Ottawa Redblacks lock down Edmonton Elks to win opener

EDMONTON — The quarterback battle between Trevor Harris and Matt Nichols that many fans had anticipated gave way to a defensive showdown instead on Saturday night, with Ottawa scoring a 16-12 season-opening win.

Abdul Kanneh‘s 102-yard pick-six took what would have been an Edmonton touchdown literally out of the team’s hands and back the other way, helping Ottawa shock a heavily favored Edmonton team. Kanneh had two interceptions and had the game-saving tackle at Ottawa’s one-yard line, giving head coach Paul LaPolice his first win at the helm of the REDBLACKS.

Edmonton’s highly-anticipated offense worked its way down the field for its first drive of the night and had receiver Mike Jones been able to stay inbounds in the end zone, the team would have had a major to open the night. Instead, they got a 12-yard chip shot of a field goal from Sean Whyte to open the scoring at 3-0, 5:19 into play.

» Through the Lens: REDBLACKS at Elks
» Boxscore: REDBLACKS, Elks by the numbers


Not to be outdone by the veteran Whyte, Ottawa kicker Lewis Ward evened the game up from deep, with a 52-yard field goal at 12:22.

The REDBLACKS had a spectacular play called back in the early stages of the second quarter. Devonte Dedmon took a Hugh O’Neill punt and tossed it across the field to Ryan Davis, who bolted to Edmonton’s end zone. The play didn’t hold up under review, though, and was ruled an offside pass.

While both offenses tried to find their rhythms, the kickers stayed in control of the game. Whyte lined up a 52-yard field goal and put just enough on it to get it through the uprights, putting the Elks up 6-3 at 11:32 of the second quarter.

Ward sent a 21-yard field goal home with 36 seconds on the clock to tie the game, but the Elks were able to get Whyte out on the field for another long-range shot with two seconds on the clock. He made a 48-yarder look easy and gave his team a 9-6 lead at the half.

Whyte continued to provide the Elks’ offense in the third quarter, with a 43-yarder at the 4:40 mark. While the defenses continued to keep their opponents in check, Ward helped Ottawa narrow the lead. His 51-yard field goal made it a three-point game, at 12-9, 1:14 into the game’s final frame.

Just when Edmonton’s offense seemed to on the verge of a breakthrough, the theme of the night struck back in a resounding way. Harris was intercepted by Ottawa defensive back Abdul Kanneh at Ottawa’s eight-yard line and ran it back 102 yards for the game’s first touchdown and a huge momentum swing for the REDBLACKS. Ward’s convert made it a 16-12 Ottawa lead at 5:03.

Ottawa’s defense struck again with 3:15 left to play. Harris got the Elks back to Ottawa’s 20-yard line when Randall Evans intercepted him, keeping the REDBLACKS in control late in the game.

Harris engineered one final drive and got Edmonton to Ottawa’s 17-yard line with seven seconds left. He found fullback James Tuck but he was brought down by Kanneh at Ottawa’s one-yard line.

Next up for the Elks are the Montreal Alouettes, who travel to Edmonton on Aug. 14. The REDBLACKS get to enjoy a bye week.

Today's CFL is more than just our great game of football. It's fans sharing their excitement for what they see on the field, and what they experience off it. Stay up to date on all the non-stop action at