Pair of Young Guns set to meet in a Western Showdown

A lot has changed at the quarterback position for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Elks since their last meeting on July 6.

Saskatchewan quarterback Jake Dolegala was on the practice roster, as he began the season as the odd man out among the team’s four quarterbacks.

Edmonton quarterback Tre Ford was the third-stringer for the Elks, as he sat behind Taylor Cornelius and Jarrett Doege.

Injuries paved the way for Dolegala to take over in Saskatchewan. With Trevor Harris and Mason Fine sidelined, the 6’7 QB has stepped into the starting role and led the green and white to a pair of victories over the top two teams in the Western Division, the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

QB Jake Dolegala. Photo: Saskatchewan Roughriders

With the Elks looking for a spark after a 0-9 start, Ford became the team’s starting QB and has rewarded the team with three wins out of their last four games. The 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy has already etched his name in the league’s record books by establishing a new mark for rushing yards by a Canadian QB (135), leaping over a record Ottawa QB Russ Jackson set in 1964 (134).

Tonight’s game (7:30 kickoff on 620 CKRM) will mark the first time the two quarterbacks will square off against each other.

Elks head coach Chris Jones has been impressed with Dolegala in his limited action.

“Tremendous arm strength, great confidence in what he does, he knows that he can make any throw physically and he moves better than what you think for a big guy.”

Elks QB Tre Ford. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Jeff McIntosh

For Ford, the immediate thing that stands out about the Roughriders QB is his size.

“Definitely notice he’s a huge human being,” Ford chuckled, “He’s got a live arm and he can launch it.”

Other than his size, maybe the most impressive stat about Dolegala’s current run as the starting quarterback is that he hasn’t thrown an interception over his last 107 passing attempts.

While Dolegala has been taking care of business through the air, Ford has emerged as the top dual threat in the CFL. Along with recording passing touchdowns in the five games he has started, the Elks’ running game has moved to another level. Edmonton is the only team in the league that has a pair of 200 rushing-yard games.

In their first two games against the Elks, the Roughriders faced Taylor Cornelius, a mobile quarterback. But linebacker Micah Teitz says it will be a new challenge with Ford leading the Elks tonight.

“He (Ford) does look exceptionally fast, so it’s got to be about taking good angles and playing really sound fundamental defence and making him be a true quarterback.”

Saskatchewan has only allowed two quarterbacks to surpass 50 rushing yards this season. Corneilus had 59 yards on July 6, and Montreal QB Caleb Evans had 61 yards in the 41-12 blowout on August 11.

Teitz believes the best approach is a simple defensive approach.

“We see teams play spies and what not, we just like to play what we do,” said the Canadian linebacker, “we feel we have the best d-line in the league and they do good job of keeping him in the pocket and if he does bust out, it’s our job to either our guy or be the next guy to tackle him.”

Time will only tell if tonight’s game will be the first of many quarterback battles between Dolegala and Ford. However, the Roughriders QB is happy to see the young QBs thriving in the CFL.

“It’s great to see the success of these young guys around the league. I think it’s good for the league.”

With tonight’s game under the primetime lights at Mosaic Stadium, a pair of the CFL’s young quarterbacks are about to take centre stage.

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