SPORTS

Durant and Jyles renew friendly rivalry as Argonauts visit Roughriders

09/16/2011 05:31 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST
REGINA - Darian Durant and Steven Jyles have been teammates and opponents in their CFL careers. One thing that hasn't changed is their friendship.

The congenial competition between the two quarterbacks continues Saturday afternoon when Durant and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-7) play host to Jyles and the Toronto Argonauts (2-8) at Mosaic Stadium.

The game has serious playoff implications for both sides. The Roughriders and Argonauts occupy fourth place in their respective divisions.

Durant and Jyles were teammates in Saskatchewan before Jyles moved on to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and then to the Argonauts. The two stay in close contact through the winter and they talk once a week by telephone during football season.

"As a matter of fact, we're about to have dinner and a few (beverages)," Jyles said late Friday afternoon.

Neither of the head coaches, Saskatchewan's Ken Miller or Toronto's Jim Barker, seems particularly concerned that the game plan might be unwittingly revealed in the process.

"I really don't try to regulate that," Miller said when asked how he feels about his players fraternizing with the enemy. "Be open and honest, and use your good judgment."

When it comes to strategy, Durant said, team secrets are top secret. "I told (Jyles), 'I wish you best of luck — and a loss.' "

Jyles responded good-naturedly. "He told me exactly that. He said, 'Play well, but we need this win.' "

Mostly, the conversations between Durant and Jyles involve family matters and an exchange of tips on how to improve at the quarterback position.

Durant has regained his form since the firing of head coach Greg Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry in mid-August.

Under Miller, the Riders swept a home-and-home series against the Blue Bombers, with Durant completing 27 of 48 pass attempts for 462 yards and seven touchdowns.

"He wasn't just running plays, he was running an offence," Barker said of Durant's performance against Winnipeg, which he studied carefully on videotape in preparation for Saturday's game against Saskatchewan.

Jyles, on the other hand, is making only his second start of the season after replacing Cleo Lemon, who was released by the Argos. Last week, in a 28-6 loss in Vancouver to the B.C. Lions, Jyles completed 18 of 33 pass attempts for 220 yards. He did not throw a touchdown or an interception.

"He's a great leader, and guys always want to play for a great leader," Durant said of Jyles.

Miller has seen "maturation" in Jyles and also some positive signs in his "development as a leader."

Miller spoke in flattering terms of the Argos' defence and special teams, adding that "with Steven at the controls, their offence with be explosive, too."

"I'm very comfortable," Jyles said. "I feel good about our preparation, and I'm confident in our game plan."

Barker is hoping Jyles will turn out to be something the Argos haven't had in years — a pivot who can play consistently well in the long term.

"The biggest thing for us is, we need to establish a quarterback," said Barker, who believes that Jyles's time has come to step into that role and has offered him the opportunity. "There's more of a Steven Jyles imprint on the offence this week than there was last week. Things are moving forward."

Roughriders defensive tackle Keith Shologan expects the Argos will first attempt to establish a running game with halfback Cory Boyd and then follow up with the passing attack from Jyles.

"He's a good back," Shologan said of Boyd. "We need to shut him down."

Dario Romero, the other defensive tackle for Saskatchewan, said the Roughriders have to respect Jyles's scrambling ability, also.

"As a defensive line," Romero said, "we'd like to make sure he sets up in that pocket."

In their previous meeting this season, the Riders lost to the Argos 24-18 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. It was immediately following that game that the coaching changes were made in Saskatchewan.

"They're a good football team," Shologan said of the Argos. "They're in the same situation we were in weeks ago.

"The attitude here seems to be more positive now," he added. "Every game's a playoff game. Even though we're at the bottom of the barrel, there's still a chance for us."

Roughriders defensive halfback Lance Frazier echoed those sentiments, and added a word of caution against over-confidence.

"The reality of it is, we're 3-7. We're not an excellent football team yet. There's still a ways to go," he said.

"We have to come out and play Roughrider football and keep the ball rolling the way it's been rolling."

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