Some day, you have to figure the breaks will go the Edmonton Eskimos' way. Their last four games have all been losses, but they've been by a combined margin of just a dozen points.
Maybe those handful of plays that decide a game will go the Eskimos way this weekend. The Calgary Stampeders, however, certainly hope that isn’t the case.
On paper the annual Labour Day game looks one-sided. Calgary is coming off an emotional win with a depleted lineup in Toronto. Edmonton arrives after another loss.
Stamps head coach John Hufnagel isn’t buying that approach. Earlier this week on his weekly radio show Hufnagel said the Eskimos situation was “bad luck, not bad talent”. Time will tell.
There was a time when the Labour Day Classic was used as a measuring stick by the Calgary Stampeders. In the 1980’s, they were routinely beaten by the Eskimos. It was clear the Stampeders weren’t on the same plane as the Eskimos of that day.
In the 1990’s the Stampeders were also battling with the Eskimos, but the stakes were higher and the competition closer. In fact, the Stampeders built their roster around catch and surpassing the Edmonton Eskimos. One of the principal reasons the Stampeders signed Alondra Johnson away from the BC Lions was to have him ‘spy’ Edmonton quarterback Tracy Ham.
Of late, the Eskimos have found themselves looking up at the Calgary Stampeders.
That is a trend the Stampeders intend to continue.
The Calgary Stampeders will again have the challenge of putting together a roster. Already hit hard by injuries in the receiving corps, they will play this game without receiver Tim Hawthorne. He is sporting a cast after suffering an injury in the Toronto game. Hawthorne was already filling in for injured reciver Joe West.
That run of injuries led to an unusual sight in Stampeders camp this week. Two receivers were brought in and were told one of them would be starting in the Labour Day Classic. Kenny Stafford, who was in Montreal’s camp this spring, and Alric Arnett were both given long looks by the coaching staff with an eye to playing one of them in the Labour Day Classic.
Kevin Glenn will pick up another start at quarterback. Drew Tate continues to fight an injury to his throwing arm and has yet to really return to a throwing program.
Jon Cornish missed the Toronto game with a thigh contusion but will return to his regular role on Labour Day. That can’t be good news for the Eskimos. In four meeting with Edmonton last year he ground out 505 yards, including a spectacular 185-yard performance in the return Labour Day match.
Near perfect weather is expected for the annual game. Forecasts in Calgary call for a high of 28 degrees with blue skies over the stadium. With a 3 p.m. local kickoff, the players will be playing in the peak of the day's warmth. The Stampeders have spent the week working on hydration, anticipating the hot conditions.
Mark Stephen is Sports Director of CHQR Radio in Calgary and has broadcast Calgary Stampeder games since 1996. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkonFootball.