An otherwise insignificant game for the Montreal Alouettes will hold special meaning for veteran slotback Nik Lewis.
Lewis will return to where his stellar CFL career started on Friday, albeit seven blocks west, when the foundering Alouettes (3-13-0) face the playoff-bound Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-7-0) at Regina’s new Mosaic Stadium.
Regina became a city firsts for Lewis – first win, first catch, first touchdown – back in June 2004 when his Calgary Stampeders beat the Roughriders 33-10 at the city’s now-demolished Taylor Field stadium.
Thirteen years later, Lewis is the CFL’s all-time leader with 1,048 receptions and he prepares to wind down a successful football career that includes two Grey Cups and a reputation for bowling – or hurdling – over defenders.
“I remember my first game being in Saskatchewan. And it’d be kind of special to know that my last game, potentially, is there as well,” Lewis said. “I remember the catches well. I remember my first celebration going into that atmosphere there, and getting the win for my first game was huge to start my CFL career.”
Lewis said he doesn’t know if Friday’s game will be his last, but he’s at peace with that possibility.
“I think moving forward it’s based on who the new head coach is going to be here next year, what direction they want to go in as far as me playing, me coaching or me moving forward,” he said.
But before any of that’s on the table, Lewis said he wants the Alouettes to finish what’s been a season of struggles on a positive note.
“We haven’t performed well. We’ve had a lot of changes. And you just look for any kind of positive. To be able to go out and beat a good team (the Roughriders) is something positive.”
Montreal sits last or near last in most of the CFL’s statistical categories, including points for, points allowed, offensive points scored, touchdowns scored and touchdowns scored on offence.
The 35-year-old Lewis said he doesn’t want to use the word “salvage” when discussing Montreal’s two remaining games this year.
“It’s about building more than just wins and losses. It’s about building a foundation,” he said.
“To get on track is always hard when you’ve had losses like we’ve had and you’ve been beaten down a little bit. It’s hard to refocus and get back on track. But to prove that you can get back on track and try to turn something around is huge. So we want to continue to set that new standard and the wins will come in the future.”
The Roughriders are focused more on the immediate future. They’re playoff-bound for the first time since 2014 and the first time since head coach and general manager Chris Jones joined the team with his coaching staff in late 2015.
They secured their spot in the post-season after a convincing 30-7 win in Calgary last week.
The game was particularly memorable for the fact that loud-mouthed wide receiver Duron Carter started – and found success – at cornerback. He had a 43-yard pick-six off of the normally error-free Bo Levi Mitchell, which effectively sealed the win for the Riders.
Due to the return of cornerback Kacy Rodgers II from injury, Carter is set to start Friday’s game at his regular wide receiver position.
It’s not yet known whether the Riders will play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West division or cross over to the East division to play either the Ottawa Redblacks or the Toronto Argonauts.
If Lewis and the Alouettes can beat the Roughriders, and if Edmonton wins in Calgary on Saturday, then it will force the Riders to cross over.
If Edmonton loses or if Winnipeg beats B.C. on Saturday, then the Blue Bombers clinch second place in the West division and will host the division semifinal on Nov. 12.
The Roughriders will end their regular season next week at home against Edmonton, which may have an outcome on which of the two teams will cross over in the playoffs.