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Grenadiers eager for another crack at Riders

August 8, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Throughout their years together in the Ontario Varsity Football League, the Ottawa Myers Riders have not endeared themselves to the Kingston Grenadiers.

Accusations of such unsportsmanlike acts as running up scores and withholding game video have been salt in the wounds of numerous resounding defeats administered on the field.

None of this animus has pre-occupied the Grenadiers players as they prepare for their Wettges conference championship game against the Riders Saturday night in Ottawa.

All they know is the Ottawa team is very good.

“It’s probably the biggest rivalry right now for us,” Grenadiers defensive back Dylan Bell said. “It’s another good team in the league. Any good team that’s doing well this season, we look at them all the same—we want to beat the best.

“It’s not a one-on-one, us-versus-them, type of thing. It’s more just another good team we’ve got to play well to beat.”

That doesn’t mean that the season-opening 51-18 defeat suffered at the hands of the Riders—one that launched a thus-far undefeated season—wasn’t important to the Grenadiers.

“It put us on track to know we’ve got to work hard,” Bell said. “Since the beginning of training camp that’s been our goal, to make sure we meet Myers in the conference final.

“We’re a different team now. Everyone’s healthy. Everyone gets the systems, and because people understand the basics, we can put complex things in now.”

Bell, a Brockville Collegiate student bound to play university ball for Grenadiers coach Bob Mullen at St. Francis Xavier in September, didn’t play his last year in high school after breaking his collarbone with the Grenadiers last smmer, when he was a quarterback.

He believes the Grens continue to get better.

“Every practice, every week, we’re working on new stuff, game planning for different people, different things,” he said. “We haven’t stopped improving one practice since that first game.”

Receiver Jeremy Pendergast agrees.

“We’re always thinking back to (the opening game with) Myers,” he said. “It’s not revenge, it’s a reminder of where we were and what we’ve become.”

After a 2-2 start, the Grenadiers have won six of their last seven games. They’ve rebounded in the playoffs to defeat two of the three teams that beat them in the regular year — Metro Toronto and Cornwall. They’ll play the third one on Saturday.

“I think we’ve improved,” Pendergast said. “We’ll see on Saturday how much we’ve progressed.”

Mullen said the motivation for his players comes from the fact the Riders have always been at the top of the heap in this end of the province.

“There’s always motivation when you run into the perennial powerhouse,” he said. “They’ve got a good program. Winning and losing are both habits and they’re used to winning.

“You’re going to have to beat them because they’re not going to beat themselves.”

How will they break the Riders’ habit of winning?

“We’ve got to weather the storm because it’s going to be a long battle,” Mullen said. “If we’re keeping it close, it’s going to be close to the very end.

“They’re explosive in all aspects of the game. It’s sort of like playing with dynamite. You’re going to have to be careful or you’re going to get hurt.”

Despite a 49-26 win in the conference semifinal at Cornwall Sunday, Mullen believes his team still has not played its best game. “It wasn’t error-free,” he said of a match where penalties perhaps cost his team another couple of scores.

He believes defeating Ottawa is not an insurmountable challenge.

“There’s nothing for us to be afraid of. The kids have responded to adversity the last three weeks, with travel and playing on the road. They’ve done well.

“The first time we saw (Ottawa) this year we were playing them tough and then we just had some misadventures in the second half that turned the game quickly. They’re so explosive, and when you drop the match in the munitions dump, things can go up in a hurry.

“The kids are playing hard, they’re playing together. They’re hanging in. They’re resilient, and they believe. They’ve got some good leaders and they believe they’ve got a shot.”

Pendergast said he’s excited to have the opportunity to face the Ottawa team again.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “You always get excited to play Myers. I think we’re going to give them a fight.

“We’re a dangerous team. We have a lot of players who can do a lot of dangerous things, offensively and defensively. If we play a really good game we can beat them, but you never know with Myers—a special teams return, they can kind of push you around, but as long as we stay strong and keep chugging, we can have a really strong game.”

Game time Saturday night at Minto Field in Nepean is 7 p.m.

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