Where were you as time expired in the West Final yesterday? Were you in a sports bar? Were you in the comfort of your own home? Were you hugging grown men like there was no tomorrow? Wherever you were I'm sure it's a moment you will always remember.
On Sunday the Riders defeated the BC Lions 26-17 in front of a sell-out crowd at BC Place, earning them a berth in the 95th Grey Cup. That's right, the Riders re but one win away from putting the perfect finish on the most unlikely of seasons.
With the intensity and focus the Riders showed, nothing was going to deny us the win. The home crowd noise couldn't stop us (4 procedure calls, 0 time counts), BC's highly touted O-line couldn't stop us (7 sacks), their all-star secondary couldn't stop us (0 INTs, 2 passing TDs), their dangerous D-line couldn't stop us (5 sacks, 112 yds rushing), the CFL's top RB couldn't stop us (35 yds rushing, 1 TD); last year's Grey Cup MVP couldn't stop us. Not even the referees could stop us (1 botched challenge). This team will not be denied.
While the Rider offense did enough to win, full credit for this one goes to the defense. I haven't seen such brutal hits since Ricky Martin was popular. While the receivers, particularly Jason Clermont and Geroy Simon, took more than their fair share of abuse, one of the most recurring victims of the Riders' punishing defense was Dave Dickenson. The amount of protection he was getting from his offensive line made me wonder if Dave had spent all of his post-concussion recuperation time sleeping with their wives and stealing from their elderly mothers, because I've seen drunk college freshmen that were better able to resist the advances of a Chick. I mean, maybe you can understand an occasional blitzing linebacker coming free off the edge, but when a guy they call "Chunky" can come through the middle of the line untouched, you have to wonder if there's some unresolved issues!
Another bonus of the Rider win is that it means the Lions will finally shave their ridiculous mustaches. Although I can't help but think back to the days after the 2001 Grey Cup, where Troy Westwood vowed that he wouldn't cut his hair until the Bombers won the Grey Cup - I'm hoping that a bold Lions player steps up and makes a similar claim with regards to their mustache, since I think it's high time that someone gave Lanny McDonald some competition.
The Riders flew back into Regina around 1:30 this morning and they were greeted by hundreds and hundreds of Rider fans. The Rider Prophet and his Media Consultant were right in the heart of the celebration, and the atmosphere was truly incredible. We shot some video footage which I will post tomorrow.
Finally, I'd like to point out the heart shown by this team all season long, further demonstrated again last night by the numerous players that toughed out injuries to help the team. Wes Cates, DJ Flick, Chris Szarka, Corey Holmes, Marcus Adams, Kitwana Jones, Maurice Lloyd, Reggie Hunt, James Johnson and I'm sure many others all worked through the pain yesterday to contribute to the win. That type of commitment to the overall team objective is why the BC Lions season ended yesterday, and it's why the Saskatchewan Roughriders will hoist Lord Earl Grey's mug in just under a week.