The Turnover: Preseason Game 1

   A strong offensive line, a #12 throwing a long touchdown, and a running game that charged the ball down the field shoulder-first... When was the last time fans of the Green and Gold saw all of that in one game? The answer would be many years ago. In some ways, Preseason Game 1 for the Edmonton Elks seemed like a throwback, right down to the Jumbotron stream making it's first appearance in 4 years. Mind you, the special teams weren't the greatest against the Calgary Stampeders and the Elks lost in Calgary, also throwback moments as per the EE's record in Calgary over the last 5 years. Fear not though Green and Gold fans, because this preseason game meant nothing for the standings yet everything for the many rookies that played on Monday.
After every Edmonton Elks Game, we will be reviewing the game as fans in our series called "The Turnover". Let's dig into Preseason Game 1 folks!


   We had been waiting all year for this game, quite literally. We had no expectations of a win and no other expectations from the team other than a competitive performance, as one would hope in Training Camp. We gathered our favorite Game Day beverages and eats like any Elks away game and settled in to watch the preseason feed on, which was great to see after a long hiatus. Previously the home team would stream the preseason feed using Jumbotron video and the local radio station audio, but this year the CFL has taken on the duties for all teams making all preseason games available to watch. Bravo CFL!


   Kai Locksley started at quarterback for the Elks and Jake Maier for the Stampeders. For the first 5 drives the two teams went back and forth, pushing to midfield and turning the ball over. Locksley was able to get former Pittsburgh Steelers wide reciever Sammie Coates the ball with ease and the offensive line was giving time for plays and making holes for running back Shannon Brooks, however the Elks had a hard time getting into Calgary's side of the field. The quarter ended with a 0-0 deadlock.


   The second quarter was where things started to get interesting for the Elks. The EE were finally able to get into scoring range and got on the board with a field goal from kicker Dean Faithfull. Not long after, the Elks intercepted a throw and regained possession, however the Elks would see their first offensive line breakdown and punted the ball back for a Calgary drive that resulted in a field goal to even the score 3-3. Enter EE quarterback #12... Jarret Doege. The O-line created time and room for Doege to play some run and gun football. Near midfield, Doege aired the ball out to wide reciever Maurice Ffrench for a 45 yard touchdown. The celebration didn't last long though, with Ffrench fumbling the ball in the Elks end resulting in Stampeders 2023 draft pick wide reciever Clark Barnes hauling in a touchdown of his own to tie the game at 10-10. Faithfull would proceed to kick a missed field goal before the end of the quarter for a rouge, giving the Elks a one point lead going into halftime, 11-10 the score.

   After an hour-long lightning delay, the Elks and Stampeders returned to the field and unfortunately, the third quarter was a throwback to last year's third quarters with a leaky defence giving up yardage. The Elks started strong with a drive resulting in a field goal but allowed the Stampeders to charge back with one of their own. Between the stalled drives with quarterback Khalil Tate at pivot, and missed tackles and stops from the EE defence, there wasn't much for Elks fans to cheer about in the third. The EE finished the quarter with the lead at 14-13, with QB Khalil Tate putting on a decent performance that didn't negatively impact the team.

   The fourth quarter opened up with a Stampeders touchdown. From there, the penalties started to rack up against the Elks with the 2-point conversation made easy by an Elks penalty. The Elks would score another field goal but the Stampeders answered with another touchdown not long after. The Elks couldn't get the momentum back and with a Calgary Rouge the Elks were doomed at 29-17. That didn't stop the Elks from finding the end zone one last time with Locksley throwing a touchdown that was hauled in by 2nd year EE wide reciever Gavin Cobb, who was injured for most of last year. 29-24 would be the final result of the game.


   QB Jarret Doege was the biggest surprise for us. Doege played like a veteran Quarterback that knew the playbook well and had good eye for the coverage he was throwing against. He's on track for a Practice Roster spot for 2023 due to the backlog at QB, but who knows what happens between now and 2024.
WR Sammie Coates hauled in multiple balls during the game, mostly in the first half with some of his catches well above his head. Coates will be a fine addition to the recieving core in Edmonton.
WR Maurice Ffrench was also catching most of what was thrown his way, with only one critical drop in the fourth quarter and two drops on the day, as well as a fumble that resulted in a Calgary touchdown. Expect to see more of Ffrench in Preseason Game 2 as he fights for a spot on the already stacked WR roster.
RB Shannon Brooks had himself a game with 11 carries for 72 yards boasting an average of 6.5 yards per carry in his first game in the CFL, and an additional 20 yards on 3 catches. If coupled with RB Kevin Brown, Brooks may be the second punch to Brown's first for the Elks running game this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, the whole team faired well against the Stampeders considering how many veterans the Stamps played in the game. While we didn't have many standouts, notable players with speed were University of Alberta product safety Jake Taylor and 2nd year Elks linebacker Mark McLaurin. The defense was able to stop the ball at times and gave the Stamps some fits but ultimately struggled to stop them in the fourth quarter.


   As fans, we think the Elks played a really good game for a roster consisting of just one group of starters, which was the offensive line. The Edmonton starters that did play looked much improved from last year and for most of the game the Elks looked like the better team on the field. All of this was unexpected for a team that played against another team that consisted of a much larger percentage of veteran starters. Elks President Victor Cui described the team fielded as "mostly rookies," and while some of the inexperience did show, it wasn't as noticeable as you would expect for preseason football. The Elks held their ground and played a competitive game, we couldn't ask for much more.


   The final preseason game for the Edmonton Elks will kick off at 2:00PM on Saturday, May 27th 2023 at Commonwealth Stadium against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This game will feature some final tryouts, first looks and last looks for the Elks as they prepare to finalize the roster for Regular Season. Expect a healthy mix of veterans and rookies for the next game, as well as your first look at Commonwealth Stadium on Game Day for 2023. See you there!

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