For the 58th Labour Day Classic, Roughriders quarterback Jake Dolegala scripted an outcome beyond his wildest dreams. “It’s all about focus and trusting your team,” said Dolegala after Saskatchewan’s thrilling 32-30 overtime victory against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday night.
“That was an exquisite game, definitely one of my best wins,” head coach Craig Dickenson confessed, wearing a gratified smile.
Saskatchewan tossed the gauntlet in the extra session when Antonio Pipkin executed his second masterstroke of the match – a one-yard quarterback sneak. Dolegala then joined forces with Shawn Bane Jr., and their two-point convert pushed the score to 32-24 in favor of the Riders.
Winnipeg retorted immediately. Quarterback Zach Collaros, boasting an impeccable record of wins in all his six Labour Day starts, joined forces with Kenny Lawler to strike a 35-yard touchdown. The astonishing move hushed the 33,350 crowd, now anxiously waiting for the two-point conversion. But what happened next sealed the fate of the match; Rider’s rookie defender Jaxson Ford diverted a pass intended for the Bombers. The blunder cost them the match.
Ford, a former Regina Rams prodigy ,explained his strategy. “The plan was a blitz by Derrick Moncrief, but I assumed his position and accomplished what I could.” A picture of confidence, he added, “The game releases a flow of energy.” Ford’s coach was not short on praises for his rookie defender, “We have faith in him. We believe he’s fully capable of leading and clinching a win for us,” Dickenson said.
Riders clinched the overtime opportunity with an 18-yard field goal by Brett Lauther, his fifth in the contest, with but 31 seconds left on the clock.
An unnecessary aggression in the form of a roughness penalty almost bid the Roughriders farewell. Robertson of the Riders, in an impulsive move, initiated a contact with Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros after play ended, leading to an unnecessary roughness penalty. Robertson was remorseful, remarking, “The game sometimes gets physical, but I’ve to master my temper, strike a balance.”
Dickenson mirrored similar sentiments, admitting, “This game was an emotional maelstrom. We faltered a few times. I need to project a more composed profile.”
The game saw Antonio Pipkin score the first major in the game’s second quarter with a quarterback sneak, a move that extended the Riders’ lead to 10-0. Later, Collaros and the Bombers retaliated with a three-play, 100-yard touchdown drive, closing the gap slightly.
Both quarterbacks put impressive numbers on the board: Dolegala completed 22 of 39 passes for a hefty 326 yards, while Collaros finished with 13 of 26 for 279 yards.
The victory boosted the Roughriders to 6-5 in the current season. Not all news was positive, though, as offensive lineman Chris Kelly had to exit midgame due to a knee injury. Dickenson had no updates but hinted at a pessimistic outlook, saying, “It didn’t look good.”
Poor air quality brought on by wildfires in B.C and Northwest Territories could not dampen the spirit of the game. Although the air quality index reflected ‘extremely high’ levels a couple of hours before kick-off, it lowered by game time, allowing the exhilarating match to unfold seamlessly.
The Riders face the Bombers once again for the eagerly awaited Banjo Bowl next Saturday afternoon.