If he wasn’t playing in the game, quarterback Kevin Glenn says he would definitely watch it. If he wasn’t coaching in it, so would Corey Chamblin.
Friday’s clash at McMahon Stadium between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders may be just another regular-season game with two-thirds of the CFL season still to be played.
But this one has more than enough back story to hook the interest of CFL fans.
“This is a game that I wish I could play in,” Saskatchewan head coach Chamblin said.
Added Calgary’s Glenn: “If I was on another team and this game was coming on, I would be tuned into watching this game. I’d tell my wife and kids, ‘Daddy’s watching football tonight because the Riders and Stampeders are playing.’”
The Roughriders are the only undefeated team in the CFL this season at 5-0. The only loss so far for the 4-1 Stampeders was to Saskatchewan on July 5.
Saskatchewan can go 6-0 to start the season for just the second time in franchise history, or the Stamps can pull even with the Riders atop the West Division standings.
The Roughriders can also win the season series by taking the second of their three meetings, which means Saskatchewan would finish ahead of Calgary if the two clubs were tied at season’s end.
The Roughriders and Stampeders rank first and second, respectively, in the league in offence. Riders running back Kory Sheets is the CFL’s leading rusher, ahead of No. 2 Jon Cornish of the Stamps.
In addition to having a premiere running back, both sides have multiple threats at receiver.
Neither team has missed a field goal this season. They’re tied for the average starting point in drives (39-yard line).
Both clubs are coming off their bye weeks with questions at quarterback. Darian Durant is back after sitting out Saskatchewan’s last game with an ankle injury.
“It’s been feeling fine,” said Durant, who has yet to throw an interception this season. “I’ve been really aggressive with the treatment and the coaching staff has been a big assist to me in monitoring my reps and making sure I have no setbacks during practice.”
Glenn will get the start Friday, with Bo Levi Mitchell dressing as the No. 2. Mitchell went the distance in a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Calgary’s last game, which Glenn sat out with an elbow injury.
Drew Tate was announced as the starter earlier this week, but had a setback with the throwing-arm injury he suffered late in that game in Regina in Week 2.
Calgary coach John Hufnagel said Thursday Tate will be sidelined at least another two to three weeks. “We want to take it cautiously.”
The coach compared Tate’s injury to tennis elbow, saying his quarterback was experiencing pain in the soft tissue connected to the bone.
As reporters crowded around Glenn on Thursday, defensive linebacker Keon Raymond called out to his quarterback: “You’re important buddy, if you haven’t noticed.”
It’s always a toss-up as to whether there will be more green than red in the McMahon stands when the Stampeders play host to the Riders.
The multitude of Saskatchewan expatriates in Alberta, plus those who make the drive west from Saskatchewan, help decorate McMahon in Christmas colours. Saskatchewan’s hot start has Riders Nation hoping its team will be in the Grey Cup in Regina in November.
Calgary’s defence will have its hands full containing Sheets and taking the football away from an offence that hasn’t turned it over yet this season.
Stampeders defensive end Charleston Hughes, the team’s sack leader, has returned to the lineup after missing two games with a wrist injury. He threw gas on the fire Thursday with this comment about Sheets.
“I don’t think he’s probably going to rush over 100 yards against us,” Hughes said. “I don’t think he’s been hit yet. He needs to get hit. I don’t think he can take a hit.”
Countered Sheets: “Come hit me. If you can catch me, come hit me.”
So the stage is set. Whether the game lives up to the hype is another matter, but the result is important to both clubs.
“It means a lot in the standings even though it’s early in the season,” Hufnagel said.