Rivalry heats up

Bombers'  Abou-Mechrek and Joe Fleming jostle during practice Wednesday, August 17, 2005. (MARCEL...

Bombers' Abou-Mechrek and Joe Fleming jostle during practice Wednesday, August 17, 2005. (MARCEL CRETAIN/Sun)

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

REGINA -- In just two short months, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders have undergone serious makeovers.

The teams, which will do battle tonight in the annual Labour Day Classic at sold-out Taylor Field (6 p.m., TSN/CJOB), are mere ghosts of the squads that met in their respective season-openers on June 25.

The Roughriders (3-6) romped to a 42-15 victory on that lightning-filled night, but they enter tonight's game on a five-game losing streak and with a plethora of new faces due to injuries.

The Bombers (3-7) have won two of their last three and also have a brand new look thanks to a grumpy general manager with a twitchy trigger finger.

GRUDGE MATCH

With the winner of tonight's grudge match moving into a tie with the Calgary Stampeders for third place in the West Division, an increased intensity level to this storied game is certain.

Trying to figure out what the heck is going to happen is not, as both teams have made 11 changes to their 24 starting positions since they last met.

The absent Bombers include receivers Scott Cloman (cut), Wane McGarity (cut) and Kamau Peterson (traded), offensive lineman Dave Mudge (traded), defensive tackle Doug Brown (hurt) and defensive back Tim Carter (cut).

Their replacements -- Chris Brazzell, Dan Goodspeed, Aaron Fiacconi, John Feugill, Stanford Samuels and Gilles Colon -- have all come in and produced.

The missing Roughriders include defensive linemen Nate Davis, Daved Benefield and Terrell Jurineack, linebacker Jackie Mitchell, receiver Matt Dominguez and defensive back Davin Bush -- all of whom are injured.

Their replacements -- Rontarius Robinson, Lamar Lee and Dwayne LeFall -- will all be making their first CFL starts tonight.

Basically, it's a whole new ball game featuring brand new teams.

The fight for a playoff spot starts tonight.

"The pieces are definitely in place," Bombers slotback Milt Stegall said yesterday in the bowels of Taylor Field. "Now we just have to get it rolling."

The Bomber offence has been rolling, but the defence literally tripped over its own feet last week in a 41-39 loss to previously winless Hamilton. That has linebacker Lamar McGriggs worried.

"We've got all the pieces to make a push for the playoffs, but I don't know if everybody's on the same page," he said.

"We're searching for a defensive identity right now, since (defensive co-ordinator) Rod (Rust) is gone. We lost ours, and now we gotta find some way to get it back."

Winnipeg has won two straight Classics and three of the last four. Both teams had 4-7 records after last year's clash, but Winnipeg missed the playoffs and Saskatchewan was a field goal away from going to the Grey Cup.

"These games are critical, but they're not the end of the season," Bombers head coach Jim Daley said. "Saskatchewan proved that last year."

McGriggs, however, said a win is a must going into Saturday's Banjo Bowl rematch at Canad Inns Stadium, where the 'Riders haven't won a regular-season game since 1994.

"Winnipeg wouldn't be a nice place to be if we drop this game right here," he said. "It wouldn't be nice at all."

LABOUR DAY CLASSIC

Game results since 1970:

Sept. 5, 2004 Winnipeg 17 Saskatchewan 4

Aug. 31, 2003 Winnipeg 36 Saskatchewan 18

Sept. 1, 2002 Saskatchewan 33 Winnipeg 19

Sept. 2, 2001 Winnipeg 20 Saskatchewan 18

Sept. 1, 2000 Saskatchewan 38 Winnipeg 29

Sept. 5, 1999 Saskatchewan 47 Winnipeg 17

Sept. 6, 1998 Saskatchewan 32 Winnipeg 18

Aug. 31, 1997 Winnipeg 43 Saskatchewan 12

Sept. 1, 1996 Saskatchewan 41 Winnipeg 23

Sept. 3, 1995 Saskatchewan 56 Winnipeg 4

Sept. 4, 1994 Saskatchewan 42 Winnipeg 31

Sept. 5, 1993 Winnipeg 25 Saskatchewan 24

Sept. 6, 1992 Saskatchewan 32 Winnipeg 20

Sept. 1, 1991 Saskatchewan 56 Winnipeg 23

Sept. 2, 1990 Saskatchewan 55 Winnipeg 11

Sept. 3, 1989 Winnipeg 28 Saskatchewan 20

Sept. 4, 1988 Saskatchewan 29 Winnipeg 19

Sept. 6, 1987 Winnipeg 29 Saskatchewan 25

Aug. 31, 1986 Saskatchewan 34 Winnipeg 30

Sept. 1, 1985 Winnipeg 18 Saskatchewan 10

Sept. 2, 1984 Saskatchewan 30 Winnipeg 25

Sept. 4, 1983 Saskatchewan 32 Winnipeg 30

Sept. 5, 1982 Winnipeg 36 Saskatchewan 35

Sept. 1, 1980 Winnipeg 32 Saskatchewan 29

Sept. 3, 1979 Winnipeg 28 Saskatchewan 11

Sept. 4, 1978 Winnipeg 31 Saskatchewan 29

Sept. 5, 1977 Saskatchewan 26 Winnipeg 18

Sept. 1, 1975 Saskatchewan 27 Winnipeg 23

Sept. 2, 1974 Winnipeg 20 Saskatchewan 18

Sept. 4, 1972 Saskatchewan 32 Winnipeg 21

Sept. 7, 1970 Saskatchewan 30 Winnipeg 11

Saskatchewan leads the series 23-18


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