If their OK Tire Labour Day Weekend matchup was any indication, the Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders game to close out Week 14 will be must-watch.
Calgary used 22 fourth quarter points to secure a 35-31 win on Labour Day.
Jake Maier completed 27 passes for 315 yards in the victory. He failed to find the endzone though, something he’ll need to do this time if he wants to take pressure off the run game and his defence.
Several of his receivers stepped up for big games, including veteran Markeith Ambles, Reggie Begelton and Marken Michel who totalled 220 yards through the air.
With a game against the Stamps under their belt, the Elks’ secondary hopes familiarity serves them well in the rematch. Defensive back Marcus Lewis picked off a Maier pass and there’s plenty of talent to go around in the likes of Ed Gainey and Kai Gray, who had eight tackles. The trio has led Chris Jones’ pass defence in holding opponents to a respectable 260.9 pass yards per game.
Calgary running backs Ka’Deem Carey and Dedrick Mills continued to add to the Elks’ woes against the run game, putting up 55 and 46 yards, respectively. With Mills moved to the one-game injured list, the workload should fall primarily to Carey, who has just re-joined the team after dealing with injuries of his own this season. Despite the slight change in assignment, Edmonton defensive linemen Jake Ceresna, Noah Curtis and A.C. Leonard need to be on their game. All three had a sack on Maier on Monday and have been key contributors to the defensive front all season.
Behind them, linebacker Mark McLaurin is having a strong campaign with 29 defensive tackles in just seven games.
As strong as the Stamps’ run game has been, the Elks’ has been just as good lately thanks to the play of quarterback Tre Ford.
Ford called his own number 11 times for 135 yards and running back Kevin Brown found holes for 89 more in the high scoring affair. With the Calgary defence surrendering over 100 yards on the ground each time out, their game plan should be centred around the legs of Ford and Brown.
But the Stamps’ defence features a physical front in linebackers Micah Awe and Cameron Judge, along with lineman Mike Rose and his seven sacks.
Ford’s offensive ability isn’t reserved strictly to his ground game, as he also found the endzone through the air. Just as important to head coach Chris Jones, Ford has taken care of the football. Through 75 pass attempts so far this season he has five touchdowns to just one interception.
It’s becoming safer to say Jones has found his man under centre.
The presence of Ford has also done wonders for the team’s receiving corps, who are starting to play up to the level they expect. With playmakers in Eugene Lewis, Steven Dunbar Jr. and Emmanuel Arceneaux, their offensive scheme is far from one dimensional.
Jones knows how important it is for his team to shake off the loss and be ready for this week.
“They’ll bounce back,” Jones told reporters.
“We’ve got 23, 24 kids that are first or second-year guys. It’s the same thing we’ve been up against. We just have to continue to work and figure out how to do the things necessary to win games.”
The battle downfield is lining up to be another good one as the Stamps don’t lack talent in the secondary. Defensive back Kobe Williams chipped in a sack last week and has been one of Calgary’s top defensive players. Brandon Dozier, Jonathan Moxey and Tre Roberson will limit the Elks’ receivers’ time and space from sideline-to-sideline.
At the end of the day, head coach Dave Dickenson has been impressed with the way his team continues to compete.
“We just keep fighting,” Dickenson told reporters.
“The guys believe that they’ll put it all out there. Not sure what happens the rest of the year but I’m just proud of the guys for continually putting it out there and believing with effort sometimes we can overcome mistakes.”
Calgary can put Edmonton further in the rearview mirror in the West Division with a win.
If the Elks hope to keep their chances of climbing the standings alive, they desperately need a victory over their provincial rival.