Fajardo’s Saskatchewan Roughriders clinched second place in the West Division with a 29-24 victory over the Edmonton Elks on Saturday. The Riders will now host the Calgary Stampeders, third in the Western Division semi-final, on November 28.
“Being able to host a playoff game in my two years as a starter with this organization means a lot to me,” said Fajardo. “One of my goals before the year was to be able to host another playoff game. Now all we have to do is find a way to win this game because Calgary is on fire right now. “
The 9-4 Riders got a big game from wide receiver Duke Williams, who caught eight passes for 146 yards. Williams, who signed with the Riders on Oct. 4 after being released by the Buffalo Bills from the NFL, had an impressive first half, catching six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. His longest halftime reception was 48 yards.
Fajardo described Saturday’s game as an ongoing process for him and Williams.
“There was more confidence every week, just to cut down on our time, to see how he likes to run the roads, which roads he actually likes to run,” said Fajardo. “That’s what he can do every week. He’s one of the best receivers in the league.
The 6-4, 225-pound Williams was scared when he suffered a seemingly serious injury midway through the fourth quarter. After catching a short pass over the Edmonton 20-yard line, Williams absorbed a big hit from Elks defensive back Jonathan Rose.
Williams appeared to injure his left knee and was lying on the court for an extended period. He left the field on his own but with a slight limp. After the game, Williams said his knee was burning after the hit and he was concerned about tearing something in his knee. But after some time on the sidelines, he said his knee felt good enough that he could resume the game.
When asked if he was going to miss playing time with the injury, Williams was adamant that he would do whatever it takes to stay on the pitch.
“We have business to run and all I need to do to get back on the pitch is what I’m going to do,” said Williams. “If they want me to play next week (in the regular season finale), I’m going to play next week.
“I have two days off and will take care of my own business during those two days in the cold bath and the training room. I’ll let the rest take care of itself, but I’ll definitely play.
The Riders trailed 21-20 heading into the fourth quarter, but regained the lead when fullback Alexandre Dupuis scored on a four-yard pass from Fajardo with 6:28 remaining. It was the first career touchdown for Dupuis, 31, who is in his sixth season in the CFL.
The 2-9 Elks closed the lead to 26-24 with a 38-yard field goal from Sean Whyte with 3:12 remaining, but the Riders sealed the victory over Brett Lauther’s 27-yard field goal with 33 seconds to go. to play.
The Elks opened the scoring midway through the first quarter when Taylor Cornelius joined Jalen Tolliver on a 24-yard pass. The touchdown came after Saskatchewan’s Jamal Morrow missed a punt, which the Elks recovered at the Riders 22-yard line.
Morrow immediately made up for his blunder by returning the ensuing kickoff for 82 yards. It was the Riders ‘longest kicking return of the season, and after Edmonton’s penalty for a horse collar tackle on Morrow, Saskatchewan started possession on the Elks’ eight-yard line.
After a short run from William Powell, Fajardo hit Kian Schaffer-Baker on a six-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7.
Fajardo followed up with a 14-yard pass to Williams early in the second quarter to extend Saskatchewan’s lead to 14-7. A safety conceded by the Elks and a single by kicker Kaare Vedvik increased their lead to 17-7.
The Elks closed the lead to 17-14 late in the first half, Cornelius and Tanner Green combining on a five-yard touchdown pass. The scoring campaign was eight games and a Saskatchewan penalty with running back Walter Fletcher handling the ball in the first seven games. He gained 41 yards on five carries and 15 yards on two receptions before Green scored the middle finger.
In the third quarter, Lauther kicked a 22-yard field goal to give the Riders a 20-14 lead.
Edmonton regained the lead late in the third quarter when Tolliver caught a four-yard pass from Cornelius. The touchdown was established two plays earlier when Tolliver hit a 30-yard pass on a play where the Riders appeared to have cornered Cornelius. The quarterback escaped the pressure and found Tolliver wide open in the apartment.
Fajardo, who had 12 of 16 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, finished 23 of 32 for 245 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Cornelius had 20 passes for 30 for 224 yards with three touchdowns and one interception after hitting 12 for 18 for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Tolliver was Edmonton’s leading receiver with five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Fletcher added 88 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Pete Robertson and Deon Lacey had sacks for the Riders in the first half while AC Leonard added their 10th sack of the season in the fourth quarter. Jacob Dearborn had an interception on Edmonton’s last possession.
Nafees Lyon had an interception for the Elks and Jake Ceresna had a sack.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 13, 2021.