 8-9 minutes of the second quarter, too as the visiting Tabbies held a 14-13 lead going into the halftime break.
But a few huge mistakes in the third quarter and the Ti-Cats' amazing opening quarter all went down the drain.
There's a Yorkton kid on that team who's been part of it now for just over a year now, and he seems pretty excited about the whole thing too.
In the locker room, former Yorkton Regional High School Raider Gridder Jordan Matechuk said he was happy the way Hamilton came out firing on all cylinders. Understandably he was not thrilled about the final score, but wasn't down about it, either.
He remarked that they don't usually come out on fire like they did that game; he did not however wish to take any little 'moral victories' out of it knowing that he and his team put up an awesome game for the most part against a powerhouse Saskatchewan club that, over the years, could make all the mistakes in the world when playing Hamilton, and still wind up beating the Tabbies senseless.
A couple more Ti-Cat victories in the next couple games however and this team is right back in it.When I found out I could be at Taylor Field that day, I don't ever recall being so pumped up for a football game.
Hockey? Of course, that comes natural for me. But this particular game, when the Rider faithful go quiet, it makes you stop and think for a second. At least for me it does, especially when playing Hamilton.
When Hamilton quarterback Kevin Glenn found superstar receiver Arland Bruce in the end zone for an 18-yard score, it had to be a warm, snug, cozy feel (or whatever you want to call it) for everyone on the Ti-Cats bench as well as the bunch I described way up at the top there!
Bruce destroyed the Rider secondary all day long. It was like watching a seasoned pro play against a bunch of high school rookies. They couldn't stop him.
He tied a CFL record for receptions (16) and easily set a team record.
It turns out that he's got a pretty good history against Saskatchewan, scoring his first touchdown as a Tiger-Cat here last year.
Of course, being the professional that he clearly is, Bruce looked at it the same way Matechuk chose to; they'll take some pride in knowing they did not get run out of town from the game's opening play, however they'll trade everything that went well for them personally, into a 'w' in the standings.
Hamilton passed a few tests in this encounter; they made it look like they were not afraid of the one of the noisiest buildings/crowds in the entire CFL; also worked to prove to the rest of the league that when playoffs start up, this is not the team you want to be matched up against.
When Glenn passed to Bruce for the game's opening major, it was hard even for me to believe. Hamilton doesn't usually connect so perfectly so early in the game. They don't usually lead much in games, either. They had everyone in green wondering just what exactly was it that just happened?
It's not very often when Rider Nation goes quiet like that. The cheer squad didn't appear too impressed.Glenn went a full game without getting sacked. That's phenomenal. If the Ti-Cat cheerleaders were watching this one back home, they'd be in a party mood, no doubt.
This game marked the first time in four years, I've been assigned to cover the professional level of sports. For the record I kind of assigned myself to cover it when I found out I could get a press pass lol.
I've been nearly hit by minor league football players as they jump up to catch a pass or charge down the field in high gear; on Saturday at Taylor, it was the TSN camera guy that nearly did it to me (lol).
One stadium official told us where we could and could not go, and then later that same weekend, we found out that our parents and friends back home saw us that evening on TSN and the NFL Network.Not bad for a Saturday night in Regina!
I haven't seen my mom in nine months but she knew I was wearing a white t-shirt that day lol.It was a pretty fun experience. Breaking my small camera lens doesn't qualify as fun but the experience was still pretty cool.
Covering sports however in this Saskatchewan humidity makes me want to protest for some kind of workers' compensation just in case I pass out in that ridiculous heat.
Hamilton was pretty bad too with a couple of steel mills that used to operate downtown, but Saskatchewan's heat is enough to have emergency workers everywhere on high alert.
Everyone should be wearing a military utility belt with insulated pockets with room for five water bottles on each side.
If I'm complaining this much about it, what tricks has Jordan and company got to combat the heat, other than water??!!
I learned that post-game interviews are not quite done the same way they're done in the smaller world of high school sports or SJHL hockey. In the big leagues, when the coach is done talking, he's off limits to everyone but his own coaching staff.
Following the game, you need to show your pass to the security guards out front the locker room (they usually call those things dressing rooms-lol) and they actually take you right to who you want to interview.
They were all very very helpful. It kind of makes covering games of this magnitude even more fun.It's an awesome feeling when you get all that stuff done.
Thanks Riders and Ti-Cats. See you next year maybe? Maybe in the Grey Cup Championship? Maybe this year? Maybe next year.
Don't bet against it!.
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