For Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, Defeat 54-20 by rival Winnipeg Blue Bombers During Saturday, the Banjo Bowl was a hellish nightmare.
This finding did not hold a candle to the horror that unfolds behind closed doors in the Riders dressing room.
Cody Fajardo, Midfielder Cody Fajardo The media told Regina after the match. “The number of men who were sick, vomiting, coming out on both ends; it was so ridiculous.”
Shortly before the warm-ups, word broke that the riders were going through What was thought to be an outbreak of stomach flu, Putting many players at risk. The impact of the disease on the game was unknown at the time, but with the exhausted and dehydrated team leaving the field, the ravages of the virus could not be underestimated.
For coach Craig Dickinson, the first signs of trouble began shortly after dinner on Friday night. Having just enjoyed a delicious burrito, I felt something.
“I came home around 9 a.m., I knew something wasn’t right. So I thought I might have hit something bad and went to the bathroom and vomited,” summoned on the podium. “But once I did it for the fourth and fifth time in the evening, I realized it was little more than food poisoning.”
A call to the team’s coaching staff revealed that he wasn’t the only rider with gastrointestinal distress. While Dickinson was able to recover somewhat overnight, others were not so lucky, including backup linebacker Mason Fine.
“Mason was my roommate and they had to move my room,” Fajardo said. “It was so bad I had to watch it closely and it didn’t look very nice.”
Fine was the first player to be officially excluded from Saturday’s game, and the Raiders were able to arrange the transfer of third player Jake Doligala in the last minute as a substitute. As the situation got more dangerous, the other reinforcements weren’t so fortunate.
Team boss Craig Reynolds was recruited to lead defensive linebacker Blas Brown and frontman Diego Alatori Montoya nearly six hours from Regina to Winnipeg in his personal car. The group arrived late to the field, nine minutes into the match, reportedly, but survived some of the worst situations as a result.
“There were about 20 guys who weren’t feeling well and the bathroom in there, there were only two booths and it was full for every second of the preliminary match,” Fajardo noted, painting a disturbing picture of the locker room.
Dickinson said about 15 Raiders have contracted the disease, as well as seven or eight coaches. Besides Fine, linebackers Jeremy Clark and linebackers James Tack scratched before kick-off but the other players were forced to dress up to meet roster requirements despite their severe illness.
Four players were simply unable to play from the first moment, including superstar Kian Schaffer-Becker, while two other players were eliminated by the end of the first half. The offensive line, in particular, was struggling to keep themselves straight.
They were in big trouble. They had like two or three men outside and [right tackle] Cooper Richardson was sick all the time, vomited on the bus while driving and played the whole game,” Dickinson admitted.
“I have a lot of heart for these guys,” Fajardo said, grateful they have only been sacked four times. “Our entire offensive line was sick and they were out there. They were just giving them IVs to get them on the field. We had nothing else to do. There are a lot of players who spoiled that game to perform as well as we did.”
The situation affected the Riders’ game plan from the start. With some players still in the locker room plugged in with fluids, Dickinson wasn’t sure which attacking players would be available for his team when kick-off. He chose to delay the coin toss as a result, and the slingers sped off to a hot start on the opening engine, which seemed to never dissipate.
Defense allowed 415 yards of total attack and 54 points in the evening, while Fajardo’s group mustered a respectable 251 yards given the circumstances. Although he was not one of those who made extensive use of the limited toilet facilities at IG Field, the quarterback believes his playing has been affected by the glitch.
“I felt kind of weak in there. My stomach was fine, I didn’t vomit or anything, but I didn’t feel like I had the energy completely and I know a lot of guys felt the same,” Fajardo said. Clothes before kick-off, I think you’ll be proud of the way this team fought.”
The team believes the virus has been transmitted back to Regina, where several of its workout roster players still at home have reported similar symptoms. The disease is expected to pass through the squad within the next 24 to 48 hours and Dickinson is asking for much-needed rest and hydration for his players once they get home, before preparations begin for Friday’s game against Edmonton.
He credits sports therapists Ryan Raftis and Trevor Lane, along with team physician Dr. Mike Nichols, for having somehow pulled the team through the unprecedented situation.
“They did a great job, were a few and were up all night trying to take care of all these guys, including me, with some pills and some stuff just to try and help us through the night,” Dickinson said. “They did a great job and we appreciate that.”