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August 7, 2021

PREVIEW | Elks vs. RedBlacks

EDMONTON – A new era of Edmonton football opens Saturday, as the Elks welcome the Ottawa RedBlacks to The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium.

The contest isn’t just the first football action in the Alberta capital since October 26, 2019, but also the start of the Elks moniker in the CFL.

While it seems like ancient history now, Edmonton is coming off a trip to the Eastern Final in 2019, when the club earned a crossover berth in the CFL playoffs. After an 8-10 regular season and win over Montreal in the division semis, a loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats spelled the end for the Green and Gold’s 2019 campaign.

Meanwhile on the Ottawa side of things, there’s plenty of new pieces in the nation’s capital, after the club went 3-15 in 2019. Among the new faces is head coach Paul LaPolice, who joined the club after guiding Winnipeg’s offence to a Grey Cup championship in 2019.

Edmonton Elks (8-10-0 in 2019) vs. Ottawa RedBlacks (3-15-0 in 2019)

Presented by Servus Credit Union

DEPTH CHARTS: Edmonton (click here) | Ottawa (click here)

INJURY REPORTS: Edmonton & Ottawa (click here)

FAMILIAR FACES 

After COVID-19 protocols disrupted  preparation on Friday, the Green and Gold are set to take the field against the Ottawa RedBlacks in Edmonton’s 72nd season opener.

The Elks come into the contest with lots of changes since the last time the club stepped on the field for the Eastern Final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in November of 2019.

Only two starters on the defensive side of the ball also topped the depth chart the last time Edmonton hit the field, as Kwaku Boateng and Mike Moore are familiar faces on the defensive line.

On offence, the line represents the team’s greatest area of continuity. Jacob Ruby, David Beard, and Matt O’Donnell are all back as starters to open 2021. Add the familiar duo of Greg Ellingson and Trevor Harris and you have one of the CFL’s most dynamic quarterback-receiver combos in the CFL.

Two veteran legs anchor the Elks special teams, with punter Hugh O’Neill and kicker Sean Whyte back for their fifth and sixth seasons in Green and Gold respectively.

KEY CANADIAN CONTENT

With change comes opportunity, including for several Canadians who are looking to make an even bigger impact this season.

Two Canucks who fit the bill are second-year CFLers Shai Ross at receiver and defensive lineman Mathieu Betts.

Ross, of Oreo dunking fame, gets the start Week 1 after impressing with his speed and overall athletic ability. The University of Manitoba product and former Canada West all-star at returner has all the makings of a big play threat.

Defensively, Betts blossomed in training camp. The former U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Year is one half of Edmonton’s all-Canadian defensive end combo along with Boateng.

ELIZONDO OFFENCE GETS WILDER

Jaime Elizondo makes his CFL coaching debut against an Ottawa team he spent four seasons with (2016-19).

The former RedBlacks offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach is the 23rd head coach in Edmonton franchise history and just the second to take the helm during a 14-game season (more on that tidbit in BY THE NUMBERS).

Elizondo and the rest of his coaching staff have emphasized W.I.N. – what’s important now – with the club this season.

For Edmonton, one of the things that will surely be important right away is establishing running back James Wilder Jr.

The veteran back enters the season with over 3,500 all-purpose yards, including  1,405 all-purpose yards in 2017 with the Argos when he was the CFL’s top rookie.

  • 651 days since the last CFL game at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium (Oct. 26, 2019 vs. SSK).
  • Saturday night’s game will be the 36th time Edmonton has opened the season at home, with the club carrying a 20-14-1 record in those games.
  • 2016 was the last time these two teams opened the season head-to-head. Ottawa landed a 45-37 OT win in Edmonton.
  • This is regular season game No. 1,199 for the Green and Gold dating back to 1949.
  • Trevor Harris needs 293 yards passing to move into sole possession of 28th on the CFL all-time list. Joe Paopao is currently 28th with 22,474.
  • In six season openers against the RedBlacks, the two teams have combined to average 60.8 points. That’s the highest total for the Elks versus any opponent in season openers.
  • This is the second time since 1949 Edmonton will play a 14-game schedule. Head coach Annis Stukus led the team to a 4-10 record that season.

  • All-time: Edmonton is 9-3-0 (5-1-0 at home | 4-2-0 at OTT)
  • 2019 record: Edmonton 2-0
  • Last time: Edmonton 21 / Ottawa 16 (Sept. 28, 2019 | at OTT)