The final moments were as tense as they come, but when the Saskatchewan Roughriders held on to defeat the Calgary Stampeders by a score of 20-17 on Saturday night, it produced a sigh of relief from the sidelines heard all the way back in Regina.
“Winning here at McMahon, it’s been tough. I’ve got a lot of bad memories here. Most importantly, I think it’s good because you guys won’t be able to tell me that I’ve never beat Calgary again,” quarterback Cody Fajardo joked to the media post-game. “I’m going to take that to the bank and that’s going to feel good.”
After three straight games against the Stampeders, letting that particular storyline fall by the wayside will be a welcome change for the star quarterback. Not having a win against the Calgary Stampeders was more statistical anomaly than real indication of his skills as a starter, but that doesn’t make the first one any less sweet.
Still, it was somebody else’s first win against the empiric Stamps that Fajardo and others on the Riders were really celebrating.
“This one is really for Coach [Craig Dickenson],” Fajardo continued. “He was in the same boat as I was and obviously it’s a little bit different because his brother coaches on the other side. In the locker room, a lot of the guys were happy for Coach Dickie.”
Since taking over as head coach of the Riders in 2019, Craig Dickenson had yet to top his younger brother, Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson, in a head to head matchup. Now that family balance has been restored and it will have real ramifications in a few months time.
“I told the guys now I can go home and have Christmas dinner and not have to sit at the kiddie table,” Dickenson said with a laugh. “Hopefully the family will take me back. I’m very proud of the guys. They played their hearts out.”
Of course Christmas dinner is not nearly as important as the other events taking place in December this year and while Calgary still holds the season series, the Riders are now in sole possession of second place in the West Division with a month to go until the start of the Grey Cup playoffs.
Having a win over the Stampeders put them in that position, let alone one in late October, should be a massive confidence boost for Saskatchewan as they head into their most important stretch of the season.
“It was a big one for a lot of reasons. For me personally, I felt like they’ve kind of had my number. The other thing is we haven’t beaten Calgary in the last two years, so I think it was a very big game,” Dickenson said when asked about the timeliness of the victory.
“Now, was it a playoff caliber game? Not quite, but as far as regular season goes I think you’re accurate. That was a big game for us.”
The Riders bench boss was quick to point out that there remains plenty of things for his team to improve upon before discussions about playoff matchups can be had, but the race to host the West Semi-Final appears to be down to just the two Dickenson-led contenders.
Fajardo too recognizes the impact that this victory has on that goal, something he’s been working towards all year.
“Coach Dickie had us all do a goal sheets and one of the things I put on my goal sheet was punch a ticket to the playoffs,” he said. “A lot of people want to talk about winning a Grey Cup, but the only way to win a Grey Cup is you’ve got to punch a ticket to the playoffs first. That was the number one thing on my goal sheet football-related, was to be able to punch a ticket and we’re on the right track.”