Andrew Harris is excited for the opportunity to play in the annual Labour Day Classic in Regina.
“It’s always a great, exciting back-to-back games against Saskatchewan,” said Harris via videoconference. “When we come out to Mosaic it’s always loud there, it’s always a fun environment to play in and a hostile one. There’s nothing better than shutting up 30,000 fans in their building and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”
The veteran running back was ineligible to participate in the rivalry game last season due to a two-game suspension. Winnipeg lost the matchup — they’ve only won once on Labour Day Weekend since 2005 — but beat the Riders in the Banjo Bowl the following week by 25 points.
Quarterback Zach Collaros has been on both sides of the prairie rivalry and knows how much this game means to local football fans.
“I think there’s similarities. They both love their football teams,” said Collaros. “Both are great places to play football. It’s a lot different than being in some of those eastern cities. They really love their football in the west. It’s been great these last few years to really be able to experience that. Winnipeg’s been awesome to me.”
The Blue Bombers tout themselves as having the loudest fans in the CFL, but Mosaic Stadium is still exceptionally loud — particularly when Winnipeg comes to town.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere there, especially early in the first quarter after the teams runs out,” said Collaros. “We’ll have to settle in and try to execute our game plan the best that we can. Hopefully by the end of the first quarter we’ll be in the game and have an opportunity to win.”
Winnipeg is pumping in crowd noise during practice this week in order to manufacture a game-like atmosphere.
“It’s definitely deafening in the stadium,” said Harris. “When you get into the game, if you’re close to one of the end zones, it’s definitely loud to the point where you can’t hear the guy next to you. The communication needs to be at an all-time high with hand signals and timing. Practicing in this is annoying, but you gotta get ready for the fire,” said Harris.
“It’s very important in practice to try to create the atmosphere as best you can,” said Collaros. “The snap counts and being able to communicate with each other on the field — it’s hard to replicate in practice, but you do the best you can and hope to execute and not have any missed assignments.”
The Riders are the CFL’s only undefeated team at 3-0, while the Blue Bombers are half a game back at 3-1. Both teams are hoping to make the most of the upcoming back-to-back, which will have a huge impact of the West Division standings.
“It’s massive,” said Harris. “Anytime we’re playing a West team, especially with a shortened season, it’s absolutely crucial for playoff implications. It’s always fun when you got the Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl back-to-back.”