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Roughriders Unsung Heroes Deserve Credit For 3-0 Start in Riderville

Published: Friday, Jun 28th 2024, 11:06am

By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)


Your Saskatchewan Roughriders are 3-0 to start the season, first place in the West Division and have seemingly appeared to turn things around after the last few years. The big time players on this team, such as Trevor Harris, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Shawn Bane Jr. and Jameer Thurman have been excellent (as expected) so far, but it’s the unsung heroes, the ones we didn’t expect to be stars, that deserve a ton of credit for the hot start here in Riderville. And they deserve some accolades right now.


First off, I’m going to mention DB Rolan Milligan and LB C.J. Reavis. Now, all of us in Saskatchewan know how good these guys are, they aren’t “depth pieces” or the unsung heroes I’ll talk about. They are integral parts of the Riders defense. But I don’t think they truly get the recognition they deserve, even by us Rider fans. And it’s because we don’t often hear their names… and that’s a good thing! Both of these guys have been outstanding this year and I think they both deserve a ton of credit.


Riders DB Rolan Milligan – photo courtesy Saskatchewan Roughriders


But it’s others on defense that have stepped up and made plays and have been solid in the first three games that also deserve some kudos. Guys like DB Nelson Lokombo. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold on him being a starter this year, especially after his extensive injury history in his young career. His play, specifically at corner has been exceptional and he’s turning into the #2 overall pick that he was back in the 2021 CFL Draft.

Elsewhere on defense, the interior of the D-Line has been remarkable. Of course, Micah Johnson and Anthony Lanier II plugging up holes in the middle has the Riders run D looking unstoppable, but it’s the rotational guys, Charbel Dabire and Miles Brown that have stepped up and made big time plays. Just last week, Dabire had 2 sacks, including a forced fumble on Bo Levi Mitchell as the Ticats were driving the field, poised to score some points. Maybe it wasn’t a “game changing” play, but it had a big time affect on the outcome of the game.

And let’s not forget about LB C.J. Avery. His two clutch interceptions in the first couple weeks sealed the victories and his great tip last week resulted in Jameer Thurman’s pick-6. Another player from out of nowhere that has been key to the Riders hot start.



On the other side of the ball, a couple of receivers have really stepped up and made some big time plays. Jerreth Sterns (aka Mr. 2nd Down… thank you many years of watching and listening to Rod Black for that nickname) seems to be the go-to receiver to keep drives going. The Riders have some big bodied guys who you’d think would be the favourites for 2nd down targets, but Sterns has been incredibly clutch in keeping the chains moving.

And even though it’s a fairly small sample size, rookie Ajou Ajou has come in and proved that he is more than capable of being an impact player. Stepping in for Shawn Bane Jr. in the first Hamilton game, he had some nice plays to start his career and then last week having that big 40 yard touchdown in the Riders big first quarter against the Ticats, Ajou has shown that he should be ahead of Mitch Picton on the depth chart going forward. Not bad for a 7th round pick.


WR Ajou Ajou scores first career TD – photo courtesy CFL


I can’t give credit to the team’s overall success without mentioning the O-Line. Jermarcus Hardrick has been great at Right Tackle, Logan Ferland is a stud, but it’s been Left Tackle Trevor Reid for me that isn’t getting enough credit. You’re not hearing his name and that’s because he isn’t getting beat on the outside. Yes, the run blocking across the line hasn’t been that great to start the year (though they started to get it going last week), but their pass protection has been excellent. Trevor Harris has been getting a ton of time in the pocket to make throws and Reid has protected that blindside quite well, something EVERYONE in Rider Nation was questioning going into the season.


Honourable Mentions: Special Teams studs RB Thomas Bertrand-Hudon and LB Melique Straker have also made big time plays on specials that don’t get talked about enough on game broadcasts or radio shows.


General Manager Jeremy O’Day and Head Coach Corey Mace have done an excellent job so far this season, identifying and addressing the team’s needs and maximizing the talent they have on the roster. I look forward to seeing who else steps up this season as the Riders continue to turn heads across the CFL.


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