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Saskatchewan Roughriders semifinal an emotional game to watch

No game was more dramatic than Nov. 28’s playoff win against the Calgary Stampeders
Bill Selnes
The Riders' Nov. 28 playoff win against the Calgary Stampeders caused a whipsaw of emotions for those watching.

I have watched over 750 Saskatchewan Roughrider games during the 42 years I have covered the team and none was more dramatic than Sunday. 

Usually I am relatively unemotional as I watch games as a reporter but not during Nov. 28’s playoff win against the Calgary Stampeders, which the Riders won 33-30.

Because of travel arrangements I was not able to be at the West semifinal. I watched the game and was whipsawed by emotions. (I listened to post-game press conferences as there was no Zoom allowing remote participation). There was barely a moment of being on an even keel during the game.

At times there were multiple emotions on the same play. I was startled when Rene Paredes missed his first field goal (he is so consistent) and then excited when Jamal Morrow returned the miss for a touchdown and then upset as it was called back because of a very weak blocking penalty against Jeremy Clark.

I was downcast when Cody Farjardo then threw an interception to Jonathan Moxey as he was trying to pass to Shaq Evans. Cody said Shaq was bumped off the route. Shaq actually had to hesitate to get around a defender.

Minutes later I was depressed when Cody threw his second interception. He said he tried to layer it to Shaq when some zip on the ball would have been better. Shaq should have fought for the ball.

Cody aptly stated we are probably the worst in the league at starting fast.

Moments later there was elation as the Rider defence stopped Jake Maier on a quarterback sneak. Calgary Head Coach Dave Dickenson, said he had some sour grapes on how the chains were handled first showing a first down and then showing they were short. I thought the mark had actually favoured the Stampeders.

During the second quarter there were more upheavals with two interceptions by Ed Gainey and a second by Moxey.

The most exciting play was Morrow’s punt return touchdown. Craig said Morrow is better when the lights are on. What he was doing was hitting the return hard. The best returners attack the first gap they see during a return.

I was shaking my head when Paredes missed a second field goal to end the half. He had missed only four all season.

The onside kick to start the second half had been planned during the week. The decision reflects Craig’s approach to playing to win. Brother Dave said they were not surprised but the Stampeders did not look ready. What is clear is that Brett Lauther is the best in the league at onside kicks. Former Rider and Lion kicker, Paul McCallum, was brilliant at onside kicks. Brett said the Riders must have set a record this year on recovered onside kicks. On the receiving end Duke Williams surely set a record with three recovered onside kicks. He was right beside A.C. Leonard when Leonard caught the onside kick. The Riders had two players in better position than any Stampeder.

Cody’s touchdown pass to Kian Schaffer-Baker reflected that for almost the whole game his completed passes came if he could throw to his first look on the play.

When Brett hit the upright on a 43-yard field goal I thought of a season where Dave Ridgway hit five uprights in one season.

The fourth quarter began in the discouraging manner of too many games against the Stampeders with Calgary establishing momentum through a punishing touchdown drive to take the lead and then a fourth Cody interception.

The Rider defence rose up to stop the Stampeders with the aid of a strange call. Running Kadeem Carey on second and six helped the Rider defence.

The Riders subsequent touchdown drive was an amazing drive as Cody looked crisp and confident and decisive. After a poor game Cody played his best with the game on the line. He said he leans on his faith. Whether or not it was this drive he said he told God he needed him. For this game he said there was a dollop, not just a sprinkle, of Jesus. Craig said Cody is very resilient and a warrior. I wish whatever switch lets him play well at the end of the game could flip at the opening kickoff.

In overtime the Riders had another great stop on Carey dropping him for a loss on second and one. Carey said he should have cut back on the play. I do not think there was any room even if he cut back.

When Paredes missed, Cody said he told the offence they would run it twice and Brett would kick it through. I was less certain after all the crazy plays in this game and Rider playoff history. Brett said he was going to end this and he did though he had double take when there was a penalty flag. He said he had to stop his heart from racing in case he had to kick again. My first reaction was did the Riders have too many men on the field. When the call was against Calgary it was finally over.

It took me over an hour to calm down. Auctioneer Bruce Schapansky posted that he couldn’t believe he forgot his defibrillator and was breathing in a paper bag at the end.