The football version of the Battle of Alberta has had some trouble living live up to that moniker over the last couple of years. Specifically on Labour Day, the game has been more like the scheduled-game of Alberta as opposed to a battle.
Last year, Calgary played one of their worst games of the year in losing 35-7 at McMahon Stadium. The year before the Stampeders laid a one-sided pounding on the Eskimos, winning 52-5.
But this year, the signs point to something far more competitive.
For starters, there is the obvious stakes in the standings. The Eskimos sit a game ahead of the Stampeders. The teams could leave McMahon Stadium in a tie or the Eskimos could open a four-point lead on Calgary.
Specific to Calgary, the game represents another chance to develop some badly needed momentum. The Stampeders are coming off a gritty win in Regina. Head coach John Hufnagel called the wind conditions in Mosaic Stadium the worst he had ever encountered as a player or coach.
However, the Stampeders need to build off that win. They have yet to string together back-to-back victories in 2012.
The team is also looking to gain some traction at home. The Stamps have dropped their last two home games, including a tough loss to Toronto. The team made it a priority to improve their home record and now would be a good time to start acting on that pledge.
This game with the Eskimos also marks a sustained stretch of games against Western opponents. Starting on Labour Day, the Stamps play five of their next six against Western opponents, including three dates with the Eskimos. Calgary's mark on the 2012 season is clearly in their hands over the next few weeks.
They enter the game with yet another season-ending injury to deal with. Defensive end Chris McCoy fell awkwardly in Regina and tore his ACL. He will have season-ending surgery. He joins long-snapper Tim St. Pierre, offensive linemen Steve Myddleton and Na’Shan Goddard and defensive lineman Kevin Dixon on the sidelines with knee injuries. It is anticipated Ken Pettway, a former Eskimo, will take over McCoy’s duties for the balance of the season.
One key matchup in the game will be Calgary’s league-leading rusher, Jon Cornish, against a tenacious Edmonton front four. Cornish racked up 127 yards in Calgary’s playoff loss in Edmonton----his first game against the Eskimos as the full-time starter. The Eskimos prevailed in the contest.
One unusual aspect of the game will be the starting quarterbacks. The starters for each of the last seven Labour Day Classics will be on the field, alright. But Ricky Ray and Henry Burris will be playing three hours earlier and two time zones away.
We will see if these two can write another chapter in the Labour Day Classic.
Mark Stephen is Sports Director of CHQR Radio in Calgary and has broadcast Calgary Stampeder games since 1996. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkonFootball.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|