It’s the big daddy: Stampeders versus Elks on Labour Day for the very first time

Photo courtesy: Calgary Stampeders

It’s finally time.

The Labour Day Classic is upon us.

Not the Friday game, nor the Labour Day eve game that some will insist on calling a “Classic.”

It’s the big daddy: Stamps versus Elks for the very first time.

Now Calgary has played Edmonton several times before, back when the team was named the <redacted out of respect>. The two franchises had squared off 54 times before today with the Stamps holding a 28-25-1 edge between the two franchises.

The current Elks and their fanbase may want to forget about the past and embrace the idea of a fresh start with the way things have gone lately.

The club formally known as “the Edmonton Football Team” among other things haven’t won the biggest game on the calendar since 2011 and here are five reasons they won’t be victorious Monday either.

Maier doesn’t miss

Jake Maier is in some pretty elite company. Through two starts, he is averaging 305.5 yards per game passing. In his storied career that leads most to declare him the greatest QB of all time, Doug Flutie averaged 306.3 yards per game. If Maier goes for 310 this week, he will surpass Doug Flutie’s career average.

In addition, he completed 17 straight passes last week to start the game against Winnipeg, the team that held Cody Fajardo to a 59 percent completion rate and 211 yards in this year’s Labour Day eve game.

Run Henry, run!

Malik Henry is the kind of returner you dream about, and the Elks special teams have been a nightmare on the season so far.

On punts, the Elks have the worst net punt average in the league at just 30.3 yards. By comparison, the Stampeders have a net punt of 40.4 yards.

Returners average 15 yards on punt returns against the Elks, and just five yards against Calgary. That’s a 10-yard field gain for Calgary each time either team punts the ball.

On kick-offs it’s worse. There is a 12-yard difference in average kick return against, with the Elks running a paltry 33 yards on net kick-off compared to 45 for Calgary.

The Elks already fired one special teams coordinator this season and the league’s best returner in Henry has 484 return yards in three games. (Full disclosure: Frankie Williams and Devonte Dedmon have more yards, but both have also fielded more kicks.)

But the bounces!

Calgary is 1-3 and have been outscored this season by five points to date. The defensive side of the ball is starting to gel, holding Andrew Harris to 86 combined yards last week, and Zach Collaros was held to 243 yards and no touchdowns. Collaros has thrown at least one passing touchdown in every other game this season.

Every loss has been within reach in the last three minutes, with no game being lost by more than one score and the worst being a six-point deficit to the B.C. Lions when Bo Levi Mitchell played on a broken leg.

Offensively, more than a few self inflicted wounds have hurt this team as they are minus-six in turnover ratio, but this week might fix what ails as the Elks are minus-seven.

Leaping laundry

Speaking of self inflicted wounds, the Stamps have piled up the punishment yards this season with 349 yards of penalties on 37 infractions. 19 of those flags have flown to send the Calgary offence marching backwards for 139 yards.

Drive-killers have cost the Stamps this season. Only once have the Stampeders scored a TD on a drive that included a penalty. A procedure call that moved them from the one-yard-line back to the six before eventually getting a TD from Ka’Deem Carey has been the only time the Stamps have recovered from a penalty for a major.

On three other drives through four games they were able to get a field goal after a penalty. Four times out of 19 infractions they converted for points.

Conversely, the defence has been able to bend but not break when they were guilty of a penalty, allowing only one penalty-aided TD, but four penalty advanced field goal drives, including the winning points against the Bombers last week.

If the Stamps can keep it clean, they should have no trouble dispatching the Elks.

The crowd

Labour Day (before COVID) was always among the best attended games of the year and as this is the last game before coronavirus vaccination protocols kick in in Calgary, many fans have taken to social media to proclaim this as: “LAST GAME EVER!”

I have one suggestion and one question for these fans. First, please enjoy what should be a rousing victory for the home side. Secondly, any chance you have a parking pass available?

See y’all at the tailgate!

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.