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Roughriders rally to clip Elks in regular-season opener


EDMONTON — Corey Mace didn’t have to wait long to pick up his first win as a CFL head coach.

Shawn Bane Jr. reeled in three touchdown passes as the Saskatchewan Roughriders came from behind to spoil Edmonton’s Canadian Football League home opener, defeating the Elks 29-21 on Saturday.

“I am trying my best to take it all in,” said Mace, following his first regular-season game as a head coach in the CFL, coming off serving as an assistant with the Toronto Argos.

“I am extremely proud of the guys. To see when they are put in situations like this that they will find a way to stick together to get things done. I am very pleased with how they went out there and finished the deal.”

Roughriders quarterback Trevor Harris looked solid in his return from missing the bulk of last season with injury, going 22 for 31 for 305 yards.

“We made it a lot harder on ourselves than we needed to, but it was a mark of good teams, finding a way to win when it is not perfect. Our defence came up with a big turnover when we needed it and our offence was able to have a much better fourth than any of the other ones. We came through when it mattered most. I am just glad we were able to get it done.”

Hergy Mayala had two touchdowns for the Elks who found themselves in the far too familiar position of accepting a loss at home.

“When you are up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter at home and basically penalize yourself and turn the ball over and allow someone to beat you here at home, it’s tough,” said Elks head coach Chris Jones. “We’ve got to do a better job of running the football and being effective running the football. We weren’t able to establish the run today.”

The Elks started the scoring on their first possession with a 17-yard field goal from Boris Bede.

Saskatchewan responded right back with a long drive capped off by Harris finding a wide-open Bane Jr. for a 27-yard passing major.

After starting the second quarter with a punt single, the Elks bookended the scoring with a touchdown coming with just over a minute to play. Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who spent a season in the United States Football League after guiding the Toronto Argos to the 2022 Grey Cup championship, hit Mayala for a 22-yard passing strike in the end zone to put Edmonton up 11-7.

Saskatchewan was threatening late in the opening half, but Harris was picked off at the Edmonton 17-yard line by Darrius Bratton.

The Riders got a point back on a punt single of their own with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.

Edmonton added to its lead late in the second after a long 52-yard passing play down the middle from Bethel-Thompson to Dillon Mitchell set up a six-yard passing TD to Mayala.

An interception by Edmonton’s Kai Gray would eventually set up a 30-yard field goal by Bede early in the fourth quarter.

Saskatchewan quickly responded, however, as Harris made a pretty passing play to Bane Jr. for a 40-yard touchdown with 11:28 to play in the final frame.

The Roughriders caught a big break less than a minute later as Elks running back Kevin Brown fumbled the ball at his own 16, recovered by Jameer Thurman. That gaffe would eventually lead to a one-yard TD plunge by A.J. Ouellette and a 22-21 Saskatchewan lead.

Bede attempted a 48-yard field goal to put his team back in front with less than five minutes to play, but was wide and short on the kick.

Edmonton was pressing and had moved the ball to midfield before Bethel-Thompson fumbled, with Bryan Cox Jr. picking it up for the Riders with 1:39 left on the clock.

That would lead to yet another passing major for Bane Jr., this one from 33 yards.

“I’m feeling blessed man,” said Bane Jr., who ended up with five catches for 125 yards. “The guys were blocking up front, Trevor was able to see it and I just finished the plays. A game like this builds character. It feels good to be on the good side of the game. It’s only one of many.”


The game was moved up three hours to avoid conflict with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, with the Edmonton Oilers taking on the Florida Panthers. … Saskatchewan missed the playoffs last season with a 6-12 record, while the Elks finished in a tie for last in the league with Ottawa at 4-14. … The Elks are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Edmonton football franchise and had a big gala on Friday night that featured a bevy of former players, including a legendary list of former quarterbacks such as Warren Moon, Tom Wilkinson, Damon Allen, Tracy Ham, Matt Dunigan, Ricky Ray and Mike Reilly. … Longtime former equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak was added to the EE’s Builders Wall during the contest.


The Elks host the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, while the Roughriders remain on the road with a game in Hamilton next Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2024.