Roughriders clinch first in West Division

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The road to the Grey Cup officially runs through Rider Nation.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday afternoon by a score of 23-13, improving the club’s record to 13-5.

Cody Fajardo was held out of the game due to a back strain, missing his first contest of the season. Isaac Harker made his first career CFL start, completing 23-of-28 passing for 213 yards.

The Eskimos rested a number of regular starters in the game, including Trevor Harris, Ricky Collins Jr., Greg Ellingson, and Larry Dean. Edmonton (8-10) had already punched a ticket to Montreal (10-8) for next week’s East Semi-Final, which is why they chose to start a number of backups.

Logan Kilgore threw a pair of touchdown passes but ultimately struggled against Saskatchewan’s pass rush, throwing for 88 yards and an interception. Troy Williams took over late in relief, though he threw a pick-six with less than 90 seconds remaining.

Saskatchewan’s 13-win total is the club’s best record since 1970 when the club finished the regular season 14-2. The Riders lost the West Final to the Calgary Stampeders that season over a three-game series.

Saskatchewan placekicker Brett Lauther struggled in the game, finishing two-of-six on field goals. Three misses were long — distances of 47, 50, and 54 yards, respectively — but a costly fourth quarter miss came from just 32 yards out.

Lauther made no mistake with 1:33 remaining in the game, booting a 12-yard field goal to provide his team with a late lead. A pick-six from linebacker Cameron Judge two pays later would seal the victory.

Veteran defensive end Charleston Hughes recorded one sack in the game and finishes the regular season with a league-leading 16. Hughes’ bookend, A.C. Leonard, also had an impressive showing with six tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Saskatchewan’s opponent for the West Final will be the winner of next week’s West Semi-Final between the Calgary Stampeders (11-6) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-7).

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.