Right at Holmes in Riders backfield

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

REGINA -- It turns out this won't be the Wes semifinal after all.

Running back Wes Cates did all he could but isn't recovered from a sprained foot to face his former team today in the West semifinal at Mosaic Stadium (3 p.m., CBC).

Corey Holmes will instead get the start for the Saskatchewan Roughriders at tailback, which is no better news for the Calgary Stampeders defence because they consider Holmes to be an outstanding talent.

The news does little to change the game plan for the Roughriders because Cates missed the past three games anyway and was only taking limited practice reps.

Saskatchewan also has former Ottawa Renegades running back Josh Ranek on the roster to add a contrasting style to the shifty, agile Holmes.

"We feel bad for Wes because he would love to be out there against Calgary," said Riders quarterback Kerry Joseph.

"But Corey has been a great player in this league for years. We trust that he can go in and get the job done with the schemes we're running.

"He's a great runner out of the backfield. Then you have a guy like Josh in there, who is a great compliment because he's so different. He can get the job done as well."

When Ranek was with the Renegades, he often destroyed the Calgary defence with some huge games.

Holmes is still listed as the main returner and is an outstanding receiver, so he will get plenty of chances to have a great day.

This has been a roller-coaster season for Holmes, who started in Hamilton and was traded back to the Roughriders just before Labour Day.

He returned to the place where he was the West Division's nominee for most outstanding player in 2005, and this is only his sixth start at tailback since then.

"I just have to play the way I've been playing all year. Corey Holmes is a positive guy, always helping my teammates out," Holmes said. "Being the starter with Wes out, it's huge for me, but I'm just happy to be out there with my teammates."

Losing Cates is another blow to the Riders offence, which is already without fullback Chris Szarka (hand) and receivers Matt Dominguez (knee) and Mike Washington (knee).

Riders head coach Kent Austin said every player on his roster is expected to perform at a high level despite who isn't playing.

And Austin added the Riders don't lose anything turning to Holmes.

"We have great confidence in Corey," Austin said. "He's been an outstanding player for a reason. We don't hide behind excuses of injuries because it's not honouring the guy we're asking to play."


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