CFL playoff history: Lions-Roughriders
The Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions have enjoyed only sporadic post-season clashes in a 37-year span, playing only six times — including a three-game playoff in 1963.
Then the new millennium emerged and everything changed. The teams squared off in three West finals (2004, 2006, 2007), and one semifinal meeting in 2008.
After defeating the Riders in 2006, the Lions went on to topple Montreal for their first Grey Cup title in six years.
The following year Saskatchewan exacted its revenge, upending B.C. before getting by Winnipeg in the Grey Cup game.
Through it all, players have emerged as heroes and goats, with one treated to a long week of unenviable house cleaning.
Here is a look at five memorable playoff games between the Lions and Riders during the last 47 years.
2004: One man's trash …
This one had all the makings of a mismatch.
Entering the West final, the Lions were the clear top dogs after winning the regular-season division crown with a 13-5 record. The Riders (9-9) finished third before walking away with an eight-point victory over the Edmonton Eskimos in the semifinal contest. B.C. also had CFL MVP Casey Printers under centre.
The game was anything but easy.
Quarterback Dave Dickenson replaced the injured Printers in the fourth quarter, and the Lions found themselves scrambling late to simply tie the game. Fortunately for head coach Wally Buono, he had kicker Duncan O'Mahony to rely on. Trailing 24-21 with six seconds remaining in the fourth, the Irish-born kicker booted a 47-yard field goal.
The kick only extended the angst of the hometown fans. However, Saskatchewan kicker Paul McCallum missed an easy 18-yard field goal before O'Mahony stepped in a few plays later to sail a perfect 40-yard attempt through the uprights, giving B.C. the 27-25 victory.
While O'Mahony revelled in victory, McCallum's nightmare was only beginning. Within hours of the loss, angry fans pelted the beleaguered kicker's home with eggs and dumped manure on his lawn.
"I didn't do my job," said McCallum, who missed two field goals in the game. "I pulled it. I was trying to hit it straight. I mishit it. I let a lot of people down, especially the guys in this locker room."
Letting his teammates down was the least of his problems.
2007: Sweet redemption
You could tell the Riders were fed up. Leading up to the big game in Vancouver, players were already tired about answering questions regarding their West final losses (2004 and 2006) to the Lions.
This time would be different. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Kent Austin and quarterback Kerry Joseph, the Riders weren't going to let the first-place Lions, or the 54,712 hostile fans intimidate them. Joseph kept the Lions off balance throughout the contest, throwing for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran for 43 yards on five carries.
The defence also kept up its end, picking off Lions quarterback Jarious Jackson twice and forcing two fumbles. It all resulted in a convincing 26-17 victory.
But Joseph remained the story as he overcame a pounding in the first half by the Lions defence. His most impressive drive came on the team's second possession of the second half. Holding a slim three-point lead, Joseph put together a defining TD march — a drive that the deflated Lions wouldn't recover from.
2008: One and done
When you consider the key personnel turnover and injuries to the Roughriders the year following their Grey Cup title, a repeat simply wasn't in the cards.
Head coach Kent Austin moved to the college ranks south of the board, while quarterback Kerry Joseph — the CFL's 2007 outstanding player — was traded to Toronto during the off-season following a contract dispute.
Letting Joseph go proved disastrous in the West semifinal. Making only his second career playoff start, Riders pivot Michael Bishop took sole responsibly in the 33-12 drubbing at the hands of the Lions.
And why not?
Bishop threw three interceptions and fumbled twice, giving Saskatchewan no chance at victory. In total, the Riders turned the ball over seven times, compared to just one by B.C.
The Lions pulled away in the third quarter after quarterback Jarious Jackson connected with receiver Geroy Simon on a 31-yard touchdown, with kicker Paul McCallum — vilified in Saskatchewan for missing an 18-yard field goal during the 2004 West final against B.C. — earning his revenge following three field goals.
As the third quarter concluded, the 30,945 fans at Mosaic stadium chanted for backup Darian Durant to replace Bishop.
But the damage was done.
"You don't want to be questioning anything going into the playoffs, let alone who your starting quarterback is," said running back Wes Cates. "That's something we need to figure out, but it's not in the players' hands. It's the coach and the [front] office."
The Riders had high hopes for the season, beginning with a 6-0 record. Injuries then took a toll when, at one point, 20 players were sidelined, including receivers Matt Dominguez, Andy Fantuz and D.J. Flick.
1988: Gelling at perfect time
The B.C. Lions began the season with 22 new faces, including star quarterback Matt Dunigan, who was acquired from Edmonton via a trade.
The team slowly came together and entered its West semifinal matchup at Saskatchewan with a 10-8 record.
The game was actually close through the first 30 minutes as B.C. held a slim 18-17 advantage. Running back Tony Cherry then broke the game wide open, scoring two of his three touchdowns in the second half, pacing the Lions to a convincing 42-18 victory and crushing the spirits of the Regina faithful, who saw their beloved Riders host their first playoff game in 12 years.
B.C. had beaten both the Riders and Edmonton Eskimos by a combined 79-37 margin en route to the Grey Cup final against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The ride ended in heartbreak. Trailing by one point in the dying minutes of the final, a deflected Dunigan pass was intercepted deep in Blue Bomber territory, snuffing out B.C.'s last attempt.
1974: Fumble proves costly
Already missing defensive end Bill Barker in the West semifinal, the Lions also struggled at the quarterback position with Don Moorhead.
The ailing B.C. pivot fell prey to a George Wells and Mike Kirks hit in the third quarter, which forced the ball free. Saskatchewan converted the Moorhead fumble into a one-yard touchdown by running back George Reed before defeating the Lions 24-14. Lions coach Eagle Keys later admitted that the turnover played a key role in the loss.
"It was a big blow to us," said Keys. "There's no doubt about that."
Wells was the star of the game, sacking B.C. quarterbacks at least four times while continually applying pressure in the backfield throughout the game.