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August 31, 2019

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE LABOUR DAY

But of course Shane Bergman recalls his introduction to the unique, once-a-calendar-year Labour Day Classic atmosphere, Alberta style.

“I actually didn’t play in that game,’’ the seven-year left O-line tackle is reminiscing, thoughts drifting back to Sept. 2, 2013.

“So of course I remember it.”

But on a much happier note …

“It was also the day I got engaged to my wife.”

Well, then, on balance still a big win for Bergman.

And, as things played out, a memorable win for the galloping horse, too, 31-30.

“The first Labour Day I actually did get to play was pretty awesome,’’ Bergman continues to reflect, his sixth provincial holiday skirmish versus the Edmonton Eskimos a shade over 48 hours away, “because I believe that was the afternoon we trotted out those Outlaw jerseys.

“Those were sick.

“So cool.

“The whole Labour Day thing, to me, is awesome. You get the jets flying over, you get the crowd all pumped up.

“And you get the military appreciation. You can’t make that too big. Those guys deserve it. It’s more about them.

“So on a lot of fronts, it’s a memorable day for me. Always has been.”

And will be, in the years ahead, for the newbies such as Raheem Wilson.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been told all about it,’’ assures freshman DB. “We’ve already played Edmonton but Labour Day, I’m learning, is special.

“I’ve watched some of the interviews with other guys, especially the ones with the local guys who were brought up in the tradition, sitting in the stands since they were kids, and you can understand listening to them how important it is to the community, to Alberta in general; what it means.”

At 5-4 heading into Monday’s, and trailing the Esks by two points in the standings, the ramifications of Monday’s skirmish couldn’t be much clearer.

“Things might seem a little more heightened because we’re behind them at the moment,’’ says slotback Eric Rogers. “But after getting that first one, we can jump them in the standings” – the Stamps would be second with as many points but having played one fewer game – “and win the season series.

“We’ve got to play better than last time, when we beat them, though. Finish better, for sure. They had a chance there after driving the ball down at the end of the game. So it was close.

“So we’ve got to do a better job keeping our foot on the pedal. And our third quarters need to improve. They haven’t been great all year.

“We’ve been in every game, which means we can play with anybody, but we’ve left points out there. We have the kind of team that has to go out there and earn it, not just show up, y’know?

“In the past we’d make some mistakes in games and overcome them. Now we make mistakes and they end up costing us.”

The rematch, of course, goes Saturday up north at Commonwealth Stadium, followed by a visit from the East Division-pacesetting Hamilton Tiger Cats.

“This game is obviously important from a number of angles,’’ emphasizes SAM linebacker Jamar Wall. “Because it’s Edmonton. Because it’s Labour Day. Because we’re 5-4. But also because it’s the next game. It’s always – but always – about your last game. This is a what-have-you-done-lately business.

“We beat them the first time, so this could clinch the season series for us. But from my viewpoint, we lost our last game, we’ve had a long time to sit with that, and getting the bitter taste out of our mouths as quickly as possible is the most important thing.

“We need to get back on track. Right now.

“This is the start moving time. You either move forward or you move back.

“We win this game, get back on track, get rolling and then 5-4 can turn into 10-4, 14-4. Anything we want it to be, if we want it bad enough.

“How we started will be forgotten if we finish the way we know we can.”

What better time. What better place. What better day. What better foe.

“Our next three or four are huge, against some of the best in the CFL,’’ says Bergman.

“You can’t put a price tag on this game.

“We’re used to being the top runner but it’s kinda fun being the underdog, too, coming out and biting some people in the leg.

“And even if we are playing a little bit of catch-up right now, it’s all there, still in front of us.

“Everyone needs to realize we’re halfway through and the meat of the season starts now. So you want to start building momentum as soon as possible.

“It’s time.”