Randy Chevrier has been on both sides of Labour Day hostilities between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.
He was an Eskimo for an on-field fracas in 2003. It started with Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray getting pushed out of bounds and ended with teammate Ed Hervey — now the Esks general manager — swinging his helmet at Davis Sanchez and hitting an official instead.
“I was right there on the sideline when I don’t know who it was that pushed Ricky through the Gatorade table,” Chevrier recalled Sunday at McMahon Stadium.
“The next thing you know it was a brawl on the sideline, then it spilled out to the middle of the field and then Ed trying to swing his helmet at Davis and it hit the ref. It was a total crazy, boiled-over type of tension. It was pretty awesome.”
A few Labour Day games later, Chevrier was a Stampeder witnessing a pregame confrontation between teammate Jeff Pilon and Edmonton’s Patrick Kabongo.
“Patrick Kabongo was mouthing at us while we were doing our typical breakdown before the game,” Chevrier explained. “He’s beaking off and the next thing you know, Pilon goes into his face. You’ve got these two humongous titans pounding on each other before the game.”
The Stampeders won the 2012 edition of the Labour Day Classic 31-30. Edmonton kicker Grant Shaw’s field-goal attempt from 48 yards sailed wide and Larry Taylor ran it out of the end zone as time expired.
Edmonton’s record since that game is 3-15. Calgary’s is 14-4.
While the fortunes of Calgary (6-2) and Edmonton (1-7) have widely diverged, the Stampeders long-snapper doesn’t believe the CFL’s Battle of Alberta is diminished a year later.
“They’ve always been that intense emotional experience that you want in a football game,” says Chevrier, who will appear in his 10th career Labour Day game Monday.
Alberta’s CFL franchises will meet for the first time this season at its halfway mark and clash again four days later in Edmonton in the Labour Day rematch.
A sunny day with a high of 27 C is forecasted for McMahon Stadium. A Stampeder spokesman said Sunday the game was not yet sold out, but Chevrier hopes it will be.
“One of the big things is it’s one of the few games in the summer where, the day of the week that it’s on, everyone’s in Calgary and they show up,” he said. “It’s full of our fans. It’s not like a ‘Rider game where you have a ton of green shirts. It’s typically full of red. I love that atmosphere.”
The Stampeders are in a tight race with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions at the top of the West Division despite a revolving door on offence due to injuries.
With veteran slotback Nik Lewis and star running back Jon Cornish out of the lineup last week, Calgary prevailed 35-14 over the Argos in Toronto last week.
The last four of Edmonton’s six straight losses have been by five points or less. In the history of the CFL, only the 1979 Winnipeg Blue Bombers have lost as many consecutive games by that margin.
Edmonton is coming off a 30-27 loss to ‘Riders. The Eskimos have outscored the opposition 78-49 in the fourth quarter this season, but that hasn’t translated into many wins.
“It’s kind of heartened our resolve even more going through those tough losses together,” Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly said. “It’s made us more hungry each and every week to get that win. I don’t think anybody is hanging their heads. We know what we’re capable of.
“We just haven’t been able to get over that hump. Once we do, I think everybody is very confident we’re going to turn the season around and we’re going to finish out strong. It’s Labour Day. The season is far from over. I can promise you that.”
Reilly was hit too much by Saskatchewan last week to suit Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed, who wants Reilly taking calculated, not reckless, risks in pursuit of victory.
“Franchise quarterbacks are very hard to come by,” the Edmonton coach said. “It’s also our responsibility as a coaching staff to make certain we impress upon him the importance of longevity, being smart.
“There are certain situations we’ve had late in the game where trying to fight for that extra yard is necessary. There are a lot of situations where we’d like to see Mike get out of bounds or see Mike slide.
“I understand why he’s doing it. He’s trying to will this team to success.”
Cornish, the CFL’s No. 2 rusher behind Saskatchewan Kory Sheets, is back in Calgary’s lineup after sitting out one game with a thigh bruise. Cornish ran for 255 yards and three touchdowns in three wins against Edmonton last season.
“When you look at their offence, most things function through Jon,” Reed said. “Not only is he a tremendous runner, but he does all the other things that you expect of a versatile running back. For us to have good results against this offence, we have to stop him.”
Maurice Price rotates back in at wide receiver for the Stampeders after a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 3. Glenn remains the starter in the absence of injured Drew Tate, but expect to see Bo Levi Mitchell inserted to finish short-yardage situations.
Notes: Calgary is 3-2 against Edmonton in their last five Labour Day meetings . . . Jonathan Williams, who led the Stampeders in rushing against Toronto with 82 yards in Cornish’s absence, is out with an ankle injury . . . Defensive tackle Micah Johnson (torn oblique) is off Calgary’s nine-game injured list and will play for the first time since Week 3 . . . Edmonton defensive lineman Odell Willis (shoulder) is out of Monday’s game.