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Hamilton Tiger Cats Mike Philbrick (99) takes down Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jeff Garcia (7) by the foot during first half CFL play in Calgary, Oct. 13, 1997The Canadian Press

Jeff Garcia’s breakout as a pro quarterback was in a Labour Day game in 1995.

So when Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson let the former CFL and NFL star give an on-field address to the team ahead of Monday’s annual tilt against the Edmonton Eskimos, an animated Garcia topped up players’ adrenaline levels.

While his actual words didn’t carry beyond the edge of the McMahon Stadium turf Sunday, the 48-year-old Garcia strode back and forth in front of the team and barked out what seemed like football’s equivalent of a fire-and-brimstone sermon.

“He definitely was hyped up,” Calgary receiver Kamar Jorden said. “I don’t know what type of coffee he had, but it definitely got us going.

“He’s so fired up about his time playing here and how important this game is to Alberta, all he really told us is take it to those guys.”

Garcia’s 546 passing yards and six touchdowns in a 51-26 win over the Eskimos are still Labour Day records for the Stampeders. Doug Flutie’s injury opened the door for Garcia and he ran through it that day.

“We kept scoring and it was just a day I’ll always remember,” Garcia said. “Statistically, it was obviously a great day, but just to be able to step onto the scene and introduce myself to the Calgary fan base in that sort of way, there couldn’t have been a better introduction.”

Monday’s Labour Day Classic and the traditional rematch in Edmonton next week are the only two games on the 2018 regular-season schedule between the provincial rivals.

Calgary (8-1) looks to pad its cushion atop the West Division, while No. 2 Edmonton (6-4) would gain significant second-half momentum from a series win.

“They’re a team we’re trying to distance ourselves from,” Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said.

Garcia led Calgary to a Grey Cup title in 1998. The four-time CFL all-star went on to be the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers from 2000 to 2003.

He’ll watch two quarterbacks building their own decorated CFL careers Monday when Mitchell and Edmonton’s Mike Reilly are finally on the same football field.

Mitchell spent a month at Garcia’s quarterback academy back in 2014.

Interestingly, Garcia sees a lot of himself in Mitchell, while Mitchell says Reilly’s rushing skills make him more like Garcia.

Reilly leads the league in passing yards (3,296), touchdown passes (22) and rushing touchdowns (8) this season.

Mitchell is 386 yards from 3,000 on the season and ranks second in touchdown throws with 20. He and Jorden are in sync as the latter had 20 catches for 500 yards, three touchdowns and a two-point convert in August.

Reilly’s favourite targets are D’haquille Williams, the CFL’s leader in receiving yards at 947, and Derel Walker, who has eight touchdowns and 332 yards after the catch.

But for the first time this season, Reilly will be staring down a Stampeder defence that has allowed just nine offensive touchdowns this season.

“They’re the number one defence in the league,” Edmonton’s quarterback said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to go out there and put up as many points as we can, just as we do every single week.

“It is a chance to see how you measure up against one another. This happens to be the first time we get to play them this year, and we only get to play the twice.

“You can watch teams play, look at their stats and all that kind of stuff, but until you get on the field and play against them, you don’t really know where that competition lies between the two teams.”

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