The Saskatchewan Roughriders say they can stay focused amid the hype of playing the Grey Cup on home turf in front of their notoriously rabid fans.
Hundreds of fans took to the streets in downtown Regina after the Riders beat the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL West Division final and earned a spot in the Grey Cup.
Riders running back Kory Sheets got a first hand glimpse of the enthusiasm after the flight back from Calgary late Sunday night.
“You know, it was funny, me and Terrell Maze were walking through the house last night, somebody stopped their car and got out and was screaming and yelling. It was like ‘Congratulations. Yay!’ And then they just got back in the car and pulled off,” Sheets said with a laugh at a news conference Monday in Regina.
“I’m expecting a lot of that this week.”
Sheets, who signed with the Riders in February of 2012, has never been in Saskatchewan when the team has made it to the Grey Cup. In fact, he says he hasn’t played in a championship game outside of high school.
He says he’s getting advice on how to handle the situation from veteran players such as quarterback Darian Durant.
“Darian was telling me last night it’s going to be crazy, just might as well soak it all up,” said Sheets.
The Roughriders will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in this year’s championship game, which will be played Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.
This will mark the third time Saskatchewan has hosted the Grey Cup, but the first time the Riders will play in the big game at home. It will also be the last Grey Cup played at Mosaic Stadium, which will be torn down when a new stadium is built for the 2017 season.
Riders head coach Corey Chamblin says players and coaches both know they can’t let this week become a distraction.
“The team’s been pretty focused,” said Chamblin.
“We’re staying in the hotel. I’ll do a good job of curfewing the guys and making sure their mindset’s there, and staying on their butts and making sure that we practise the right way. But this is a focused group and I think they understand that we’ve come through a lot to get here and don’t let anything derail us now.”
Before the West final, Chamblin said he was preparing as though it was “just the next game.” The coach said Monday that his perspective hasn’t changed.
“The biggest thing, like I said, is not getting caught up in all the hype and the things that go around the game,” said Chamblin.
“There’ll be some new guys that are not used to it, but for the most part, that locker-room, they’ve all been in Grey Cups and they understand it and they understand what it takes to win it.”
The Riders last won the Grey Cup in 2007, but were finalists in ’09 and ‘10.
Sheets, who rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown in the 35-13 West final win over the Stampeders, says the fans will bring a hometown advantage on Sunday.
“This is not a neutral site and it’s not going to be a neutral site game,” Sheets said. “Our fans are going to be crazy and if they’re not in the game, they’re probably going to be standing outside watching the game from the fences. I’m expecting it to be loud and crazy and the 13th man to show up in our favour.”