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Riders look to avenge loss in Touchdown Atlantic rematch versus Argos | CBC News

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For the second year in a row, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts are facing off in Touchdown Atlantic in Nova Scotia — but this year, the green and white are hoping for a different result.

Last July, the Argos beat the Riders 30-24 in Wolfville, N.S., in front of a capacity crowd. The Riders led 24-21 late in the fourth quarter when Wynton McManis intercepted a Cody Fajardo pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.

On Saturday, the two clubs will play the first-ever CFL regular season game in Halifax at Huskies Stadium on the campus of Saint Mary’s University at 2 p.m. CST.

Last year, the Riders returned home from the Maritimes with more than the loss. Many players and staff contracted COVID-19 and the team missed 10 regulars in the rematch a week later in Regina. The team lost 31-21.

Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said last year’s experience is an asset.

“Anytime you do something a second time, you’re usually better at it. So hopefully we’ll play better than we did last year. But we know the atmosphere is going to be off the charts.”

The Riders are 10.5-point underdogs against the 5-0 Argos.

“Our guys read social media and so they realize Toronto is a heavy favourite,” Dickenson said,

“But we feel like we’ve got a good team and we’ve got a good chance to beat them. So it can be a little bit of motivation. It’s motivating to me for sure.”

Dickenson said many of his players are familiar with the hype around the game, having played in it last season. He said the team is excited to explore Halifax.

“I gave them the night off from meeting so they’ll get a chance to go out and experience the town a little bit, but just a little bit. Then they’ve got to go to bed.”

Lauther relishes homecoming

Riders kicker Brett Lauther, 32, is from Truro, N.S., and played his collegiate football at Saint Mary’s.

After Friday’s walk-through practice, he spoke to the media on a field he once called home.

“It’s awesome, I didn’t think it would be a reality playing pro football here.”

Lauther was drafted in 2013 by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and went 4 for 4 on field goals in his first professional game, which was also a Touchdown Atlantic game — that time in Moncton, N.B.

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther
Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther was wearing the hat of his alma mater, Saint Mary’s, on Friday. Lauther will play for the Riders on his collegiate field at Huskies Stadium on Saturday. (CBC)

He was on the Ti-Cats practice squad for the 2014 season. He did not make an active roster until 2018 with the Roughriders.

He said during the gap in his CFL career, he would come to Huskies Stadium to train before and after work to stay in shape, hoping to get a CFL deal.

“I used to come to this field by myself at 6 a.m. for four or five years and be the only one out here between games.” 

Now a fixture with the Roughriders, Lauther is relishing the chance to play for the second year in a row in his home province.

“(I’m) just so thankful to be a part of this and all the support and everything. It’s been overwhelming, nothing but love out here.”

Lauther said he expects a couple hundred family and friends in the stands on Saturday wearing green and white.

Fine looking forward to second straight start

Last year’s Touchdown Atlantic was a quarterback match-up between the Riders’ Cody Fajardo and the Argos’ McLeod Bethel-Thompson, but this season there are two new signal callers at the helm.

The Argos are led by Grey Cup hero Chad Kelly, while the Riders are looking to third-year quarterback Mason Fine to lead the team to his first-ever CFL win.

“We’re here for a job and our job is to go there and win,” Fine said. “So at the end of the day you soak in the experience and you have a good time, but then you also have that balance of locking in and realize you have a job to do.”

Riders Quarterback throwing a pass agaisnt the B.C. lions on Saturday.
Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Mason Fine passes during the first half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions, in Vancouver, on Saturday, July 22, 2023. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Fine said he was pleased with his first start of the season last week in B.C., a 19-9 loss to the Lions. But he said he knows he cannot play overly cautious and expect to win.

“Go out there and just let it fly and let it rip and do what I know I’ve been doing in practice and preseason and just be the player I am.”

Fine said he may need to hold on to the ball a second longer to allow for receivers to get open downfield and make big gains. And he said last year is not on the player’s minds.

“It’s not so much getting revenge from last year, but there are obstacles coming over all the way to Halifax — timing, preparation-wise. We came up here a day earlier. So it’s going to show, you know, what teams are mature that can handle those obstacles and still do their job to the best of their ability.”

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