Riders spay and neuter B.C. Lions

By in Sports & Health

I’ve been to a lot of CFL games over the years. I’ve been to a lot of games at Mosaic Stadium. But never in my life have I ever seen drama like I did during the Nov. 14 classic Western semifinal.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders 41-38 double overtime win is one that will be talked about for years to come, and if they win the Grey Cup, will be a defining moment in the playoff series.

A few weeks back I told Rider Nation that nobody should panic. We had lost four straight games and the sky was falling, it seemed (OK, I’ll admit that I was getting a little worried). Then Darian Durant and Gang Green got back on track with a convincing win over the Edmonton Eskimos. What was even better about that win, despite it stopping the losing streak, was that it stunted the Evil Empire in Edmonton from getting into the playoffs. What it did set up was a playoff date with the B.C. Lions.

Wally Buono and his kitty cats have played well at Mosaic Stadium over the years, so I was a little concerned going into the game. When you consider that the Lions had won seven of their last 10 games, it was fair to say they were the hottest team in the CFL coming into the postseason. Lions rookie quarterback Travis Lulay was making his first CFL playoff start; the poor guy had no idea what he was in for.

Despite a few empty seats, the crowd was rabid. A chance to beat the Lions and avenge the 2008 home playoff loss to the team from Lotus Land was just what the locals wanted, and they got it — but not without a fight. Cats do have nine lives, and the Lions used every one of them.

With zeroes on the clock, the Riders up 27-20 and 29 yards between the Lions and their season ending, the unthinkable happened. Emmanuel Arceneaux hauled in a Lulay Hail Mary. It was like someone had pulled the plug on the crowd and everyone stood silent in disbelief.

I think as Rider fans we’ve become accustomed to heartbreak, but this was something else. It didn’t spell the end: Overtime loomed.

After the Riders’ Wes Cates scored a touchdown and Andy Fantuz converted on the two-point covert in the first mini-game, the Riders once again found themselves in a position to win. B.C. once again answered. Lulay took it to the house and Geroy Simon made a spectacular grab for the two-point convert. The crowd fell silent again.

Now it should be pointed out that this whole time, I was screaming my face off with 29,000 other people, ringing my cowbell like I had a fever and nearly passing out (I had to remind myself to take deep breaths or I was going down). Double overtime started.

Finally the defence was able to stop B.C. from getting in the end zone, after which Paul McCallum booted a 37-yard field to put the Lions up 38-35. It was time for the Riders. Durant dropped back to pass, found an open Jason Clermont, Clermont broke a tackle”¦ 15”¦ 10”¦ 5”¦ touchdown!

After nearly three seasons with the Roughriders, local boy Jason Clermont hadn’t scored a touchdown until, up against his old team, he scores a 29-yard touchdown to send the province and every Rider fan around the world into fits. I mean there was absolute bedlam at Mosaic. Fireworks lit up a foggy sky, people high-fived and hugged one another and the Riders escaped a near disaster.

So now it’s on to the much-hated Calgary Stampeders. I mean, I hate these guys. They are our biggest rivals right now. Henry Burris and his other pony-boys better be ready, because the Green Giants and their entourage are about to invade McMahon Stadium in Calgary for what should be a thrilling Western Final. Let me point out that Henry Burris has never beaten the Riders during the playoffs in a Calgary uniform. In 2006 he choked. In 2007 he choked. Last year he choked. See the pattern? Now what will he do in 2010?

I’ll be in the stands to watch our team make it to the Grey Cup. They’re heading back to Calgary, the same turf that they lost last year’s heartbreaking Grey Cup to Montreal. I think that’s enough incentive to not have a season end on the same turf in the same fashion.

Rally the troops, sound the horns, ring the bells or phones or whatever you want — it’s playoff time, Saskatchewan, and we’re one win away from The Show. Riders 39, Stampeders 32.

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image: CFL