Justin Medlock was waiting, amid the celebrating.
Brett Lauther had just kicked a 26-yard field goal on the final play to give the Saskatchewan Roughriders a 19-17 CFL victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 1.
Upon making the kick, Lauther and holder Jon Ryan sprinted virtually the length of the field to rejoice with fans in Mosaic Stadium’s Pil Country.
Despite the disappointment of defeat, Medlock — the Blue Bombers’ placekicker and punter — waited on the field, simply because he wanted to congratulate an opponent who, more importantly, is also a close friend.
“I definitely wanted to stay around and congratulate him, because those are moments that you’re going to cherish for a long time after making a big kick,” said Medlock, who kicked the game-winning, 43-yard field goal on the final play of the 2016 Labour Day Classic.
“I’ve obviously made some big kicks in Saskatchewan and you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some.
“I was proud of him. I told him if we ever get a chance to win a game like that, I might have to do the same kind of celebration just to mock him.”
Medlock would welcome such an opportunity on Saturday, when the Blue Bombers visit the Roughriders in a pivotal West Division game.
Entering the contest, Saskatchewan and the Calgary Stampeders are tied for first place with 9-4 records, with Winnipeg close behind at 9-5. Despite the importance of the game, Lauther hopes for the best for his opposite number.
“I’m always cheering for him and hoping he does well,” Lauther said.
“Outside of competing and everything like that, I always want to win when we play them. It’s not anything weird, because we’re not really playing against each other. We’re both trying to do a job and I don’t hope he misses or anything like that. I obviously want to win over anything else.”
Winning has its place, but the friendship is paramount. Lauther and Medlock talk on a daily basis, with topics ranging from life to family to good-natured ribbing.
“We have our little jokes and rivalries, but if he gets an opportunity to play in the Grey Cup, I’ll be rooting for him,” said Medlock, 35. “If I get a chance to be in a Grey Cup, I’m sure that he’ll be rooting for me too.”
Lauther was selected in the seventh round (53rd overall) of the 2013 CFL draft by the Tiger-Cats out of Saint Mary’s University. He played in four games that season.
In 2014, the Tiger-Cats signed Medlock, relegating Lauther to the practice roster. Despite being the primary kicker, Medlock served as Lauther’s mentor, choosing to view the younger kicker as a friend rather than someone who was competition.
“When I first came into the league, I was pretty young,” said Lauther, 28. “Justin helped me out with a lot of things and I owe a lot to him. He has always been there and helped me out with training and what I needed to do. He just believed in me and kept me going.
“If there is one guy who isn’t on the team and is one of my good buddies, it’s him.”
While they were both under contract to Hamilton, Lauther started travelling to Medlock’s home in Jupiter, Fla., to hang out and practise kicking. Lauther has continued to make the trip to Florida.
“Every year he would invite me down and pretty much all I had to do was pay for my flight and he took care of the rest,” Lauther said. “So there’s a lot of stuff over the years that I’m thankful for and I owe him a lot. I’ll never really be able to repay him and he’s not looking for me to repay him or anything like that.
“He’s definitely one of the major factors why I am still playing today.”
Lauther was released by Hamilton after the 2014 season, sparking a nomadic journey through the CFL while trying to land a job. He had an earlier stint with the Riders in 2015 thanks to a recommendation by Medlock to Bob Dyce, who was then Saskatchewan’s special-teams co-ordinator.
“I’ve always been the first one to push some coaches and say, ‘This guy is pretty good,’ but coaches get stuck on their own people,” Medlock said. “I thought he should have had the opportunity to kick with Saskatchewan when he was there the first time. It was unfortunate and I’ve always been in his corner.
“Once he got his opportunity to kick with Saskatchewan, he ran with it.”
That opportunity came in 2018 when a hip injury sidelined incumbent placekicker Tyler Crapigna for the season. Lauther stepped up, connecting on 54 of 60 field-goal attempts and being named a West Division all-star.
Lauther and Medlock are currently eighth and ninth, respectively, in the league in field-goal percentage this season. Lauther is eighth with an 81.8-per-cent success rate, followed by Medlock (80.6).
Lauther, who has connected on 18 of 22 field goals and 17 of 20 converts, has kicked the longest field goal in the league (57 yards) this season. Medlock is 25-for-31 on field goals and 45-for-46 on converts.
Although the percentages are down, Lauther remains upbeat.
“It’s just the way it goes with the kicking position,” he said. “I don’t feel any different than I did last year. I’m feeling pretty good after the injury, but I’m not back to 100 per cent. I definitely feel good enough that I’m confident when I go out there every time that I’m going to make a kick for the guys.”
He has done precisely that in each of the Roughriders’ past two home games — those of Sept. 1 and Sept. 14. In the latter contest, his 39-yard field goal with 25 seconds left was the difference as Saskatchewan defeated the Montreal Alouettes 27-25.
Regardless of the outcome of any game, Medlock and Lauther will reflect fondly on their time together in the CFL as teammates, friends and opponents.
“It’s going to be cool to look back some day and say that we played against each other in some big games,” Lauther said.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019