Mark’s Labour Day Weekend is one of the most anticipated weekends of the CFL season.
It’s full of rivalries, big plays and heated battles with four matchups on the schedule that are sure to set off fireworks across the country.
This year things start in Ottawa where the REDBLACKS host the Montreal Alouettes. This battle of clubs that are just a few hours apart geographically not only has implications in the standings but with two teams wanting to break out of a slump, anything can happen.
The ever-exciting Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers rivalry heats up on Sunday. These two teams sit atop of the West Division with the undefeated Roughriders team playing host as the Bombers eye handing them their first loss of the campaign.
Monday’s doubleheader features the battle of the QEW between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts and the Battle of Alberta between the Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders. With animosity flowing through both matchups, CFL fans can be certain that they’re in for two incredible games to finish off the long weekend.
With some great team battles to watch this weekend, there are also plenty of players to keep a close eye on, too. With hard-hitting defenders, epic receivers and running backs and quarterbacks that wow us, here are 11 players to watch in all four Labour Day matchups.
WR, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
If you weren’t paying attention to Rasheed Bailey was before, the 28-year-old has surely captured your interest by now. Joining the Bombers late in their Grey Cup-winning season, Bailey suited up in five regular season games, along with the Western Semi-Final, the Western Final and the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.
He hauled in a total of 232 yards on 23 catches in his rookie season and this year has become one of Zach Collaros‘ favourite targets. He’s surpassed his regular season yardage total (he’s at 209 in just four games while he tallied 206 in five in 2019) and has scored two touchdowns, including the first of his career in Week 2 against Toronto. Coming off his first-ever 100-yard game Bailey is sure to make some noise against the Roughriders this week.
DB/RET, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Doubling as a defensive back and a returner, Frankie Williams really can do it all. The 2019 Most Outstanding Special Teams player is leading the league in punt return yards with 216 on 16 returns, is second in kickoff return yards with 269 yards and is starting in the Ticats secondary, tallying six tackles and an interception.
Coming off his best game of the campaign, where he had 184 return yards (100 punt return yards on five attempts and 84 yards on kickoff returns), a key interception, a tackle and a knockdown in his team’s first win, Williams will be one to watch on both defence and special teams on Monday afternoon.
QB, Toronto Argonauts
With just one start under his belt for the Toronto Argonauts two weeks ago, Nick Arbuckle looked comfortable leading the double blue’s offence. He was good on 23 of 32 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown in the Argos victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The 27-year-old pivot earned a Top Performer nod for his performance in Week 3 and coming off an extra bye due to a postponed game against the Edmonton Elks, he’ll look to do much of the same against Hamilton on Monday.
LB, Ottawa REDBLACKS
The bright spot for the Ottawa REDBLACKS this season has been their defence and Avery Williams is every bit a part of that success. The REDBLACKS’ middle linebacker has been all over the field this year, tallying a league-leading 28 defensive tackles (tied with BC’s Jordan Williams) to go along with a sack in three games.
He’s hit double digits in tackles in a single game already this year (he had 14 in Week 1 against the Edmonton Elks) so don’t be surprised to see the 26-year-old flocking to the ball when the REDBLACKS host the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night.
RB, Calgary Stampeders
Ka’Deem Carey had a stellar outing against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 4, averaging 8.3 yards per carry and scoring a touchdown in his team’s loss.
With two touchdowns against Montreal a few weeks ago in his back pocket, along with quick feet and the ability to catch passes out of the backfield (he’s hauled in 11 of 15 passes thrown his way for 63 yards), the five-foot-10, 210 pound running back is sure to remain a big part of the Stampeders offensive attack when they suit up in the Battle of Alberta on Monday.
DB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
DeAundre Alford has quietly snuck into the top 10 in defensive tackles through four weeks of play. Alford sits seventh in the league with 20 tackles as he’s had his ballhawking ability on full display in Winnipeg.
The five-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back’s best game was against Toronto where he totalled nine tackles and will likely be itching to surpass that in his first taste of the Bombers/Riders rivalry this weekend.
QB, Calgary Stampeders
He has just a few games under his belt as the starting QB for the Calgary Stampeders, but Jake Maier is settling in nicely in the role. His Week 4 contest against the Bombers was the best of his rookie campaign, setting a club record of 17 completed passes in a row to begin the game. The 24-year-old finished his second career start completing 30 of 35 passes for 307 yards.
Maier is looking like a vet behind centre and with that confidence, he’ll hope to help his team get their second win of the season against their Alberta rivals.
DL, Edmonton Elks
Thomas Costigan has impressed so far in the early parts of the season. He’s been able to put pressure on and get to the quarterback, recording his first CFL sack on Vernon Adams Jr. in Week 2 and followed that up with another one in Week 3 on Michael Reilly.
Along with his QB takedowns, the 24-year-old has also tallied seven defensive tackles. Look for him to make an impression this week, either in a rotation role or as a starter on the Elks defensive line.
DL, Saskatchewan Roughriders
It’s his first season in the CFL, but it doesn’t look like it for defensive lineman Jonathan Woodard. He’s leading the league in sacks right now with five, which is two more than Jackson Jeffcoat, A.C. Leonard and Garrett Marino, who are all tied for second. The 27-year-old rookie also has five defensive tackles and forced fumble in his first three games in Riderville.
He has the size at six-foot-five and 271 pounds to make things difficult for any offensive lineman he’s lined up against and is sure to disrupt Zach Collaros all afternoon long on Sunday.
SEAN THOMAS ERLINGTON
RB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
If nothing else, keep an eye on Sean Thomas Erlington for his hurdles over defenders. In last week’s game against the Alouettes, Thomas Erlington leapt over DB Greg Reid, showcasing the 29-year-old’s explosiveness and lower body strength. Along with hurdles, Thomas Erlington can run and catch the ball, making him the perfect dual-threat for the Tabbies’ offence.
Thomas Erlington is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has tallied 122 yards and a touchdown in three games while also hauling in 40 yards on nine receptions. He’s due for a big game and there’s no better time than in a rivalry game on Labour Day Weekend.
WR, Montreal Alouettes
Keep an eye on Jake Wieneke this weekend as the second-year receiver has been one of the go-to targets for Vernon Adams Jr. so far this year. Before he hauled in 50 yards last week against the Tiger-Cats, the 26-year-old caught 106 yards and a touchdown on eight passes in Week 3 and had a major score in the team’s season debut against the Edmonton Elks in Week 1.
Wieneke is averaging 14.1 yards per catch and has a season-long of 42 yards. He’ll hope to keep that going this week against the REDBLACKS.