It’s been a quick turnaround for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The team doubled their wins from five last season to 10 this season and have made the playoffs.
They’ll square off in the Eastern Division semi-finals against the Redblacks on Sunday.
And sophomore defensive back Kacy Rodgers couldn’t be happier.
“I’m sure they’ll be little jitters, little nervousness the first rep or two, first series at least but at the end of the day it’s just football. I’m just excited to have an opportunity for these guys, for this team to keep playing in the postseason, it’s awesome,” he said.
His rookie year with the Roughriders wasn’t as good as he hoped it could be, earning 32 tackles, a quarterback sack and forced fumble. This season he’s upped his game with 42 tackles, an interception and touchdown, two forced fumbles and four knocked downs.
And most importantly, he much happier with how he’s played.
“It’s funny just to watch myself on film last year, I look like a totally different player,” Rodgers laughed. “This off-season was very big for me. I slimmed down in my body in certain areas that way I could play more plays at a high level … I’ve tried to elevate my game and I think it shown on the field this year.”
He’s not the only one to say that.
Teammate Ese Mrabure said he feels like his game is better this season as well, largely because of experience.
“It’s more so like a rookie and a vet mentality. We’re young but we have playing time under our belts, so playing all those games last year I know, personally speaking, that helped me a lot in my growth and coming back this year more confident.”
Both Rodgers and Mrabure were practice squad players in Edmonton and B.C. respectively for their teams playoff runs in 2015, but Sunday will be their first time in the postseason they’ll be depended on as playmakers.
“I’m excited, I’m loose, I’m happy. I got my guys dancing here so I can’t help but to feel loose and ready to play,” Mrabure said as his fellow defensive lineman pumped tunes and danced around him.
Mrabure knows the team will have to continue their strong focus against a tough Redblacks team. The Riders split the season series with Ottawa and each time only one point separated the winners from the losers.
And there’s one more factor the team is acutely aware of: Ottawa is fighting to play in a Grey Cup hosting in the own backyard.
“That was one thing that as soon as I figured out we were going to Ottawa, personally, I was like ‘I want to be the villain.’ I want to ruin it for them and make sure that we’re the ones that win the game,” Mrabure said.
Kickoff against the Redblacks is Sunday at noon.