June 8, 2024

GAME RECAP | Roughriders 29, Elks 21

EDMONTON – For the second time against the Roughriders, the Elks fumbled the game away.

Edmonton was well in control, with a 21-8 lead in the fourth quarter but a ball that snuck out of the hands of Javon Leake spurred the the Saskatchewan comeback. The visitors capitalized with 21 unanswered points to pick up the 29-21 victory on Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth.

“When you’re up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter at home and basically penalize yourself and turn the ball over and allow someone to beat you here at home, it’s tough,” Head Coach Chris Jones said after the game.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson had a solid debut with the Green and Gold, connecting on 33 of 42 attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns. His fellow former Argonaut teammate Kurleigh Gittens Jr led the team in targets, hauling in nine of Bethel-Thompson’s 12 looks his way for 62 yards.

Second year defenders Kai Gray and Darius Bratton both collected their first interceptions of the season, while former NFL first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche picked up his first Canadian League sack.

As for the Elks, they will have to flush the unfortunate defeat quickly with a Friday night game at Commonwealth coming up against the Montreal Alouettes.

“Losing always hurts, but for us, the great thing is that we got a short week,” Hergy Mayala said. “Tomorrow we’re going to come back in and we’re going to watch the film, learn from it and get ready for Montreal.”

McLeod Bethel-Thompson (#10) completes a pass to Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (#19)



Hergy Mayala had a heck of a debut in Green and Gold.

A late addition to the Elks roster prior to Training Camp, the veteran receiver had to make an impact in camp to secure a role on the team. With several solid performances, including a 90 yard game against the Roughriders in the preseason, he found a feature role in the Home Opener and did not disappoint.

The reliable veteran collected five catches for 40 yards on the night, but two of them went for scores.

“It’s a great feeling to come out and perform,” Mayala said. “But, whenever you start somewhere, you want to start with a win.”



In a game where the greatest kick returner of all time was in attendance, both Javon Leake and Mario Alford were able to shine… if it were not for the officials.

Leake led off the special teams assault, taking an Adam Korsak punt 75 yards for what looked like the Elks first major of 2024, but it was all for not. A holding call reversed the score, stopping Leake from getting a head start on topping the four punt-return touchdowns the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams player ran back in 2023.

His counterpart in the lighter shade of green also found some daylight aided by a special teams holding call. With 3:57 left in the first half, Alford weaved his way 91 yards but the yellow flags on the field would dampen the Roughriders spirits. Linebacker A.J. Allen was the one with the sticky fingers to nullify the score.

The duo of elite returners are still a long way behind the historic legacy of the man affectionately known as Gizmo, who returned a pro-football record 26 punts for touchdowns with roughly as many called back in his own right.


When the Roughriders offence needed to get going, they looked the direction of Shawn Bane Jr.

The product of Sarasota, Florida emerged last season for Saskatchewan, recording 93 catches for 1104 yards and four touchdowns. Bane burst out the gates in 2024 with a five reception, 125 yard performance on the afternoon. Importantly for the Riders, three of Bane’s receptions were for touchdowns and were the difference in the ball game.


  • The Elks run defence was excellent on the evening, holding big free agent signing A.J. Ouellette to just 40 yards on 18 carries and forcing a fumble
  • Nyles Morgan, who finished second in the league in defensive tackles in 2023, picked up where he left off with nine on the day.
  • Dillon Mitchell continued his strong performance from preseason, hauling in all seven targets for 93 yards
  • Michael Brodrique, the Elks second-overall pick in 2023, notched his first career sack when he hauled down Trevor Harris
  • Five different Elks players caught at least four passes, with eight players recording at least one reception

Michael Brodrique (#44) records a tackle on special teams against the Roughriders


McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the Elks offence developing chemistry

“I think the best of football is ahead of us.  I don’t think we can be stopped when we’re on rhythm, but that’s not an easy thing to do. That’s 12 bodies as one. That’s a work of art. That’s Picasso. Right? That’s a van Gogh. That’s why I love this game of football, because it has to be twelve bodies operating within six inches of perfection, and doing it repetitively. So when that’s done, it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not an easy task to accomplish.”

Bethel-Thompson on the desire to get a win in front of the home fans

“It was awesome. Great stadium, great vibe. We really wish we could have got them a win. We know what this organization has been through and this is maybe what we needed, right? Are we going to say, here we go again? Or are we going to step up to the challenge and see the potential and step up this week?  Losses test your soul. So see what kind of men we have in this locker room and how we bounce back.”

Head Coach Chris Jones on the play of Hergy Mayala

“We felt fortunate when we got to sign him, and he certainly did some very good things for us. He’s a worker because he’s not 100% healthy, but he went out there today and played extremely hard.”