That was certainly clear Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium where the Riders edged the Eskimos 24-17 in a game that featured plenty of trash talk and heavy hitting. When the dust settled, the Riders had learned their playoff future. Saskatchewan will travel to Edmonton next Sunday to take on the Eskimos in the West semifinal.
To stoke the fire, it'll mark the fourth time these teams will have met in the past seven weeks.
"I don't like those guys over there," said Saskatchewan running back Anthony Allen, who rushed for game-high 81 yards on 13 carries. "And I'm sure they don't like us too much either. I can't wait to see them again and tell them that."
Eskimos players echo those sentiments.
"We feel the same way," Edmonton receiver Fred Stamps said. "There's a bad taste in our mouth. Nobody likes to lose. There's always some bad blood between Edmonton and Saskatchewan. I don't think we like each other very much. Both teams are fighting for the same thing."
The loss ended the Eskimos' three-game winning streak. Meanwhile, the Riders snapped a five-game losing skid and won for just the second time since starting quarterback Darian Durant was lost to injury on Sept. 7 in Winnipeg.
Kerry Joseph started at quarterback for the Riders and completed just five of 16 pass attempts for 71 yards. He rushed twice for 23 yards and one touchdown all in the first half. But it was the Riders' rushing attack that propelled the defending Grey Cup champions to victory. Allen and newcomer Steven Miller combined for 152 yards on the ground. Receiver Korey Williams scored Saskatchewan's second first-half touchdown on an 18-yard run, one that gave the home team a 16-4 lead at halftime.
A Rob Bagg touchdown from Tino Sunseri opened the scoring in the third quarter and put the Riders comfortably ahead 23-4. But Edmonton rallied late and Matt Nichols scored on a two-yard run to make things interesting at 24-17 with three minutes to play.
Stamps said he expects next week's contest to be as tight as the fourth quarter was on Saturday.
"It's playoff time and it's going to get a little harder," Stamps said after his five-catch, 59-yard performance. "Nothing is going to come easy for either team. Whatever we did at the beginning of the season is over with. We have to put that behind us now and start a new season."
It may be a new season, but it'll boast the same kind of intensity and animosity that has been building over the last couple of head-to-head matchups.
"You can tell we don't care for each other," Allen said. "There's all kinds of trash talk, guys getting in each other's faces, lots of big hits. And there's going to be 10 times as much next week when we see them. I can't wait to get to their house."
Hugh O'Neill kicked three field goals for Edmonton, while Tyler Thomas led the team with 66 yards rushing on 10 carries. Filling in for starter John White, Thomas also caught seven passes for 53 yards. Nichols started at quarterback in place of Mike Reilly and completed 30-of-42 pass attempts for 261 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Neither head coach would commit to his starting quarterback next week. Chris Jones didn't know whether Reilly or Nichols would get the call, while Corey Chamblin wasn't sure if Durant would be ready to go by that time. Durant did practise this past week after he had missed nearly two months with a torn tendon in his right elbow. Joseph has started the past three games for Saskatchewan.
Players from both team assured that the West semifinal wouldn't be a game of touch football.
"Now they have to come to our house and play in front of our fans," Stamps said. "It's going to be a really tough, physical football game and we both have a whole week to prepare for that. They had better be ready."
Added Edmonton's Odell Willis: "This time they won't have their crowd to boost them along. So I guess we'll what happens next week."Suggest a correction