There’s an old saying in Saskatchewan that goes like this…
“Where are we going??” “HIGHER!!”
Technically it has absolutely nothing to do with the Riders (it’s the Telemiracle cheer – in case you didn’t know), but I can’t help but wonder if Gang Green has adopted the Telemiracle motto this season.
But – does it get any better than this?!?!
I have been a Rider fan since I can remember. I probably came out of the womb yelling, ‘DEFENSE!!’ And I cannot remember another time when I have been so excited and so proud to be a Rider fan.
I remember the hard times, those 3-15 seasons which seemed to stretch on for an eternity. I felt so frustrated because I knew the province and its people both deserved better and could do better.
How things have changed in the short span of 18 months.
But I don’t want to get into a whole analysis of how or why the Riders have turned things around. Suffice it to say, though, that three key people deserve most of the credit: Jim Hopson, Eric Tillman, and Kent Austin.
Now back to the present…
6-0!! 6-0!! 6-0!! 6-0!! The Riders’ best start since 1934 – and they were the Regina Roughriders back then.
Everybody’s talking about this ‘magic aura’ supposedly surrounding the Riders, but I beg to differ. What surrounds this team is an aura of love – love for each other, love for football, love for their fans, love for the competitive spirit, love for growth and learning. These guys just love what they’re doing and are having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. When your job is fun, you tend to perform better.
But what about the injuries? Well, some people are ‘pressure performers.’ They’re the people who show their true strength when adversity is at its highest. And the Riders are FULL of players who perform best under pressure.
The injuries have also been negated to a large extent by the solidity of the Riders’ offensive system. It’s a system which relies on role players, rather than star players. It’s designed so that ALL players can succeed, not just those with above-average talent. I don’t profess to know the ins and outs of this system, but it sure as hell seems to work!
But despite all of the ‘teamwork’ talk and the great coaching the Riders have, I do think there is one player on the team who is masquerading as a human; I say masquerading because his performance on the field often defies human explanation.
Wes Cates. Wes Cates! WES CATES!!
What can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said? He’s strong, he’s agile, he’s a ‘pressure performer,’ he’s a team player, he’s fast, he’s smart, he’s got good hands. He’s the complete package. And he is my OFFENSIVE STAR for both the games against the Argos and the Stampeders. He was just dynamite, carrying the team on his shoulders after Darian Durant went down in the Argos game, and when the Riders lost Hughes, Dominguez AND Berman in the Stampeders game. He’s had 130+ yards in each of his last two games, bursting through the middle after patiently waiting for his blocking to set up, getting great 1st down yardage. The Riders NEED him to stay healthy. Please!!
As for my DEFENSIVE STARS, well, I’d like to give them to the ENTIRE defensive unit. And yes, I know it’s a bit of a cop out. But they ALL deserve it! Without their consistently stellar play, my Riders would not be 6-0. Sorry offense…
The defense has saved our asses on far too many occasions, but with the offense’s continuous string of injuries, what’s to be expected? And it’s not as if the offense has had real trouble scoring points this year…
As for SPECIAL TEAMS STARS, I’m giving the awards to Maurice Lloyd, Kitwana Jones, Anton McKenzie – the ’40s’ as I’m starting to call them. Those three guys are EVERYWHERE on the field. Wherever the action is, there they are – including the game-changing stop on Joffrey Reynolds in the 4th quarter of the Riders-Stamps game. And on special teams, they are always the first three guys down the field. They LOVE tackling and making the big stop. They’re so much fun to watch.
Now I’ll admit that I’ve been a little pessimistic in my picks the last couple of weeks. I wasn’t planning on winning the Argo game, and I REALLY didn’t think the Riders would go into McMahon Stadium in Calgary and pull it out.
And this week? I’m going to the game (already my 2nd this year!!), and I really want my boys to win, but…
I’m picking them to lose.
Why? I need to keep myself prepared for the eventual loss that will happen this season. Plus, I think this is the week the injuries finally take their toll.
But, stranger things have happened in Riderville, and I’m not going to count my boys out.
“Where are we going??” “HIGHER!!” If that’s even possible!