July 21st, 2024

Inside the CFL: Green and gold Elks fans: take hope!

By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on June 27, 2024.


Before the regular season began I observed Edmonton’s offence was so bad, the Elks would have to score 35 points a game to win.

They scored 36 against Toronto last Saturday and still lost by a field goal.

But those who support the green and gold, take hope. Your football team is certainly showing some improvement.

Elks quarterback McLeod Bethel Thompson, formerly the coxswain of the Good Ship Argonaut when they won the Grey Cup two years ago, completed 28 of 38 passes for 342 yards, four TDs, no interceptions.

His leading receiver was Dillon Mitchell with five catches for 120 yards. Next up was Hergy Mayala with five grabs for 72 yards and a major. Thompson’s favourite target was the great Eugene Lewis who had 10 balls thrown his way but only caught three for 32 yards, also the total of the Westerners’ running game.

Edmonton needs to make better use of Kevin Brown.

As the old saying goes, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.”

About to sew the game up, with 2:11 left, rookie Joel Dublenko rolled slowly along the ground, coming to rest against Toronto punter John Haggerty’s foot. “Contacting the kicker” shouted the referee. “Why me, Lord,” moaned Elk herder Chris Jones.

After tonight’s venture into the Lions den, the beleaguered team gets a welcomed week off before hosting the Ottawa Redblacks.

Meanwhile, it looks like there is a new dog on the Bay Street block.

In his first start against B.C. filling in for the suspended 2023 Most Outstanding Player quarterback Chad Kelly, the never-heard-of Cameron Dukes led the Argos to a season opening 35-27 win over the Lions.

He completed 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards, three TDs, no interceptions. After a bye week, he was instrumental in defeating the visiting Elks, going 18 for 21, 214 yards, two majors and again, no turnovers.

He spread the ball around to 10 receivers and directed a ground that picked up 186 yards. He leads the league in quarterback efficiency with a mark of 145.1. As Argo running back Ka’Deem Carey told TSN, “The boy can play some football.”

The boy (he calls everyone sir or ma’am) played at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., the only place that offered him a scholarship after he graduated from high school in Shepherdsville.

Despite a solid varsity career, no one expressed any interest in his services.

He hired an agent who knew Mike Davis of the Indoor Football League Las Vegas Knighthawks who once coached with the Argos. When Chad Kelly was suspended, Dukes stepped in. If he continues to shine, GM Pinball Clemons can let bad boy Kelly shuffle back to Buffalo.

Dukes will face his toughest CFL test tomorrow night when the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes, also undefeated, come to town.

Former all-star quarterback Cody Fajardo has found new life down East after being discarded by the Roughriders.

Fajardo ranks third in efficiency, (124.7). Montreal has registered more total offence than Toronto but the Boatmen don’t shoot themselves in the foot and are remarkably efficient.

Both teams feature ferocious defences. A field goal will likely win it.

The big surprise of the season has to be winless Winnipeg.

I was taken aback at how porous the Bomber defence was against B.C. It surrendered 500 yards in total offence, and when they had to contain the Leos in the last two minutes, Vernon Adams Jr. absolutely shredded their secondary.

I had been critical of defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall for being too conservative but he no longer has that job.

Former DB coach Jordan Younger is his successor. But great veterans like safety Brandon Alexander look utterly confused in the new scheme of things. QB Zach Collaros has the worst efficiency rating in the league at 73.

Although he has set up touchdowns, he hasn’t thrown for any and has been intercepted three times.

However, Winnipeg hasn’t lost to Calgary since 2021, six straight wins. Saturday’s visit to McMahon Stadium could be the cure that ails them. The Stampeders aren’t very good this year.

Congratulations to the performing arts students at St. Mary’s School, their teacher Parkor Thomas and Alberta historian Rob Lennard for producing a video on the CFL’s rules for youth and new Canadians.

Quite an accomplishment!

Graham Kelly has covered the CFL for the Medicine Hat News for 52 years. Feedback for this column can be emailed to sports@medicinehatnews.com.

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