Capital competition for rival clubs

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Was it only four games ago that the Edmonton Eskimos went into Taylor Field in Regina and gave the Saskatchewan Roughriders a game and life?

Was it only four games ago that Danny Barrett was coaching for his life and making it known to all that the Eskimos visit was a bigger game than any other in this season for his squad, which had struggled to a 3-6 start?

"It's a big game. It's a bigger game than Labour Day. It's a game with playoff implications in September," said Barrett going into that game.

The Roughriders won it. They won five straight before losing 38-34 last weekend to Montreal.

They arrive in town today for tomorrow's afternoon game at Commonwealth Stadium for one of the biggest games this year.

Four games ago, the Alberta and Saskatchewan 100th birthday Centennial Committees were in Regina promoting a two-game total point Centennial Bowl between the two teams from the capital cities of the two provinces.

It was an interesting distraction at the time.

Now it's more than a little meaningful, this two-game total point event. Forget about 100 years of bragging rights. It could very well decide where the two teams finish in the standings.

Whoever wins the game wins the season series between the teams.

The Eskimos go into the game two points ahead of the Roughriders. An Eskimos win and Saskatchewan can't finish ahead of Edmonton and the home-town team would nail down a 34th consecutive season in the playoffs. It would also reduce their magic number for finishing second to one against the Calgary Stampeders in earning the right to play host in the West semifinal.

Should Saskatchewan beat the Eskimos, the teams would be tied. All the Roughriders would have to do to finish ahead of the Eskimos would be to match results with Edmonton.

The Eskimos have a home game remaining against the first-place B.C. Lions and an end-of-the-regular-season away game against the still-in-the-hunt Calgary Stampeders. The Roughriders have the same two teams to play in their remaining two games - except their tilt against Calgary will be in Taylor Field and Saskatchewan ends its regular season in B.C. Place in Vancouver.

Much has already been made this week of Saskatchewan's thirst to play host to a playoff game for the first time since 1988.

So much about this year has been a replay of last year for the Roughriders.

Last year they were 3-6 at the halfway mark before winning five straight games. This year they were 3-6 and won five straight.

Last year the Roughriders ended up with the same 9-9 record as the Eskimos but Edmonton won the season series and were awarded the home game. The Roughriders came to Commonwealth Stadium and beat the Eskimos in the West semifinal and then went to Vancouver and lost the final in overtime when Paul McCallum missed his field goal attempt.

What's different this year is Henry Burris now quarterbacks the Calgary Stampeders. Marcus Crandell has taken over as Saskatchewan quarterback from Nealon Greene for the past six games.

Until he threw three interceptions in the last one, Crandell - another in the long list of quarterbacks who were brought into the CFL by the Eskimos - had only been picked off twice in the previous five games.

The Eskimos, with the return of Dan Comiskey to the offensive line and the arrival of Troy Davis at running back, have now made a move which adds another aspect to the matchup.

Everything involved makes for one of the most interesting set-ups for a regular season game as you're going to get.


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