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Stampeders looking to return to winning ways against Elks in Labour Day Classic

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Willie Jefferson (5) knocks down a pass by Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier (12) during the second half CFL action in Winnipeg, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. Maier has redemption on his mind heading into Monday’s game between his Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Elks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

CALGARY — Jake Maier has redemption on his mind heading into Monday’s game between his Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Elks.

After being on the losing end of a 32-20 decision to the Elks during the 2021 Labour Day Classic, the Calgary quarterback is hoping for a much better outcome this time around.

“It’s a new year, new game, new opponent, new style,” said Maier, who earned the nod from coach Dave Dickenson as Calgary’s starting quarterback over Bo Levi Mitchell for the second straight game. “Everything feels different. I’m excited to get another crack at it.

"I feel like I learned the hard way a little bit last year of what that game’s all about. I’m looking forward to getting back out there.

Added Maier: “I know how much it means to everybody. It means a ton to us obviously, but once the game gets going, it’s football.”

While the Stampeders (6-4) will be looking to rebound from a 31-29 loss in Winnipeg to the Blue Bombers last week, the struggling Elks are also hoping to put forth a better effort during Week 13 of the CFL schedule after dropping a 25-18 decision to the Ottawa Redblacks in Edmonton on Aug. 27.

“They’re a football team that’s definitely hungry and a team that is going to be desperate obviously,” said Maier, who completed 23-of-28 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns – all to Malik Henry – against Winnipeg. “They’re aware of their position in the standings as we are. Every win’s important in an 18-game season. 

"They’re going to come desperate. They’re going to come with great energy.”

Dickenson also expects the Elks to put up a strong fight like they did on July 25 when Calgary eked out a 30-23 win over Edmonton at McMahon Stadium.

“They can still beat any team in our league, guarantee that, so we’ve got to play well to beat them,” said Dickenson, whose team also dominated the Elks en route to a 49-6 win over their provincial rivals in Edmonton on July 7. “We’re just trying to find the right mix. 

"We’ve got to make sure we do our job. We need a better game, too. We need to show up."

In the two previous wins over the Elks, Henry hauled in 12 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m for sure looking forward to this Labour Day game,” said Henry, who’s sitting third in the CFL with six receiving TDs so far this season. “It feels a little different when we’re playing Edmonton. It always feels like a rivalry game, so it’s definitely exciting.”

In a season filled with turmoil so far, the Elks received more bad news when star receiver and prized free-agent acquisition Kenny Lawlor was ruled out for Monday’s game as a result of an ankle injury he sustained against Ottawa.

“We’re familiar with where we’re at and we know who we’re playing and we’ve got to come out and play acute football,” said Edmonton coach Chris Jones, who still believes his team can beat the heavily favoured Stamps. “We’re just hoping that we can go out and play good solid football.

“We’ve got good players on our roster. Not a lot of people give us a chance, especially with Calgary here at home. ... We’re just going to go out, we’re going to have fun playing the game that we’ve played since we were kids.”

Despite the loss at home to the Redblacks, Edmonton quarterback Taylor Cornelius ran for a pair of touchdowns and completed 14 of 37 passes for a season-high 287 yards through the air.

“We’re looking to try and make some sort of statement in this league and get back on the winning track,” Cornelius said. “We want to come out and we want to get off to a fast start offensively and play four quarters and put a full game together offensively. We haven’t done that all year yet, but we’re going to make that change.”

After amassing just 18 yards on seven carries last week, Elks running back Ante Milanovic-Litre will be looking to return to the form that saw him carry the ball 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown on Aug. 19 in Ottawa during a 30-12 road win over the Redblacks.

“I can’t wait to get out there and have an awesome game against Calgary,” said Milanovic-Litre, who signed as a free agent with the Elks in February after playing his first four CFL seasons for the Stamps. “I’m so pumped, so excited. You don’t even have to be a Calgary or Edmonton fan to enjoy this game. To be a part of it, that’s all that matters.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2022.

Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press

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