It’s been a long wait for the Edmonton Elks.
A COVID-19 outbreak put the Elks into a 10-day isolation period, which included a postponed game in Toronto. The team is back and ready to go in Monday’s Battle of Alberta Labour Day Classic, when they’ll face the Stampeders from McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
The Elks will have lineup changes in the aftermath of their outbreak. Defensive back Aaron Grymes, receivers Armanti Edwards and Tevaun Smith, and middle linebacker Kieshawn Bierria won’t play — all were in COVID protocol.
This will push some newcomers into the starting lineup.
Malik Clements will start for Bierria in the linebacking core. Defensive back Darius Williams will move from SAM linebacker to the wide-side halfback spot for Grymes, who is on the team’s one-game injured list. On offense, receivers Jalen Tolliver and Earnest Edwards will make their first CFL starts.
LISTEN: Elks quarterback Trevor Harris on what receiver Earnest Edwards will bring to the offence
A few key names will be removed from COVID protocol and will play on Monday: receivers Derel Walker and Shai Ross, along with defensive end Kwaku Boateng and defensive back Jonathan Rose.
The matchup between the Elks and Stampeders often doesn’t involve both teams sporting losing records, but on Monday it will take place for only the fifth time in the 60 year history of the Labour Day Classic.
The Elks are 1-2 on the young season after picking up their first win of the season on Aug. 19: a 21-16 win over the B.C. Lions. The Stampeders have stumbled out of the gates with a 1-3 record.
The Labour Day Classic hasn’t been kind to the Elks over the last 15 years. The team has only won twice in that timeframe: in 2008 and the last win coming in 2011. That gives the Stampeders an eight-game winning streak on Labour Day, which is now the longest win streak in the history of this game.
LISTEN: Elks head coach Jamie Elizondo on his first taste of the Battle of Alberta on Labour Day
Other lineup changes see offensive lineman De’Ondere Wesley start at left tackle. Receiver and former University of Calgary Dino Hunter Karl will hold for Sean Whyte on field goals.
Former University of Alberta Golden Bears linebacker Shaydon Phillip will play his first CFL game. Defensive end Rossini Sandjong (2020, 8th round pick) will also play his first CFL game.
Coming off the roster are offensive linemen Jacob Ruby (released) and Tomas Jack-Kurdyla (one-game injured, back) along with defensive end Christian Rector who has been placed on the team’s practice roster.
The following are the projected offensive and defensive starters for the Elks:
Quarterback: Trevor Harris
Running back: James Wilder Jr. (fullback: James Tuck)
Offensive line: De’Ondre Kyle Saxelid, David Beard, Matt O’Donnell, Justin Renfrow
Receivers: Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson, Jalen Tolliver, Mike Jones, Earnest Edwards
Defensive line: Mathieu Betts, Jake Ceresna, Mike Moore, Kwaku Boateng
Linebackers: Nyles Morgan, Malik Clements, Brian Walker
Defensive backs: Jonathon Mincy, Trumaine Washington, Jordan Hoover, Darius Williams, Jonathon Rose
You can hear live coverage of the Labour Day Classic between Elks and Stampeders on 630 CHED starting with and extended edition of Countdown to Kickoff at 12:30 p.m.
The opening kickoff from McMahon Stadium in Calgary will be at 2:30 p.m. with Morley Scott and Dave Campbell calling all of the live action. Plus, hear analysis from Blake Dermott and Eddie Steele.