Stampeders come from behind to beat Elks 35-31 in Labour Day thriller

Edmonton Elks defensive lineman Jake Ceresna, left, looks on as Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier throws the ball during second half CFL football action in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Chest bumps, butt slaps and high fives enveloped Jake Maier after the Calgary Stampeders edged the Edmonton Elks 35-31 on Monday.

Calgary’s quarterback engineered a late come-from-behind win over their provincial CFL rival on Labour Day. The Stampeders (4-8) trailed by 15 points after three quarters.

In the fourth, Maier rushed for Calgary’s first touchdown of the game. He threw a pass to Reggie Begelton in the end zone that Calgary successfully challenged for pass interference, which led to a Tommy Stevens short-yardage touchdown.

Maier then marched the offence 84 yards downfield on 10 plays, with Dedrick Mills scoring the winning touchdown on a four-yard run with 20 seconds remaining.

After losing six games this season in the final three minutes, pulling out a late win to end a three-game losing streak — in front of 26,741 at McMahon Stadium — was a shot of confidence the Stampeders desperately needed.

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Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said there was a lot of love for Maier in the locker room following the game because of the quarterback’s poise and his pace moving the chains on the final drive.

“The greatest compliment you can get as a quarterback is when you feel like your teammates respect you and they revere you in these types of situations,” Maier said. “That means a lot to me when you see a large group of men and guys that played their asses off and they have your back.”

Calgary’s Rene Paredes kicked field goals from 15, 24, 32 and 48 yards, while Cody Grace contributed a punt single.

Edmonton (2-10) dropped to 2-2 since Canadian quarterback Tre Ford took over as starter. Alberta’s CFL clubs meet again Saturday in Edmonton.

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Ford rushed for 135 yards Monday. The 25-year-old University of Waterloo product completed 14 of 23 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown pass without an interception.

“I’ve never seen that at the professional level where a guy can be that elusive and never get tired,” Maier said. “The guy just keeps going. He’s got a hell of a motor. He obviously has a bright future in this league and he’s going to be a problem again next weekend.”

Edmonton slotback Steven Dunbar caught a pair of touchdown passes and third-string quarterback Taylor Cornelius scored a one-yard rushing touchdown.

Dean Faithfull kicked field goals from 20, 39 and a season-high 46 yards, and Jake Julien added a punt single for the Elks.

“That’s as tough a loss as I’ve been involved in,” said Elks coach and general manager Chris Jones. “We didn’t tackle really well in the fourth (quarter) and that really hurt us.”

Down 28-13, Maier scored Calgary’s first touchdown early in the fourth quarter by running wide to the end zone’s corner for a five-yard touchdown. A Paredes convert had the hosts trailing by eight points.

“In my mind, I ran for 25 yards, took a hit, a lot cooler in my head than it ended up being, but it was necessary,” Maier said.

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Faithfull’s 46-yard field goal gave Edmonton an 11-point lead, but Calgary successfully challenged for pass interference on a Maier pass to Begelton in the end zone with just over three minutes remaining.

After backup quarterback Stevens scored a subsequent one-yard plunge, Maier connected with Luther Hakunavanhu on a two-point convert pass that had the hosts trailing by three points.

An Edmonton two-and-out gave Calgary the ball back with two-and-a-half minutes to go when chants of “Go Stamps Go” erupted at McMahon, and set the stage for the Stampeders’ final drive capped by Mills’ carry and a Paredes convert.

The Stampeders played a poor second quarter on both sides of the ball to trail 18-10 at halftime. Maier was booed late in the half when he fumbled the ball on a second-and-15 and recovered it.

Edmonton scored on its next drive, with wide receiver Kyran Moore taking a handoff from Ford and throwing a 19-yard pass to Dunbar in the end zone.

The Stampeders also hurt themselves with penalties in the third quarter. An 18-yard carry to Edmonton’s doorstep by Mills was negated 15 yards by his unnecessary roughness penalty after the play.

Maier’s subsequent throw to Begelton in the end zone was called back because of Brandon Weldon’s holding penalty, so Calgary settled for another Paredes field goal to trail 21-13.

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Ford capped an eight-play, 64-yard drive with a five-yard toss to Dunbar and a 28-13 lead for the Elks to end the third quarter.

“Are we the greatest team? Maybe not, but we keep fighting,” Stampeders head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson said.

“We probably got outplayed for three quarters. Proud of our guys for continually putting it out there and believing, with effort, sometimes we can overcome mistakes. We were able to do that in this game.”


Forest fire smoke drifted into the city overnight Saturday. Environment Canada’s air quality index for northwest Calgary at 5 p.m. MT kickoff Monday read nine out of 10, or “high risk.”

CFL associate vice-president of officiating Darren Hackwood told media during a June pre-season conference call that the threshold to play a game was seven.

A game can start at an AQI of seven provided air quality is projected to not worsen, Hackwood said in June. Environment Canada’s AQI for northwest Calgary was still at nine four hours after kickoff.

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