J.C. Sherritt is about to experience the other side of the CFL’s Battle of Alberta.
Sherritt’s name is synonymous with the Edmonton Eskimos, having played linebacker for the team his entire eight-year CFL career.
He was an all-star and the league’s outstanding defensive player in 2012, followed by a Grey Cup win in 2015.
Less than two weeks after announcing his retirement Jan. 16, Sherritt was scooped up by the provincial rival Calgary Stampeders to be their linebackers coach.
“The football gods always have a sense of humour,” Sherritt said Friday.
He’ll coach against his former team Saturday when the Stampeders host the Esks in the first of three meetings in 2019.
“It’s a western opponent, a rivalry game, all that good stuff,” Sherritt said. “These are games you get a little amped up for just naturally.”
Both teams are 4-2 and the winner pulls even with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers atop the West Division at 5-2.
Saturday’s game is also a preview of the traditional Labour Day series between Alberta’s CFL clubs starting Sept. 2.
“We play these guys three times and two of them at home,” Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said. “If you can protect your turf to win the series, obviously that would be big for us.”
The Esks are coming off a 26-0 thumping of the Toronto Argonauts, while Calgary squeezed out a 17-16 road win over the Ottawa Redblacks thanks to a walk-off, 31-yard field goal by Rene Paredes.
One of the few CFL teams with a healthy No. 1 quarterback, Edmonton arrived at Week 8 with the most passing yards (1,931).
Trevor Harris has thrown eight touchdown passes and given up just two interceptions.
One his favourite targets is sidelined, however. Greg Ellingson (54 catches for 457 yards) is on the one-game injured list.
“He had an unfortunate injury early in the week, a little tweak,” Edmonton head coach Jason Maas said. “He wasn’t going to be available full-strength for us this week.”
Nick Arbuckle gets a fifth straight start for Calgary in the absence of injured Bo Levi Mitchell.
The latter is recovering from an injured pectoral muscle and started throwing again Friday. Mitchell is targeting Aug. 17 versus the Montreal Alouettes for his return.
Arbuckle is 3-1 in starts since marshalling Calgary to victory over the B.C. Lions in relief of Mitchell on June 29.
The Eskimos declared their 2019 coaching staff prior to Sherritt’s retirement and hiring by the Stampeders.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for him. I think he’s going to learn a lot here,” Maas said.
“We didn’t quite have the same opportunity in Edmonton for him due to the limited number of guys you can have on your staff now.
“He was a great player, one of our leaders in our locker room, one of the best Eskimos to ever play. To be honest, I thought he could have kept playing, but it was a good decision for him to know when it’s time for him.”
Under Sherritt, Stampeders middle linebacker Cory Greenwood of Kingston, Ont., leads the CFL in tackles with 43.
“I was just so lucky to get a room of high-character individuals,” Sherritt said. “That’s not always the case in pro sports. It’s just not.
“No disrespect to anybody, but the situation I ended up in, you could almost say the timing was perfect.
“To be able to get a linebacking job with the Calgary Stampeders, I know how lucky I am because it’s not that easy to get a job, especially at a professional level.”
Sherritt took some heat on social media from Eskimos fans annoyed that a mainstay player was joining the enemy.
The 31-year-old Californian maintains it didn’t bother him because he barely maintains his Twitter account.
“I’m one of the worst social-media people out there,” Sherritt said. “Fans are one of the greatest parts of this game. I’m not going to fault a fan for getting upset about that stuff.”
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (4-2) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (4-2)
Saturday, McMahon Stadium
ROMAR’S RETURN — Stampeders running back Romar Morris makes his first start since rupturing his Achilles tendon in last year’s West Division final. He scored four touchdowns — two on the ground and two in the air — the last time Calgary faced Edmonton on Sept. 7.
PICKY BACKFIELD — Calgary’s Tre Roberson and Robertson Daniel have a league-leading combined eight interceptions between them, but Edmonton is stingy in the picks department giving up just two so far this season.
CALGARY CURSE — Esks QB Trevor Harris 0-6-2 all time against Calgary, which is the only CFL team against whom he doesn’t have a win.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press