June 8, 2024

Bane Jr. scores three times in Riders comeback win over Elks

Walter Tychnowicz/CFL.ca

EDMONTON — The Saskatchewan Roughriders opened their season with an exciting 29-21 come-from-behind win over the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.

After trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter, Trevor Harris and the offence scored two quick touchdowns to go ahead 22-21. The defence then forced a crucial late turnover with defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. in the eventual Roughrider victory.

Harris connected on a trio of touchdown passes to Shawn Bane Jr., including a late 33-yard major that sealed the final score. Running back AJ Ouellette added a go-ahead major as the Riders scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to give head coach Corey Mace his first win as a Roughrider.

Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was efficient in his debut for the Green and Gold as the team celebrated the opening of the 75th season in Club History. The pivot finished with a pair of scores – both to debuting receiver Hergy Mayala – in his first CFL game since 2022. The defence added a couple of interceptions with Darrius Bratton and Kai Gray but the Elks ultimately let a fourth quarter lead escape through their fingers.

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After a quick punt by the visitors, the Elks got on the board first with a field goal by Boris Bede on a four-of-five campaign by Bethel-Thompson in his first regular season action with the Green and Gold.

The Riders responded with a great drive by Harris and the offence. The pivot completed three straight passes to march his team into Edmonton territory, finishing the advance with a 27-yard strike to a wide open Bane Jr. for the first touchdown of the game.

Javon Leake, the 2023 Most Outstanding Special Teams Player, took a punt return back to the house for a would-be touchdown, but an illegal block in the back penalty wiped the score for the Elks late in the first quarter.

A single by the Elks cut down the score down to 7-4 but the rain made it difficult for the offences to sustain drives as a couple of mishaps during handoffs caused tackle for losses for both teams. After a couple of punts, it looked like Saskatchewan was going to break the stalemate but an unnecessary roughness penalty set them back 25 yards and led to the disqualification of offensive lineman Logan Ferland.

Late in the second quarter another punt return for a touchdown was negated by a penalty. This time it was Mario Alford going all the way before a holding penalty kept the score 7-4 with under four minutes left in the half.

Bethel-Thompson and the Elks offence came alive late in the second quarter with their first touchdown drive of the season. The signal-caller started by finding Dillon Mitchell for 21 yards before a couple of short connections and a 13-yard run by Kevin Brown set them in scoring position. The veteran finished things with a 22-yard touchdown to Mayala to put his team ahead 11-7 with a little over a minute left.


The Riders almost responded with a scoring march of their own. Harris commanded a quick-passing attack to drive into opposing territory before calling a timeout with 17 seconds left and the ball on Edmonton’s 34-yard line. That was when a pass intended for Kian Schaffer-Baker ended up in the hands of Elks defensive back Darrius Bratton after the Saskatchewan receiver lost his footing on an out-breaking route. The turnover secured a lead for the home team going into halftime.

The second half started with teams exchanging punts until the visitors found a way to put points on the board. The main culprit was the passing offence, with Samuel Emilus and Bane Jr. catching short passes to position the Riders across midfield. It wasn’t enough for a major but it resulted in a single on a booming punt by Adam Korsak to make it a three-point game.

Edmonton answered with another long drive. Bethel-Thompson found a streaking Eugene Lewis over the middle all the way to Saskatchewan’s three-yard line to make it first and goal. A couple of plays later the pivot found Mayala in the end zone for their second touchdown connection of the game to extend the lead to 18-8 late in the third quarter.

The afternoon seemed to continue to swing in Edmonton’s favour when defensive Gray intercepted a pass from Harris to give the home team a chance to extend the score going into the fourth quarter. That’s exactly what they did with Bede’s second kick of the day, a 30-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 21-8.

The Green and White would not go quietly into the night.


In only three plays Harris and the Riders put seven on the board with a couple of quick passes preceding a 40-yard touchdown connection with Bane Jr. The defence then did their job and forced a fumble to give the offence a chance to take the lead. Harris connected with receiver Jerreth Sterns and Ouellette punched it in to put the visitors ahead with 8:12 left in the game.

It looked like the Elks would go ahead again on their following drive but Bede missed the field goal and Alford took it out of the end zone to keep the Riders ahead by one.

Saskatchewan’s defence came through once more with under two minutes to go when Cox Jr. strip sacked Bethel-Thompson to give Harris and Bane Jr. an opportunity to all but seal the game. The pivot did just that by launching a beautiful arcing pass to the right to a wide-open Bane Jr. to go ahead 29-21.

After a late interception by defensive back C.J. Avery, it looked like the Elks were out of chances but an Ouellette fumble gave the home team one more chance. Bethel-Thompson connected on a couple of passes to put his team in position to launch the ball into the end zone, but an incomplete pass sealed the final score.

The Elks stay home in Week 2 to host the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, June 14. The Riders meanwhile travel to Hamilton to face the Tiger-Cats on Sunday, June 16.

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