Johnson: Sheets stands by his words
Riders running back out to prove he’s the best
If someone plans on slapping a muzzle on Kory Sheets, it’ll have to happen when he’s in pads, between those white lines. Across the hall from the visiting locker-room at the McMahon Stadium amateur facility in civvies the day before hostilities? Nope, sorry, just not happening.
“Not at all,” reiterated the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ elusive tailback, asked if he regretted any of his recent chest-thumping comments regarding the personal mano-a-mano with Jon Cornish. “I stand behind everything I said. No matter what happens. I still believe I’m the best back in this league.
“If I didn’t get hurt, I still say we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Kory Sheets flat-out said he’s the best ball-toter in this country. In case anyone wasn’t paying attention, he repeated so Friday.
Jon Cornish, obviously, feels somewhat differently.
As CFL match races go, then, this is Man O’ War head-to-head pounding down the backstretch with Seabiscuit. It’s power. It’s precision. And it seems to be personal.
“It’s been brought up to me all week,” shrugged Sheets, one of a three-man mid-afternoon advance party to McMahon Stadium ahead of Saturday’s table-topping West Division showdown. “So it’s been forcing me to think about it all week. Everywhere I go, people say ‘Hey, beat Jonny Cornish’ instead of talking about the win.
“Our focus is just the win.”
OK, maybe, but a win in which Sheets whittled substantial yardage off Cornish’s lead heading into the regular-season finale would be even sweeter, no?
In a Week 17 chart-topper positively teeming with playoff pecking-order implications and more subplots than an Agatha Christie murder yarn — Kevin Glenn vs. Darian Durant, an array of wondrous Rider receivers vs. that stingy Calgary secondary, sack co-leaders Charleston Hughes and Alex Hall trading takedowns, etc. — most of the pre-kickoff build-up has centred on the two neon-bright tailbacks.
Cornish holds a 134-yard advantage over his Rider rival with 120 minutes of football each to be played.
The debate on who’s better, who’ll win the rushing title, predictably, has spilled over into in the press, and even into Twitter-verse, where Sheets and Hughes fired off a few advance missiles in each other’s direction, confined to 140-characters or less. Hughes has, among other haymakers, accused Sheets of being “scared” of him and avoiding contact.
“I’m kind of annoyed with him,” admitted Sheets in rebuttal. “It’s kind of a stupid thing he says. We’re trying to score and win. I’m not trying to get tackled. It’s an obvious match, if I run into him he’s gonna win. He outweighs me by at least 50 pounds. But he can’t catch me, so I’m not much worried.”
Riders’ quarterback Durant, for one, figures there’s a lot of tongue-tucked-in-cheek involved in the media sniping, social or not.
“I mean, it’s all in fun,” Durant protested. “Guys are competitive, even on the field. We’re always talking trash. It’s more for the fans, to get them involved. We’d love for this to be a sellout. So …
“Guys are just selling themselves. Just confident in their abilities. Confident in their teams. And they’re just letting it be known.
“You have to have high expectations for yourself. And that’s all Kory’s saying. He’s not taking anything away from Jon Cornish and what he’s been able to accomplish. But he feels like he’s the better running back. The guys on our team feel that way. The guys here in Calgary feel like Jon Cornish is the best running back in the league.
“That’s just how it goes. We’re confident in our guy. And so are they.”
For Sheets, the prospect of meeting Cornish on the same field, if not in the same series, this late in the season, them being so close in the rushing list and in a game of such consequence, isn’t going to add any kerosene to his personal brushfire. Or at least, that’s what he’d have everyone believe Friday.
“I can’t stop him and he can’t stop me,” Sheet said. “If it was up to me, I would make sure my defence takes care of business. And I’m pretty sure they are. We’ve been talking about it all week. We make sure they don’t get a rushing game going, ‘cause if we stop that its makes them one dimension then the D-ends can just pin their ears back and go get ‘em.”
The ramifications from a standings-standpoint could not be any plainer. A Stampeder win and Calgary clinches first place, the bye week and home-field for the West final. A Saskatchewan triumph and top spot would be drawn out to to the teams’ final games — Calgary at B.C., Saskatchewan at home to Edmonton — next weekend.
“I feel like these are the two best teams in the league,” said Durant. “Not taking anything from Toronto or anybody. That’s just my opinion. Both teams are filled with great players. Whenever you have that, you have the battles within the game that are being talked about. It’s part of the territory and it’s fun.
“The stakes are high. Pretty much like very time we play this team. We know the atmosphere that’s going to be out here. Mentally we’re ready now it’s about going out and putting the physical side together.”
The Stampeders would rather not leave anything to chance. Chance having a sadistic way of kicking you in the teeth. The green Riders still hold hope of playing their final three games, including the Grey Cup on Nov. 24th, at Mosaic (It’ll Always Be Taylor Field) Stadium. The two neon-bright tailbacks will have a large say in which teams gets their wish.
Talkin’s done. Let the runnin’ resume.
“It doesn’t matter what you do,” chided Corey Chamblin. “Those guys can talk. At the end of the day, like I told (Sheets): ‘You have to prove it out on the field.’ If you’re gonna talk, you’d better be able to prove it or the other guy won.
“I think it’s all fun and games. These guys, they don’t really hate each other. Because in the off-season they all hang out together and they’re buddies.
“They just do it to keep you guys employed. They just do it to sell papers.”
A nobler cause hath no man.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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