OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks could be catching the Calgary Stampeders at an opportune time.
Ottawa (1-6-0) is coming off its first win of the season heading into Friday's game against the Stampeders at TD Place Stadium.
Calgary, meanwhile, is dealing with its first losing streak of the season after dropping its last two games.
The Stampeders (4-2-0) could also be without head coach Dave Dickenson as he did not travel with the team to Ottawa as he is in COVID protocol. There is a flight booked for Dickenson on Friday should he receive medical clearance, but at this point the plan is to have assistant head coach Mark Kilam in charge.
"I’ve been preparing like I am (in charge), just in case,” said Kilam, prior to leaving Calgary. “Dave’s not ruled out yet, there’s more tests (Friday), and then there’s a late plan if that doesn’t work (for Friday). We’re just preparing, myself and the rest of the coaching staff, to just handle our business."
The Redblacks finally got in the win column after topping the Toronto Argonauts 23-13 last Sunday. While that result took a weight off the Redblacks, Caleb Evans says the team’s attitude has never changed week-to-week.
“It’s just a positive mindset each week trying to go 1-0 and be better than the week before, especially after all these close games,” said Evans. “We had a breakthrough in (Toronto) and we just want to keep it rolling.”
Evans has been solid for the Redblacks in the absence of injured quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Last week he set a career-high of 82.8 per cent for completions and has a current streak of 90 passes without an interception.
“Anytime a quarterback gets more opportunities to play he sees things better, sees pictures better,” said Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice. “We always talk about taking one play at a time and he’s working at being consistently focused on that. I think it helps that he’s got some veterans around him that are helping him."
With 38 games to his credit Jaelon Acklin isn’t the most experienced player to line up with Evans, but the two have found success together.
Acklin leads the league in receiving yards (687) and is just 22 receiving yards shy of breaking his personal best of 708 yards set in his rookie season in 2019.
The 26-year-old receiver attributes the success he and Evans have had to hard work. Prior to Evans taking over as the starter, Acklin would often stay out after practice and have Evans throw to him.
“It was partially to be prepared just in case, but also so I could get more routes,” Acklin. “Caleb and I both kind of have a chip on our shoulder. We haven’t really done anything in the league, like Masoli has, so we’re kind of connected that way and we want to keep going and building.”
Calgary will be without star running back Ka’Deem Carey as he deals with a hamstring injury. Dedrick Mills will get his first CFL start in place of Carey. The Stampeders will also be without OL Sean McEwen, DB Tre Roberson and R Luther Hakunavanhu.
“My experience with Calgary is it doesn’t really matter for them, they do a great job of next man up,” said LaPolice. “It’s not really been an issue to us. It’s more about what type of defense we’re playing, what type of offensive system we’re playing more so than who their players are. I’m sure whoever they have to play will be ready.”
Ottawa will be without receiver RJ Harris and DBs Justin Howell and Douglas Coleman, while Randall Evans is questionable.
CALGARY (4-2-0 ) AT OTTAWA (1-6-0)
Friday, TD Place Stadium
LET’S CELEBRATE: The Redblacks will be celebrating Legacy Night in Ottawa on Friday as they celebrate the 2016 Grey Cup championship Redblacks team. Hall of Fame QB Henry Burris is unable to make the game, but retired OL Sir Vincent Rogers will be on hand, as well as a number of other players.
LET’S GET STARTED: The Redblacks have led after the first quarter in each of their last three games and no Ottawa opponent has scored a TD in the first quarter since June 30. Calgary has struggled in the first half and been outscored 99-64, but rebound in the second half forcing Ottawa to get off to a strong start.
WELL EQUIPPED: Friday’s game marks the 1,000th game for Calgary equipment manager George “Geo” Hopkins.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 4, 2022.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press