Pivotal showdown

DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 1:19 PM ET

REGINA -- Leave it to a good ol' boy from Moose Jaw to put a Roughriders game into perspective.

Saskatchewan defensive tackle Scott Schultz sees tonight's Taylor Field matchup with the visiting Calgary Stampeders as more than just a CFL regular season contest.

The first of three head-to-head battles over the next five weeks will determine which direction the two West Division teams will travel in the first half of the season.

According to Schultz, tonight's clash has all the frills and melodrama of a WWE main event.

"This is definitely the prairies heavyweight bout going back and forth for three games," said Schultz, who lived through a painful two-game sweep by the Stamps last season.

"It's been a pretty good rivalry over the years. You've got drama, mystery, heartache.

"We got stomped by these guys last year (in Calgary) and then lost a close one here at home."

Last season's matchups included an emotional subplot featuring Calgary quarterback Henry Burris facing his old team.

Taking all four points from Saskatchewan in '05 helped push the Roughies into the East playoffs as a wild-card and a first-round exit, something head coach Danny Barrett hasn't forgotten.

"I really haven't dwelled on last year other than they swept us," Barrett said.

"That speaks volumes in itself, when you're facing a Western opponent and you can't get one of the wins out of a home-and-home. This year, it's three games, so in the three-game series, with the first two here, that's very important to us."

The 1-1 Roughriders are bolstered this season by a number of key acquisitions, most notably former Ottawa quarterback Kerry Joseph and receiver/returner Jason Armstead.

The transition to their new team won't be without some growing pains as the offence has been plagued by inconsistency through two games.

After being crushed 45-28 in the season-opener in Vancouver, the Roughies slipped past the Lions 32-24 in a rematch at Taylor Field.

The 'Riders offence is second last in average yards passing per game and has the CFL's lowest pass completion percentage.

"You really can't set a timetable but we know it's going to take time," said Joseph, who has passed for just 456 yards through two games.

"We don't have the fortune of going through four or five weeks of training camp to understand the offence and get to know each other.

"It takes time and you have to be patient but you also have to have a sense of urgency."

The Stamps split a season-opening back-to-back series with Edmonton before improving to 2-1 with a 23-22 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"July is a big month for us because all our opponents are from the West, except for one, and this is a big one," Burris said.

The Stamps boasted the CFL's best road record last season.


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