Chris Jones’ emphatic sideline fist pump proves he badly wanted to win against Riders in return to Regina

Photo: Paul Swanson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Chris Jones let off a Tiger Woods major golf tournament-sized fist pump and it proved how badly he wanted to win against the Roughriders in his return to Riderville.

Canadian linebacker Adam Konar sliced through to chop down Saskatchewan running back Frankie Hickson on third-and-one in the third quarter to force a turnover on downs — that caused the energetic reaction from Jones on the Elks’ sideline.

“We did just enough to barely win the game, but I’ll tell you what: winning is a heckuva lot better than losing,” Jones said post-game.

“We had six or seven guys that played here, I let them go out and be captains because it means a lot to them to play against Saskatchewan. It’s the next pro game, but at the same time, I felt like it meant a lot to those guys.”

Veteran kicker Sergio Castillo made a 47-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds left to help Jones walk out of Mosaic Stadium victorious. After the game ended 26-24 in favour of his Eks, underneath the stands, Jones entered a raucous Edmonton locker room. Players noticed the extra fire in him during the week of preparation leading up to kick-off.

“I think so. Anytime you come to where you used to coach or play before… every time I go to Hamilton, B.C., Winnipeg, I have these feelings and memories from the past. Anytime you get to play against your old team, there’s a little bit more excitement to it,” Castillo said.

“Ya and a few of the guys, eh. There’s a lot of guys who played in Sask on our team. Jones definitely put a little fire under our butts to get after them,” Canadian defensive lineman J-Min Pelley said. “Honestly, he looks fired up every week. We love having him as our coach and we’d do anything for him.”

The Elks sacked Riders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo eight times largely using a three-man pass rush. Regularly dropping nine players into coverage stalled Saskatchewan’s offence following a field goal drive and a 42-yard touchdown pass from Fajardo to Shaq Evans on the Roughriders’ first two offensive possessions.

“That was the plan the whole time. The guys fought their butts off. They’re protecting with six and sometimes seven and we still got pressure on the quarterback,” Jones said.

Jones and his group were fully aware their season was on the line. If Edmonton lost to the Riders, the Elks’ post-season aspirations would have been gone but at 4-10, the chance to make the playoffs remains alive.

“We talked about it. You got a little spark there, you think that nothing’s there but if you throw gas on it, you never know. That’s what we talked about and that’s where we’re trying to go with it. We’re trying to enjoy the process rather than worry about what the scoreboard says from earlier in the year,” Jones said.

“A lot of times it looked bleak and then one side of the ball would pick the other up. It certainly wasn’t pretty. We’ve won four dadgum games, all of them on the road. It’s unfortunate that we play better football — for whatever reason — on the road than we do at home.”

The Double E has lost 14 straight home games, the last win at Commonwealth Stadium came on October 12, 2019. It’s been over 1,064 days since Edmonton’s football team won a game in the Alberta capital. Three of the Elks’ last four games are at home and perhaps Jones’ new green shoes can provide enough luck to help his team break through and end the streak.

“I walk every day, they didn’t have any more black ones, they ran out so they had to get me some green shoes,” Jones said. “I’m glad you noticed.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.