‘That’s fire’: Trio of Roughriders receivers each gained more than 700 yards so far this season | CBC News

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders were down 42-6 partway through the third quarter in Winnipeg. The rout was uncharacteristic for a team that had entered Week 14 having won two straight, including an overtime win against the Blue Bombers in the Labour Day Classic the week before.

Riders head coach Craig Dickenson had told TSN as much during halftime, said commentator Glen Suitor on air during the third quarter. He agreed with the coach, then highlighted a bright spot.

“They’ve got a receiving corps that has kind of flown under the radar, as far as receiving corps in the league,” said Suitor, who wore green and white for 11 seasons.

“Everyone talks about this one, for the Bombers, of course, and rightfully so — the B.C. Lions’ receiving corps, rightfully so. Meanwhile, this receiving corps in Saskatchewan gets better every game.”

The Riders, who have lost two games in a row, sit 6-7 heading into Friday’s match-up against the Ottawa Redblacks. The team is on its third starting quarterback and its rushing game is below average compared to the rest of the CFL — forcing the offence to rely on passing to move the chains.

Yet, receivers Tevin Jones, Shawn Bane Jr. and Samuel Emilus have consistently come to play. 

Each has more than 700 yards receiving so far this season, placing them in the league’s top 10. The Riders are the only team to accomplish that feat so far this season.

Bane Jr., meanwhile, has caught more passes than anyone in the CFL.

The trio seemed unaware of the extent of their statistical success so far when CBC News asked them about it earlier this week.

“That’s fire,” said Bane Jr., who scored two touchdowns last week.

“The goal is just to be at the top, for sure, so just to be a part of it is humbling.”

A clean-shaven Black man, with short dark hair, is smiling. He is wearing a white tanktop, while sitting at a locker.
Roughriders slotback Shawn Bane Jr. has caught 67 passes so far this season — the most in the CFL. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Jones isn’t satisfied, though. He wants more yards because that could lead to more wins, he said.

Coach Dickenson credited the entire offensive unit — coaches and players — for the success so far.

Trio caught for 3 different passers

The Riders have dealt with an injury bug infestation this year — especially the quarterbacks.

Veteran quarterback Trevor Harris suffered a broken knee in July. Mason Fine stepped in until he injured his hamstring less than a month later. Jake Dolegala is entering his fifth week as the starter.

“It’s a statement of the work we put in — especially with the injury we had to our quarterbacks, the change we had, we were still consistent and we kept working,” said Emilus.

“Three receivers with 700 yards — I’ve never heard of that. It’s a great thing and we’re just hoping to continue on that.”

Harris was the only new face of the three quarterbacks who have started this year, but the receivers have built connection and boosted the confidence of each pivot as they have slid into the starting role, according to the players who spoke with CBC News.

“They come in every day with such a great attitude and, obviously, they’re extremely talented, extremely smart. So it’s really easy to do my job when you’ve got guys like that in the locker room,” said Dolegala.

“You know where they’re going to be [on the field]; you have confidence in them. It’s just really nice having those guys out there.”

A white man with a trim beard is wearing a white ball cap that reads, 'Est. 1910' on the front. He is also wearing a white shirt. He is standing in front of his locker in the Saskatchewan Roughriders' locker room.
Roughriders quarterback Jake Dolegala will start his fifth game of the season against the Ottawa Redblacks on Sept. 22. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Jones, who was a backup when the season started, also had to take advantage of an opportunity.

Starting receiver Derel Walker was injured in Week 1. Jones filled in and has since earned the starting role, leading the Riders in receiving yards.

Walker was released last month.

“Tevin [Jones], he’s coming into his own and he’s just going to get better each and every week,” Dickenson said.

“For him to beat out a guy like Derel Walker, after Derel came back from the knee, it says [Jones] is a pretty good football player.”

A Black man with a trim beard is wearing a grey t-shirt with the word, 'Welterweight' on the chest, and a grey cap with the Saskatchewan Roughriders' logo on it. He has an earring in his left ear. He is smiling while sitting in a locker room.
Roughriders wide receiver Tevin Jones started the season as a backup, but now leads the team with 796 receiving yards. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Naming Jones the starter was a tough decision, Dickenson said, but he believes the coaches made the right call.

Chemistry among receivers

Bane Jr. was the first receiver to return to the locker room after Tuesday’s practice. The rest of the unit came as CBC News started setting up a camera for an interview with him.

“It’s the ‘Bane’s World’ documentary,” quarterback Antonio Pipkin exclaimed.

Pipkin and other receivers quickly surrounded the locker, pulling out their cellphones to use their flashlights to brighten the scene. When CBC News finished asking questions, the players peppered Bane Jr. with some more — ranging from his preference between apple pie or pumpkin pie, to what he would tell aspiring football players.

“This is crazy,” Bane Jr. said, before he paused the interview to take a picture of the group in front of him.

“I guess they kind of overdid it this week, I don’t know.”

A Black man with a trim beard is wearing a green hoodie under a white football jersey. He is wearing a grey cap with the Saskatchewan Roughriders' logo on it. He is smiling while sitting at his locker.
Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Samuel Emilus says there’s a lot of chemistry among members of the receiving unit. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Many players often stay late after practice. The receivers usually hang around centre-field running sprints, working on routes or catching the ball, or talking strategy, Jones said.

He, Bane Jr., and Emilus each told CBC News that the chemistry extends off the field as well — such as the impromptu scrum on Tuesday.

“We’re basically around each other every day, so why not have a good time?” Emilus said. “It is great to be around those guys — and it makes your job way easier when you want to be around those guys.”

The Roughriders mount up at 5 p.m. CST Friday to take on the Ottawa Redblacks on the road.

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