Quarterback Cody Fajardo said that while the drivers are aware of the difficult schedule, they are not losing focus on the task at hand.
“I think there is excitement because the only way to catch western teams is to play against western teams. We’re excited for the opportunity to play against one of the hottest teams in the CFL right now and see how we stack up against them,” said Fajardo. “It’s not a competitive game because it’s early in the season, but it’s one of those games that can set you on the right path.”
July was a tough month for the Riders. In addition to suspensions for defenseman Garrett Marino (four games) and receiver Duke Williams (one game), the Riders are grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak following the July 19 Touchdown Atlantic game against the Toronto Argonauts.
The drivers were unable to hold any practice ahead of last week’s second leg against Argos and this week was also short with only one full practice session.
However, they will benefit from a number of experienced starters returning to the squad. Fajardo, cornerback Nick Marshall, defensive lineman Charbel Dabire, receiver Justin McInnis and offensive lineman Terran Vaughn are back after erasing COVID protocol while Williams served his suspension last week.
As well as dealing with COVID, Fajardo has an ongoing problem with his left knee. He sustained a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury at week 2 and has worn a large brace in every game since.
Fajardo, who said his knee is at 70 percent, is more looking forward to getting the upper hand over his COVID woes.
“I’ve had a bit of congestion in my chest and I think through exercising and running I’ve relieved a lot of that so I’m feeling a lot better. I will say that my energy is back to normal, which is the most exciting thing for me,” Fajardo said. “I felt like I was pulling a bit. I went to bed early last night, eight o’clock, which was pretty darn early for me. But yes, I feel energetic. I feel good.”
BC brings Regina a high-octane offense with Nathan Rourke, a young Canadian quarterback, at the controls.
The 24-year-old has completed 126 of 160 passes for 1,605 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
With five movie games to study Rourke, Riders head coach Craig Dickenson has a good idea of what kind of player Rourke is.
“I think he’s very intelligent and you can tell he understands this offense. When it’s there, he gets the ball out quickly and when it’s not there, you can see him going through his progressions and then using his legs,” Dickenson said. “He’s showing what we’ve all seen from his college days and he’s been able to transfer his college success to the pros, which is difficult because the level of competition is increasing quite a bit.
“He’s got good people around him and I think they’re doing a good job of giving him opportunities to be successful with play calling. This offense just really clicks and he’s the straw that stirs the drink.
BC LIONS (4-1) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS
Friday, Mosaic Stadium
SASKY STREAK: The Riders go into Friday’s game on an eight-game winning streak against the Lions. BC’s last win over Saskatchewan came on August 5, 2016, a 30-15 win at BC Place. During the eight-game streak, the Riders outplayed the Lions 274-160.
RETURN BACK: Riders receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker is looking to recover from a tough game last week against the Argos, which saw eight targets but ended without catches. He is second in the CFL in yards after catch (YAC) with 201 yards. He leads Saskatchewan with 32 receptions and 370 reception yards.
LIONS ON THE PROWL: BC are looking to start the season 5-1 for the first time since 2007 when they topped the West Division with a record of 14-3-1. The Riders, who finished 12-6, upset the Lions 26-17 in the West Final before beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in the Gray Cup game.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 28, 2022.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press