Mental preparation will be a big part of the game plan for the Saskatchewan Roughriders as they get ready for the CFL West Division final.
The Roughriders will head west to face the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday and quarterback Darian Durant says they’ll have to keep their heads in the game.
“You can’t let the emotions get the best of you,” Durant said Friday, after practice in Regina.
“You have to realize that it’s going to take a full 60 minutes of fundamental football to get the job done, especially on the road in hostile territory against a damn good team. You have to realize what’s at stake and make sure that you have the right state of mind.”
What’s at stake for the Riders is a chance to play in the Grey Cup on Nov. 24. at Mosaic Stadium, their home turf.
But first they have to get past Calgary, who won the West with the CFL’s best record of 14-4. The Stampeders also won the season series with Saskatchewan 2-1, with both victories coming at McMahon Stadium.
The rivalry between the two teams was heated this season, but Durant is looking forward.
“It doesn’t even matter what happened during the regular season. It’s all about now,” he said. “They know they’ll face a different team. We know we’ll face a different team.
“I don’t think what happened this year has anything to do with what you’ll see on Sunday.”
Slotback Geroy Simon, who spent 12 seasons with the B.C. Lions before joining the Roughriders in January, is drawing on experience to get through the West final this weekend.
“You have to treat it like another game, but you know that it’s either win or go home and it can be a huge game for all of us,” Simon said. “I know for me it’s all about – I want to leave a lasting legacy in a positive way, so this just kind of adds to that. I consider myself a winner and no matter where I go, I want to win and win championships.”
But for Corey Chamblin, Sunday’s matchup will be his first West final as a head coach. He thought it would feel different, he says.
“It feels like it’s the next game and it’s a game that we’ve prepared and prepared to win,” the Riders’ sideline boss told reporters Friday.
“I thought it would be all the, you know, ‘Wow, this is it. It’s the western final or eastern final,’ or wherever I thought I’d be. But it’s the western final and as a head coach, I think that’s just a maturity in my mindset and a maturity in the team’s mindset is, it’s the next game and we have to be able to win.”
The Riders got to this point with a 29-25 win over the Lions in the division semi-final last weekend. Durant completed 19 of 23 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He also picked up 97 rushing yards on six carries.
“Every game dictates a different guy stepping up, a different situation, so we’ll see what the game holds. If it’s up to me and if a lane’s open for me to run, then so be it. If we win by throwing the ball, then so be it. If [running back Kory] Sheets does it, then we’ll take that too,” Durant said.
The Riders will also have slotback Chris Getzlaf back in the game. He is the Riders’ receiving leader this year with 63 catches for 1,047 yards, but suffered a knee injury in the team’s 29-25 loss to Calgary on Oct. 26, and hasn’t played since.
“He got through practice today,” Chamblin said. “There was better progression. He ran his routes faster and he made more moves and things like that to finish the whole game plan.”