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September 4, 2017

Labour Day beatdown!

Eskimos' Forrest Hightower chases Stampeders' Marquay McDaniel during the 2017 Labour Day Classic (Photo by Canadian Press//Jeff McIntosh

The Stampeders were off to the races in the early going during a Classic matchup at McMahon Stadium on a sunny, fan-filled Labour Day Monday.

And they never looked back.

Donning their black Outlaw uniforms as per Labour Day tradition, the Stamps posted nearly 98 rushing yards, totalled four pass knockdowns and forced three turnovers on the afternoon.

Add that all up, and the Stamps retained their first-place position with a resounding 39-18 victory over their neighbours to the north and are undefeated since 2011 in the early-September holiday clash.

“I thought Bo (Levi Mitchell) played really well,” said head coach Dave Dickenson afterwards. “The stats don’t always show that, but he played really well. When your quarterback is your best player, ultimately that’s a good thing. And then defensively, we were all over the ball, tackling and harassing (Eskimos QB) Mike (Reilly). So it was a good win for the whole team.”

The Stamps’ one-two punch in the backfield teamed up for the game’s first touchdown when Jerome Messam ran his way into the endzone and Roy Finch shook free from his defender with ease for the two-point reception.

Messam, a former Eskimo, crossed the goal-line again in the third.

Following that up with a TD in the second stanza was Anthony Parker. Playing in his 100th career regular-season game, the Foothills Composite High School grad took a Mitchell handoff and weaved his way through a series of would-be Eskimo tacklers in order to cross the goal-line.

Bo Levi Mitchell. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A third major score was added with under seven minutes left in the half when Finch found pay dirt off a punt return for the second time in as many Labour Day battles. The 90-yard runback was his league-leading third of the season.

“Roy is small but he’s playing with a big heart and he’s fearless,” Dickenson stated. “Let’s put some credit into guys in front of him, too. They don’t get a lot of credit on special teams but Roy does. But they have a lot of pride as a unit to get the most out of every single return.”

Edmonton’s scoring plays came off Chris Milo field goals of 22 and 46 yards and inconsequential six-pointers by Kenny Stafford and Brandon Zylstra.

Both the offence and defence got off to hot starts for Calgary, as DaVaris Daniels’ 45-yard catch set up a Rene Paredes field goal and James Vaughters’ sack preceded a Shaquille Richardson fumble recovery.

Getting to the quarterback later on in the action would be Derek Wiggan and Alex Singleton.

Richardson was in on two more turnovers in the second half when he jumped in front of a pair Reilly throws and returned both balls deep into Edmonton territory. His second pick led to Paredes’ 32-yard boot to extend the lead to 30. A 40-yard kick for the seven-year vet was added in the fourth.

Two players recorded their first offensive stats with the Stampeders – rookie Julan Lynch was twice a pass recipient and Calgary native Anthony Woodson contributed both on the ground and through the air in his 2017 debut.

Only 20 points have been conceded by the Stamps in their last three appearances at home. That figure includes just 12 points given up defensively in encounters with the Riders, Argos and Esks.

“It kind of felt like they found their groove,” offered Dickenson on his team’s defensive display. “Our defensive line again caused pressure and our linebackers were stopping the run. They’re playing well as a group of 12. (Edmonton) will have something different for us and they’ll have new wrinkles so we’ve got to be ready next week.”

Trending in opposite directions with Calgary having won six in a row and the Esks dropping three consecutive outings, the Alberta rivals will square off once again on Saturday in the Commonwealth Stadium rematch.