Prior to this season, the Labour Day Classic matchup between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Calgary Stampeders hasn’t really been much of a “classic.”
In recent years, we’ve mostly seen blowouts and teams pulling away in the fourth quarter to make a close game a lopsided score. The last close game was back in 2005 when the Eskimos won 25-23. It took seven long years for the “Classic” to return to Labour Day, but it did in a big way on Monday as the Stampeders walked away with a 31-30 win over the Eskimos.
Preview: Calgary at Edmonton Wk. 11
The game had everything you would want in a football game: big plays, timely execution, big hits, physicality, lead changes, ups and downs, mistakes, rallies, and a last-second field goal attempt for the win.
The game featured the first start for Kerry Joseph in three years and he performed splendidly replacing Steven Jyles who was dealing with a nagging calf injury. Joseph went 17 of 28 for 311 yards, two touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown, and one interception. The win moved the Stampeders into a second place tie in the West Division. So, what better way to try to follow up that spectacular showing by the Stamps and Esks than a rematch just five days later?
Who thinks of such….oh…what’s the word? Insanity! Head coach Kavis Reed played in his fair share of Labour Day Classics and rematches; he says the second game is always the most challenging.
“There’s always going to be some bumps and bruises from the game on Monday night,” Reed said.
“Guys are going to be hurt and guys are going to have to endure it and hopefully be able to play at high level and execute at a high level. The physical part of it is more of the taxing part of it than the mental part of it.”
The normal football week usually involves a couple of days of rest following a game, three days of practice, a walkthrough, and then the game itself. This week, you had the game on Monday, an off-day Tuesday to rest the bumps and bruises, then a practice on Wednesday at basically half speed so limbs won’t fall off, a walkthrough yesterday; and the game tonight.
The rematch game is usually called a “war of attrition”, the ultimate test of will, and the willingness to battle..
The short week also hampers the game planning process for the coaching staff. As Joseph puts it, there’s not much you can do in just one day of preparation.
“You can’t do a total overhaul of a game plan but you can tweak it a little bit to try and fit some things that they did to us on Monday,” Joseph explained. “But then you have to be ready because they’re going to be making adjustments also, they’re going to see some areas where we beat them, so they’re going to be preparing for us also.”
Ah yes, it’s a chess match really. Not enough time to overhaul but enough time to throw in a wrinkle or two. For Joseph, he’ll need to expect the unexpected.
Sweeping the Labour Day series is a tall order, especially when you have two teams as evenly matched as their identical 5-4 records indicate. Stampeders slotback Nik Lewis says the team that wins the Monday game often has the false sense of security going into to the Friday game.
The losing team however, well they just can’t wait until Friday. If they physically could, they would to play the next day.
As far as injuries go, the Eskimos came away with just one but it’s a significant one. Burke Dales hurt his left foot in the first half and has been placed on the nine-game injured list which basically ends his regular season. For the time being, Grant Shaw will assume the punting duties along with field goals and kickoffs.
A possible X-factor could be the addition of running back Cory Boyd to the lineup to add a bruising fresh body to engage a battered and bruised Stampeders front seven. Reed says he’s strongly considering playing Boyd to join fellow running backs Hugh Charles and Jerome Messam. Reed needs to justify that all three players will be properly utilized.
Two games in five days. That’s the Labour Day Classic folks. It’s really an eight quarter football game.
So strap in Eskimos fans. Get your tickets and head on down to Commonwealth Stadium tonight.
The second half is about to begin.NOTES:
With the Eskimos trading wide receiver Greg Carr to the Saskatchewan Roughriders this week, the Eskimos will start rookie Shamawd Chambers at wide receiver. Fellow receiver Marcus Henry has been activated from the 9-game injured list and will make his 2012 debut tonight. Defensive end Marcus Howard will miss his sixth straight game with a hamstring injury while defensive lineman Ted Laurent will miss his fourth game with an ankle injury. Lee Robinson will receive his second start of the season at defensive end. Defensive back Weldon Brown will miss his second straight game with a groin injury. Eskimos first round draft pick Austin Pasztor is in Edmonton after the offensive lineman was released by the Minnesota Vikings. Pasztor has yet to sign a contract with the Eskimos.