Stampeders sense playoff feel with tough matchup against Roughriders

Montreal Alouettes' Jake Wieneke, left, and Calgary Stampeders' Royce Metchie go up for the ball during first half CFL football action in Montreal, Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Calgary Stampeders know the task at hand. If the Stampeders (9-5) hope to finish atop the CFL???s West Division standings, they need to beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-4) when the two rivals clash at McMahon Stadium on Friday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

CALGARY - The Calgary Stampeders need a win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night for a chance to finish atop the CFL's West Division standings.

The Stampeders are 9-5 while Saskatchewan, winners of four straight, have climbed to 10-4.

"If we beat then this week, we're tied with them in the standings and now we've got the tie-breaker on them," said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who wasn't in the lineup when Calgary beat the Riders 37-10 in Regina on July 6.

"If they beat us, they're two games up on us with three to play and that's going to be very, very hard to come back from.

"If we want to win this division, if we want to have a chance of having a bye week the first week (of playoffs) and playing the West Final at our house, this is a game we've got to win."

Saskatchewan will be looking to avoid being swept by the Stamps this season while strengthening its grip on top spot in the west.

"We're definitely going to have a challenge in front of us," said Calgary running back Don Jackson, who had 12 carries for 58 yards and touchdown during a 21-17 road loss to the Montreal Alouettes last Saturday. "We just plan on doing all the things we want to do, offensively and defensively, that can help us get a win."

The Stampeders built up a 17-10 lead through two quarters in Montreal but mistakes proved costly. They finished with five turnovers and weren't able to score any points in the second half.

"We've got to hold onto the football," said Jackson. "That's the key to winning. When Saskatchewan wins games, they win games because they cause turnovers and they keep the ball. That's what the plan is, to make sure we don't turn over the football."

Linebacker Wynton McManis said he's confident the Stampeders can put last weekend's loss behind them while turning their attentions towards beating the Riders, who are coming off a convincing 21-6 win at home over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last Saturday.

"They're a good team," McManis said of the Riders. "They're a physical team. They bring a lot of enthusiasm to the game, a lot of physicality, so if we can match that — if not, take it up another level — we'll just come out and take it to them."

McManis added that the Stampeders need to learn from the lessons of their first-half lead over the Als that they let slip away.

"It just has to be an all-game thing," said McManis, who had eight tackles (six on defence and two on special teams) against Montreal. "You can be beating someone and be playing well in the first half and things can change and it can be a whole different game in the second half, so you just have to make sure you keep that level of focus and that intensity on the smaller details."

A snowstorm in Calgary on Tuesday followed by chilly conditions throughout the week hampered Calgary's preparations for Friday's game, but coach Dave Dickenson said his players will be ready to face a tough Saskatchewan squad.

"It's just an interesting week," Dickenson said. "We're ready to play. They will be too. We haven't had quite the tempo we wanted with the weather and the field conditions. Maybe that's a good thing, though. Maybe we've got a little extra energy and we'll save it for the game.

"We know what it's about. We know it's going to be a tough game, though, and we're excited for the opportunity."

Jackson noted that the plunging temperatures have reminded his teammates that they have to ramp up their intensity for the remaining games in the regular season.

"It definitely has a playoff feel, especially when there's things at stake," Jackson said. "I feel like that's how we should approach the rest of the season anyway. Every game should be like a one-game playoff from this point on."


Saturday, McMahon Stadium

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE — The Stampeders have compiled a 5-2 record at McMahon Stadium this season, while the Roughriders are 3-3 on the road. Calgary has a 5-1 record against West Division opponents this year, while Saskatchewan is 4-2 against western foes.

RECORD RUN — In the midst of 9-1 record in their past 10 games, the Roughriders are looking to accomplish something they haven't done since 1970 when they closed out that season with a 10-1 streak to finish atop the West Division at 14-2.

HOT START — The 9-3 record that Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo has compiled in his first 12 career starts with the Riders is the best such mark in club history. "You can tell the team really rallies around him," said Calgary coach Dave Dickenson of Fajardo. "He's had a great year."

LOOKING AHEAD — After facing the Riders on Friday, the Stamps will play a home-and-home series against the Blue Bombers (on Oct. 19 in Calgary and on Oct. 25 in Winnipeg) before wrapping up the regular season with a road game against the B.C. Lions on Nov. 2. Meanwhile, the Riders will travel to Vancouver to play the Lions on Oct. 18 before a home-and-home set with the Eskimos (on Oct. 26 in Edmonton and a rematch a week later in Regina).

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