Edmonton Elks have one final probability this season to finish residence shedding streak

EDMONTON — The last time the Edmonton Elks won a home game was on Oct. 12, 2019, the final weekend of the CFL regular season. They beat the BC Lions 19-6.

A CFL record 16 home losses in a row have ensued. And, with just one home date left to go in the 2022 season, the 4-13 Elks have just this single chance left to stop themselves from going two full seasons without winning a home game.

The opponent this Friday night? The BC Lions, who, at 11-5, are one game up on the Calgary Stampeders for second spot in the West and a playoff home date. So, the Lions enter Friday’s game with something to play for.

Oh, and the Lions scored — gulp — a total of 105 points against the Elks over the course of two blowout victories at BC Place earlier this season. But both of those wins came with Nathan Rourke leading the Lions offence. While the star Canadian quarterback is close to recovering from a right foot sprain, Lions coach Rick Campbell said he thinks it will be another week before Rourke returns to the field.

The Elks, however, go into their final game of another lost season without starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius. He took a hard hit after a 30-yard run against the Argos last week, enough that he went into concussion protocol. But, hours after the game, and a trip to the hospital, it was discovered that his spleen was injured on that hit as well.

That means Canadian Tre Ford will get the start. Ford went into last weekend’s 28-23 loss to Toronto for one play while Cornelius’s head was being examined — and threw a game-changing interception.

Kai Locksley, the wide receiver/quarterback, may also see time.

“Ford wants to be our starter. Locksley wants to be ready,” said Elks general manager and head coach Chris Jones. “And, we’ll go with those two kids and let them play.”

Ford’s shoulder was injured in a Week 5 loss to Calgary, after it looked like he’d won the starting job. He led the Elks to a Week 4 win in Hamilton, close to Ford’s hometown of Niagara Falls. During the eight weeks Ford was out, Cornelius cemented himself as the Elks starter.

But Jones is looking forward to seeing Ford one more time.

“Well, he’s got a little more zip on the ball than he did, say, three weeks ago when he first came back,” said Jones. “I thought when he came back, he was a little slight of being able to really turn it loose and let it rip. But, last week, and then today, he looks good.”

He’s also been forgiving of Ford’s mistake last week against the Argos.

“It’s tough any time you come in cold off the bench into a game that’s tight like that,” Jones said of Ford’s interception. “We’ve just got to learn to manage that situation better.”

“It’s the next guy up,” said Ford. “We need someone to lead the offense this week, and I’m going to be that guy.

“With the way the season has went, especially with the last game and everything, we really want to end with a win, especially at home. I don’t think we’ve got one since we’ve been the Elks, I guess . I definitely want to give the fans something to cheer about, too, and go out on a high note.”

Locksley said that if he’s asked to go behind centre, his experience as a wide receiver will help him at quarterback.

“Now I know when something is going to be open before the play, pre-snap, and can kind of anticipate things — having been out there as a receiver, and seeing those looks,” said Locksley.

As for the Lions, they’re working from the same pre-game script so many other teams have used in the days leading up to a game at Commonwealth Stadium. They say that they need to focus on what they need to do, and not think about the Elks, their losing streak or the record book.

Campbell followed the gospel that has been preached by other CFL coaches before him. He said the Elks are better than their record suggests. That they’re a good football team. That the Lions’ mindset hath to be right.

“We just need to stay out of the business of worrying about their mindset, or who they’re playing, or what they’re doing or what they’re thinking,” he said.

“They’ve shown they can play with anyone in this league.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2022

Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press

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