It’s cliche this time of year in the lead up to a playoff game to suggest it should be a good one.
Only in certain circumstances where one team is so heavily favoured over the other do pundits expect a playoff game to be a laugher or a snoozefest. There’s a few reasons for this. Of course, everyone is always trying to hype up the most important games of the year and the games generally do get better when the best teams remain.
With that in mind, I’m fairly confident in suggesting that the East semifinal between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Redblacks shouldn’t be boring. Why? Rarely have these teams played a game that wasn’t intriguing in one way or another.
This season, the Riders and Redblacks split the season series with teach team winning on the road, completing a dramatic comeback in the process. The Riders erased a 17 point deficit near the end of September at TD Place. Even the ending of the game was something rarely seen as Josh Bartel’s rouge late in the fourth quarter ended up being the difference. Just a few weeks later at Mosaic Stadium it was Ottawa’s turn to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Redblacks overcame a 12 point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Riders 33-32.
Two games with each team winning once by one point, it doesn’t get much better than that. Even if both teams held on to their leads, we’d be looking at a split series.
It’s not just this year that’s seen the Riders and Redblacks play some interesting football games. Who can forget Tino Sunseri pulling off the fourth quarter and overtime come back in 2014 during the team’s second ever meeting? A rare night were Sunseri looked like a CFL quarterback.
How about 2015? The most famous game that season for the Riders happened in Ottawa, granted it was for all of the wrong reasons. After a sluggish start, Brett Smith was yanked for Sunseri who was just as, if not more, ineffective the rest of the game. I was working for CJME at the time and I remember hearing about the phone lines lighting up back in Regina before the first half was even over. That night was ultimately the end of the Corey Chamblin and Brendan Taman era. The whole thing was summed up for me when John Chick was seemingly lined up at middle linebacker one play with no one within like 5 yards of him, it was probably the easiest audible of Henry Burris’ career. He was celebrating the touchdown as soon as he handed off the football. The game was ugly, unless you’re a Redblacks fan, but even Rider fans certainly won’t forget it.
That game also produced this gif, which still makes the rounds on Riders Twitter from time-to-time
— Ferlin R (@Fernie635) November 10, 2017
Later that year, the two teams met again in Regina and Ottawa won by just three points.
In 2016, the Riders swept the season series but the difference was just three points over the two games. The first game just so happened to be the Riders first win of the season that ended with a dramatic last minute field goal from Tyler Crapigna that ultimately won them the game over the then undefeated Redblacks.
Sometimes, two teams just match up really well against each other. That appears to be the case when it comes to the Riders and the Redblacks. Here’s to another one on Sunday.