The CFL’s Western Final between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gets underway on Sunday afternoon.
“The atmosphere, the pressure, all of that is amplified in these games because you know you’re one big play away from going home, and you’re one big play away from getting to the ultimate goal of going to the Grey Cup,” said Linebacker Solomon Elimimian.
“Every small detail is going to be critical in what we’re trying to do.”
The two teams faced off in last year’s Western Semi-Final, where the Blue Bombers beat the Roughriders 23-18.
Finishing with a 13-5 record for first in the West Division, led by quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Roughriders are much more confident this time around.
“He’s shown that he can execute and run the offence the way we need him to. We feel like he’s going to be good,” said Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson.
“We feel if he’s not 100 per cent, he’s close.”
Fajardo has been dealing with an oblique injury since the last week of the regular season but said nothing will stop him from being on the field.
“We’ve uncovered every stone possible to get me feeling as comfortable and confident I can be,” Fajardo said. “I thought our game plan throughout the two weeks has been tremendous and it’s put me in a position to be able to hopefully get out there and play some good football.”
Roughriders’ star receiver Shaq Evans suffered a toe injury in the final game against the Edmonton Eskimos. It’s still up in the air if he’ll take the field.
“We’re going to try our best to get him out there, move him around a little bit, see how he looks and if he looks fine and he feels fine we’ll go with him. If he doesn’t we’ll go with Kenny,” Dickenson said.
“If he plays you’ll see a fast, fresh Kenny Stafford.”
Dickenson acknowledged the long-standing rivalry between the two teams, but said at the end of the day it’s still a ball game.
“The team that plays the best is going to win, but the stakes are a little higher. There’s a little bit more attention obviously we’re getting on this game, and I think there’s a familiarity between the two teams that maybe adds a little more juice to the rivalry,” Dickenson said.
Quarterback Zach Collaros will get the nod for the Blue Bombers.
The former Roughrider began the 2019 season with the Green and White, but was sidelined after being concussed in Week 1.
Collaros was traded to the Toronto Argonauts shortly after, and then shipped to the Blue Bombers at the trade deadline.
“We could change what we’re doing, but we feel what we do is good. So we’ll have to balance that. At what point, do we do what we do best, as opposed to throw off the quarterback,” Dickenson said.
“There will be enough variations, that hopefully he doesn’t recognize everything he’s seen, and we’re going to try to play fast, make sure that if he does see it, he has to make a quick decision on what he’s seeing.”
The winner of the Western Final will face the winner of the Eastern Final in the Grey Cup in Calgary on Nov. 24.
Sunday’s Western Final begins at 3:30 p.m.
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