EDMONTON — It was October of 2019 when the Edmonton Elks last won a home game. Donald Trump was president of the United States. Joker was at the top of the box office. Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” ruled the charts.
But, if there was a game that you would bet on the Elks to break their 12-game losing streak at Commonwealth Stadium, it would be this Saturday’s date with the Ottawa Redblacks.
The Elks (3-7) are coming off a 30-12 beating of the Redblacks last week in the nation’s capital, a game which saw Edmonton outscore Ottawa 21-0 in the second half. There’s also the matter of Ottawa’s 1-8 record. And the Elks have registered all three of their wins this season on the road against Eastern teams.
It’s been a long time since the Elks have been solid favourites to win a home game. Wideout Kenny Lawler, who had 81 yards receiving and a touchdown last week, is looking forward to the rematch with Ottawa.
“It’s the CFL baby, that’s what we signed up for, now we’ve got to go out and do it,” he said. “I love it. I love hitting guys in their face back-to-back. It’s be great to get back-to-back wins, first one of the season, and first home win since 2019.
"It’s going to be great. We’ve just got to go out and execute, not take any play for granted, because Ottawa is a very competitive team, they play competitive football, and we’ll see what the scoreboard says.”
“We just take the mindset that we had that we brought to the locker room (in Ottawa), and then bring that same energy home and make it back-to-back,” added Elks linebacker Nyles Morgan, who has 28 tackles in four games this season.
But the Redblacks will have some new wrinkles. Nick Arbuckle, who began the season as the Elks starting quarterback, is expected to start for Ottawa in place of Caleb Evans. Arbuckle came in for mop-up duty last week, and completed seven of his 13 passes for 85 yards. Edmonton traded Arbuckle to Ottawa on July 11.
And Devonte Dedmon, the top kick returner in the CFL in 2021, will be returning to the Redblacks after being released by the Miami Dolphins. Dedmon had three return touchdowns last season, and a total of 2,841 yards combined on kickoff and punt returns.
“Devonte has proven himself to be a top player in our league who is always a threat with the ball in his hands,” said Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice when the Dedmon signing was announced.
Elks general manager and head coach Chris Jones is well aware of the dangers that Dedmon poses.
“We’ve got to go and play a very good football team that’s well-coached," Jones said. "They have a lot of people who have been there before. They are a veteran group, especially in the special teams area, and they just added a shot in the arm with that little returner they got."
Meanwhile, the Elks added veteran wide receiver Manny Arceneaux to its lengthy injured list. He's out for a minimum of six weeks with an ankle problem.
The Elks entered the week two games behind the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-5) for fourth place in the West and the chance for a crossover playoff spot. As rough as the season has been for the Elks, they still could hope to get hot and make the post-season.
“We’re all aware of why we play, and that’s to make the playoffs and, ultimately, win the Grey Cup,” said Jones. “We’ve put ourselves in a big hole, and there’s no jumping out of that hole. So we’ve just got to continue, one by one, to do what we’ve got to do, and that’s win for the week.
“Unfortunately, for us, we’ve put ourselves in this situation. Ottawa's in a very similar situation, fighting for what they can get.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2022.
Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press