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Stampeders are actively “monitoring” air quality conditions for the Battle of Alberta on Labor Day | CBC News

The CFL’s annual Battle of Alberta on Labor Day in Calgary, which will feature two West Division clubs adrift of a playoff spot, is scheduled to begin this afternoon amid poor air quality across the province.

The Calgary Stampeders wrote in a statement that the organization was “actively monitoring” air quality conditions in the region, but added that kick-off was still scheduled for 5:00 p.m. MT.

The pre-game tailgate at Gridiron Gardens, located on the practice field immediately south of McMahon Stadium, will also open as scheduled at 3:00 p.m. MT.

“Further updates will be provided via our social media channels as needed,” the team said wrote in his post.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers also observed the air conditions before the start of their Labor Day Classic on Sunday in the Mosaic Stadium.

As of 11 a.m. MT Monday, Calgary was considered a high-risk area Air quality health index scale.

According to Environment Canada, people with lung conditions such as asthma, as well as those with heart disease, the elderly, children, pregnant women and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of suffering health effects from smoke.

A chance to generate the necessary momentum

When it comes to the game itself, meanwhile, the Edmonton Elks have a little confidence — and the Calgary Stampeders need some.

Calgary (3-8) lost three straight games in August, all against the top three teams in the CFL. Edmonton (2-9) has won two games in a row after a miserable start to the season.

Canadian quarterback Tre Ford, a University of Waterloo graduate, guided Edmonton to those two wins, including last week’s home win over Ottawa, ending a terrible 22-game losing streak at Commonwealth Stadium.

Two soccer players are shown.
Bryce Carter (58) of the Ottawa Red Blacks chases while quarterback Tre Ford (2) of the Edmonton Elks scores for a touchdown during CFL action in Edmonton August 27, 2023. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Both clubs still have time to salvage their 2023 season with seven games remaining in their regular season, but the salvage must begin immediately.

“We’re at the bottom together,” said Dave Dickenson, Stampeders head coach and general manager. “One of us has got to come out of the deep and we hope that we are.”

As such, Monday’s clash at McMahon Stadium combined with Saturday’s return leg in the Commonwealth is a crucial scenario for Alberta’s CFL teams this season.

“This is a pivotal moment for both teams,” said Elks coach and GM Chris Jones.

Mistakes at the wrong time

What’s bothering the Stampeders is that they’ve lost six times in the final three minutes of the game this season. They have lost four games by a margin of no more than three points.

Overall, there were a number of inopportune slips, such as Javon Leake’s punt return touchdown for Toronto in the fourth quarter last week to break a 31-31 tie and propel the Argonauts to a 39-31 win.

“Mistakes happen. We don’t want to play scared,” said Dickenson.

“If the games go the way you want, you think you’re going to win them all. When they don’t go that way, doubts can sometimes creep in. All I know is how to get rid of those doubts by starting to win.”

A soccer coach watches from the sidelines.
Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson looks on from the sidelines during the second half of a CFL football game against the BC Lions August 12, 2023 in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Calgary quarterback Jake Maier leads the league in passing yards (2,785), but the Stampeders have only had a mediocre 12 touchdown catches in 11 games.

The Stampeders, too, have fallen short of sixth in the CFL, averaging 88.9 rushing yards per game, although running backs Ka’Deem Carey and Dedrick Mills will play in the same game for the third time this season on Monday.

Dickenson called Maier’s 387 passing yards and four touchdown throws in the loss to Toronto his quarterback’s best game of the year.

“I know things haven’t been particularly exciting in this group this year, but we have no problem giving up at the moment,” Maier said.

“We feel like we were close to winning some games against good teams. Now we’re getting the opportunity to do that in a home game on Labor Day.”

Slow start

Edmonton’s 9-0 start this season included two games in which the Elks had zero points.

But Jarious Jackson’s promotion to offensive coordinator in late July and Ford’s rise to starter three straight games reinvigorated the Elks’ offense.

Ford started a game against Calgary in 2022 but sustained a collarbone injury in the first quarter late in the season. The 25-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ontario has been given another chance to prove he can be a CFL starter.

“It is exciting, also very much for my family. My dad calls me every day,” said Ford. “It’s just nice to see all the hard work that I’ve put into the off-season this year and just the work throughout training camp and all the work that I mean stuck my whole life, finally got the opportunity to go out there and play.

“I know a lot of people have asked if I could do it or not. Some people are right too.

He threw for 317 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions while also rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 30-20 home win over the Redblacks.

“You have to defend Tre every single play because he can just turn a random play into an explosion,” Jones said.

A soccer player throws a pass.
Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier (12) plays against the Toronto Argonauts during first half CFL football action in Toronto on August 25, 2023. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The CFL’s regular season is two-thirds over by Labor Day weekend, but games that fall on that holiday weekend traditionally have a significant impact on a team’s fortunes, especially because of the festival atmosphere that surrounds them.

“I think when you win a game like that, I think it’s a jump-start for the teams because it’s such a cool experience to go through together,” Maier said. “Your camaraderie will of course grow.”

Stampeders defensive linemen Mike (Moore) and TJ Rayam (knee) are out for Monday’s game. The Elks’ defensive lineman Elliott Brown (knee) and J-Min Pelley (calf), offensive lineman David Foucault (back) and defensive back Louchiez Purifoy (calf) are also out.

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