Forget the Canadian Air Force, it’s the Saskatchewan Air Force

Photo courtesy: Arthur Ward

Saskatchewan Roughrider fans finally have something to replace the Canadian Air Force that dazzled fans in the dying days of the old Taylor Field.

Brayden Lenius and Mitchell Picton were born in Regina and both have caught one of Cody Fajardo’s touchdown passes on the league’s highest-powered offence through Week 2 of the CFL season.

After Lenius scored his first in Week 1, it was Picton’s turn in Saturday night’s Week 2 win over Hamilton. And he admits to forgetting about what to do with the souvenir football.

“I actually wasn’t even thinking. I dropped it in the end zone after I caught it and Swerve [Kyran Moore] picked it up for me and brought it back to the sidelines, so I’ve got it back at the house now,” Picton explained.

“That made my night. Forget my touchdown and everything else, when I saw Mitch score, that legit made my night because I know we done been through so much,” Moore said. “For him to score in front of his hometown, that meant the world to me.”

Fajardo was excited about connecting with the young receiver for Picton’s first ever touchdown catch in the CFL after being selected by the Riders in the fifth round, 37th overall during the 2017 CFL Draft.

“It feels great. I’m just glad Picton didn’t throw the ball into the stands, I think he learned from Lenuis. To have those guys, those prairie home boys score, I think it’s good for the team, I think it’s really good for the league.”

“He’s put in his time, but you know it’s paying off. Picton used all that time that he was on the PR to work on his craft, work on his body, turn himself into a pro football player and he’s done it,” head coach Craig Dickenson said.

It is likely Picton’s role will only increase with the news of wideout Shaq Evans being placed on the six-game-injured list with a broken foot. Fajardo thinks the rookie is up to the challenge.

“Picton did an incredible job of coming in and filling in for Shaq Evans which was a huge loss for us, but Picton is one of the smartest receivers we have and can play every position,” Fajado said. “When you can do that you’ll find yourself on the field and hopefully he’ll catch some more touchdowns.”

The University of Regina Rams alum realizes comparisons to the Canadian Air Force group of Andy Fantuz, Rob Bagg and Chris Getzlaf from an earlier generation are inevitable.

“They were a very fun group to watch and a crew of incredible receivers. Guys that I look up to,” Picton said.

“Guys that I was fortunate enough to play with a little bit in my earlier years and I’ve also trained with a few of them as well and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from them. Watching them and then also being able to work alongside them a little bit, it was fantastic and something we’re trying to mimic here.”

Picton has a close enough relationship with Bagg that he received a congratulatory text from the former Riders pass catcher to celebrate the first touchdown reception of his young career.

“It’s great, the guys love Picton and they want him to do well because they know how much it means to him. He’s put in the work and now you’re seeing the results,” Dickenson said.

“He’s still got a lot of room to improve, but he’s shown that he can play for us and that he can contribute, I’m really proud of him.”

Dickenson believes it is a fact that his team gets a little extra juice from players born or raised in Saskatchewan and he’s seeing that with his two young receivers from Regina, already.

“Those Canadian receivers are saving us right now. Lenius is solid and Picton had another good game.”

Picton and Lenius are still a long ways away from earning their stripes to truly enter a class with the receivers who made up the Canadian Air Force back in the day, but there’s no denying the striking similarities already exist.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.