Riders move on to eastern finals after 31-20 win in Ottawa

By Arielle Zerr
November 12, 2017 - 3:50pm

The Riders packed their bags for a long stay and now they’ll get at least another week in Ontario.

Saskatchewan defeated the Ottawa Redblacks in the eastern semi-final 31-20 and will move on to face Toronto next Sunday in the eastern final.

The Riders win marks just the fourth time a western team has won the eastern semi-final since the crossover began in 1996.

The Roughriders started the game off right with a six play 79-yard drive down the field, capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass to Bakari Grant to give the green and white an early lead.

But the Redblacks responded right back with a touchdown of their own. After a 37 yard return, Trevor Harris found Diontae Spencer for a 56 yard touchdown. Harris went on to complete a two point conversion to Juron Criner to put Ottawa up 8-7.

Not to be outdone, the Roughriders offence lit up again marching 82 yards down field, hitting Kienan LaFrance twice and ending with Kevin Glenn plunging into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. The Riders retook the lead 14-8 with 5:38 left in the first.

It seemed as the Redblacks were poised to respond with their second touchdown of the quarter, but Samuel Eguavoen snuck past Juron Criner and intercepted Harris to give the Riders the ball back on their own 27-yard line.

The Riders ended the quarter with a two and out and a 14-8 lead.

After all the early scoring in the first quarter, it took until late in the second for more points to be put on the board.

A 44-yard catch by Bakari Grant with 6:10 left in the quarter and a six-yard rush, set up a 1-yard run into the endzone by Vernon Adams, which he got on the second try.

The green and white went up 21-8 with 4:47 left in the half and held on to it into halftime.

It looked bad for the Riders early in the third when Christion Jones fumbled the punt return, coughing the ball up for on their own 19. But the defence was able to hold the Redblacks to a 22-yard field goal.

With the ball back on the 35-yard line Glenn handed it off to Thigpen who found a hole and broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Riders up 28-11.

Eddie Steel stalled the Redblacks next drive in the red zone after sacking Harris, and Ottawa settled for a 29-yard field goal to bring the score to 28-14 with 7:10 left in the third quarter.

The Riders responded with a field goal of their own after a razzle dazzle play by Saskatchewan’s special teams. Chad Owens caught the return and pitched it to Jones who ran it back 43 yards. Crapigna closed the third quarter with a 31-yard field goal to take the Riders lead up to 31-14.

Ottawa’s offensive struggles continued early in the fourth quarter when Jovon Johnson picked off Harris after they chose to go for it on third and 10, but the Riders weren’t able to capitalize.

The Redblacks were able to find the endzone once more before the end of the game, but missed the convert making it 31-20, a score that held to the end of the game.

The Roughriders will have a few days off in Ottawa before they begin practicing again midweek.

The eastern final against the Toronto Argonauts will take place at BMO Field next Sunday at noon.

Brendon LaBatte returns to practice with the Riders

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