Riders look to win sixth straight, season series in Calgary

Green Zone pre-game begins at 5:30 p.m. on News Talk Radio
Reported by Joel Gasson
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It may only be August 9th and the Riders are only playing their sixth game of the year but there's a lot on the line. 

Not only can they start the season 6-0 but a win tonight in Calgary will also give them the season series against the Stampeders with a whole lot of season left to go. That's important as it effectively gives the Green and White an extra game when it comes to the standings, as it will serve as the first tie-breaker should the Riders finish the season with the same record as the Stampeders. 

A win would also give the Riders some seperation at top the West Division, resulting in a two game lead on the Lions and, effectively, a three game lead on the Stamps. 

Despite all of this, Riders Head Coach Corey Chamblin has kept repeating a message he's been relaying all year: that no game is bigger than the other and that every game is the biggest that week. 

"It's an important game because it's the next game," said Chamblin. "I just think there's a lot of hype around this game."

Of course Chamblin does know how important the game is, but he's keeping that kind of talk in the locker room, as he obviously wants the team to stay focused and worried on the task at hand, and not the bigger picture.

So far this year it's been working but they haven't had a game like this yet, according to Chamblin. The importance isn't lost on his players.

"We always want those guys to come here and play us later in the year, if it comes down to that," said quarterback Darian Durant, who admitted this game is huge. "It's definitely something we're aware of."

Last time these teams met the Riders sent a message to the CFL that this was a different team, as they shutout the Stamps in the second half and scored on all of their possessions.

"We had trouble finishing games last year. That was our real test, our only test so far this season," said Durant. "Having a close game going into the fourth quarter, making sure we keep playing mistake-free."

It's certainly easy to talk about a win but it's another thing to go out and do it, and the Stamps won't make it easy. A lot is made of the Calgary offense, but their defense is pretty good too. Earlier in the year Durant said they were probably the fastest defense the Riders would face this year. Geroy Simon added this week that they have a lot of team speed.

"They get to the ball, they gang tackle," said Simon. "They're a veteran group."

Because of that, Simon adds they don't miss many tackles either.

As is usually the case when the Riders and Stamps meet, it's likely to be old-fashioned smash-mouth football, meaning the line of scrimmage will be important as ever. Defensively, it's the same old story; you have to stop running back Jon Cornish to have success against Calgary.

"It's not one man tackling, it's not two, it's all 12 guys trying to get to him and putting a hit on him," said linebacker Rey Williams.

These are the kinds of games where defensive lineman Keith Shologan makes his living. Shologan has been a run-stopper his entire career in Saskatchewan but he doesn't see himself as a key to victory tonight.

"I got to worry about the centre and the guards," said Shologan. "That's my big thing, I usually take on double teams."

It's been a good run for the defensive line lately as they had 12 sacks in two games against Hamilton. But to a man they all know Calgary will present a much greater challenge, as they have one of the best offensive lines in the league.

As for the Riders offensive line, they'll not only be looking to spring Kory Sheets for 100-plus yards again. They'll also have to keep a pretty good pass rush at bay, which includes notorious defensive end Charleston Hughes, who is back in the lineup after missing a couple because of an injury. He has a history of terrorizing Rider quarterbacks.

"Try to get people to chip him a little more on their way out," said offensive line Doug Malone. "The backfield, and the backs to help us out a little bit."

However Malone adds they can't concentrate only on Hughes, as the Stamps do have many weapons along the defensive line.

The war of words has begun, especially from Hughes, as he had some things to say about Sheets to the media ahead of the game on Thursday.

"I don't think he's probably going to rush over 100 yards against us," said Hughes. "I don't think he's been hit yet. He needs to get hit. I don't think he can take a hit."

Sheets had this message in return.

"Come hit me. If you can catch me, come hit me."

Kevin Glenn is starting at quarterback for the Stamps as Drew Tate is out for a few weeks because of a strain in his arm. Darian Durant is back behind centre for the Riders and defensive backs Terrell Maze and Macho Harris, along with full back Neal Hughes, are back in the lineup for the Green and White.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on TSN. The Green Zone pre-game show gets underway at 5:30 p.m. on News Talk Radio with the post-game show following the final whistle.