It'll be trial by fire

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

The most intriguing Labour Day tilt in years is going to be packed with rookies.

When the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders meet on Monday afternoon in Calgary (2 p.m., TSN, CHED), 42 players between the two teams will be experiencing their first Labour Day game in this battle of Alberta.

With the Eskimos, half of the team's current 46-man roster- that is 23 players - will be Labour Day rookies.

As for the Stamps, 19 players - based on their depth chart for last week's game -will be rookies for the holiday classic between the provincial rivals.

Considering both clubs enter the game with 5-3 records and tied for second place in the West Division - just two points behind division leading Saskatchewan - somebody's rookie crop is going to rise to the occasion at a critical time.

"It's an important game for both teams," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia.

"There is an uniqueness to this game. It is almost as if you feel like you are in a Grey Cup game just because you take a look at the atmosphere outside the stadium (and) inside the stadium.

"It seems like everybody has a bench pass (to be on the sidelines) for that game.

"You need to live it to understand it.

"When you are actually in the middle of it you start realizing the magnitude of the game itself."

For the Green and Gold, three of their four expected starters on the defensive line - Montez Murphy, Jim Davis and Brandon Guillory - have never tasted the atmosphere of McMahon Stadium on the first Monday in September.

Key receivers Kelly Campbell and Fred Stamps are also new to this game.

So are running back A.J. Harris, returner Tristan Jackson and defensive back Bradley Robinson.

But to no surprise, Eskimo veterans don't believe there is cause for concern with half of the roster being newbies to Labour Day.

"I can't see why it would be a concern. I can't for the life of me think why this is different than any other game," reasoned Eskimo receiver Kamau Peterson.

"The intensity changes, but if you are playing at this level you have played in big games (before).

"You treat them the same. Your mindset and approach is the same, otherwise you start thinking about things you shouldn't.

"If you treat all the games differently based on their level of importance, your play is going to be up and down."

Added Edmonton kicker Noel Prefontaine: "It is the same size field. We played in front of 48,000 last week. The bottom line is football is football.

"I think of those 23 (rookies), most of them have come from pretty big universities and have played in some pretty big games.

"I don't think they will be shocked by the environment in Calgary."

A sold-out crowd is expected at McMahon Stadium for a game that could put one team in a tie for first place in the West.

Three of Calgary's five starters on the offensive line - Ben Archibald, Jesse Newman and Dimtri Tsoumpas - will receive their baptism.

And the defensive line is in the same position, with three more rookies to the classic game.


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