April 21, 2023

O’Leary: Ceresna commits to an Elks rebound

The Canadian Press

Jake Ceresna came out of the 2022 season with some momentum.

The 28-year-old defensive lineman’s fourth season in the CFL was his best one. He set a career high in sacks (10) and was a disruptive presence in the trenches for the Edmonton Elks with a career-best four forced fumbles. Add in the 31 tackles he had and the fact that he did all of that in just 12 games and it made two things fast realities. First, he was named a West Division and CFL All-Star for the first time. Second, as a pending free agent, he had options.

You wouldn’t have held it against him if he wanted to look elsewhere. The last two seasons in Edmonton have been tough, with the Elks winning a combined seven games and missing the playoffs both seasons. That didn’t happen, though.

Ceresna signed a two-year contract extension with the Elks on Jan. 11, just over a month before he would have hit the free agent market. Why? With some down time in Hamilton around some promotional work he was doing for the league earlier this month, he got into it.

» Elks give DB Marcus Lewis a second look
» Eugene Lewis brings his helping hands to Edmonton
» Landry: Cornelius confident with new trio of pass catchers
» Subscribe to the CFL’s newsletter for exclusive offers and league updates

Ceresna forced a career-high four fumbles in 2022 and found a nice fit in Chris Jones’ defence (The Canadian Press)

“Well first of all, the boss man wanted me back,” he laughed, mentioning Elks’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones, “so that’s a plus.

“And then, you know, when I sat down and thought about it, the past two years obviously it’s no secret. We haven’t won at home, there’s just been so much turmoil. Four coaches in the past four years, it’s not been the greatest situation. I think I’ve kind of been through all of that and to leave…I feel as if winning is inevitable. It just means so much more to me than just going to another place.

“It just kind of has my heart now where I’m determined to try and see this out and try to help this organization turn things around and win games. That’s a big factor that came into my decision. Yeah, I could go to Hamilton or Ottawa or a different team. And maybe it’s easier, maybe we start winning right away, but it wouldn’t mean as much to me as opposed to winning games here.”

Living in downtown Edmonton, Ceresna is in the thick of the community and he’s seen how badly the fans want things to turn around in 2023. After some encouraging play down the stretch of the 2022 season and with some much-needed roster and coaching staff continuity, Ceresna thinks the Elks could be ready to finally turn the corner.

“It’s definitely something that I think the community wants and it’s something that everyone organization wants, is to turn it around,” Ceresna said.

“We’ve got we got Chris Jones, who I think is the right guy for the job. I think you can really sense it in the building and in the community that everyone wants to see us succeed. It’s up to us to make it happen.”

Ceresna stands to be a big part of that. Despite missing six games last year, he thrived in Jones’ defence, which will often take players out of their positional comfort zones and have them take on additional responsibilities.

Ceresna is eying the Elks’ Week 1 date against Trevor Harris and the Riders (GoElks.com)

“I found a lot of success playing for him and that’s also the reason why I wanted to come back,” he admitted. “I had a good year under him and at the end of the day, I think that he’s a great football coach.”

He mentions the coaching turnover he’s seen in his time in Green and Gold, since first suiting up for Edmonton in the 2018 season. Jason Maas was the head coach then and he gave way to Scott Milanovich, who left for an NFL opportunity in the lost 2020 season. Jaime Elizondo arrived in 2021 but his stay was short in that difficult season, which paved the way for Jones’ second go-round in Edmonton. With change continuing to swirl around the team, Ceresna perhaps anticipated a difficult season, noting the challenges that face a coach and roster when new people are in charge.

“Any time you’re a first-year head coach coming into your organization, there are changes that you want to make and ways that you want to run things,” he said.

“There are so many factors to it and it takes some time to get things right and get the right direction. I think just having (Jones) here and him coming back for a second season is going to help our organization. We have a game plan set in place and we’re all ready to go all out and give everything we have.”

Ending that home losing streak — Commonwealth Stadium hasn’t seen a Green and Gold win since 2019 — is the first priority and Ceresna would love to get it out of the way in Week 1. The Elks host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 11.

“That’s a big game that I’m thinking about and I’m looking forward to,” he said. “Come out with a victory in that game and kind of squash everything right off the start.”

The comment system on this website is now powered by the CFL.ca Forums. We'd love for you to be part of the conversation; click the Start Discussion button below to register an account and join the community!