Eskimos run unbeaten string to seven at Redblacks’ expense
OTTAWA — The Edmonton Eskimos are way too banged up to feel like they’re in Seventh Heaven.
But that didn’t stop them from improving to 7-0 Thursday with a 27-20 win over the Ottawa Red Blacks in the same TD Place Stadium where they suffered their last loss back in November’s East Division final.
They continue to find a way to win, despite injuries piling up – a trend that continued Thursday in a game that perennial all-star defensive tackle Almondo Sewell didn’t finish.
It was a big blow to one of the biggest reasons the Eskimos have been able to weather the storm of injuries up to this point and may ultimately prove to be the 288-pound straw that breaks this camel’s back. Especially after defensive end Marcus Howard had to leave the stadium on crutches after being hauled off the field in the final minute.
“It’s a couple more injuries, devastating injuries, to our team again,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “Somehow our guys stood up strong when those injuries went down, our defensive line ended up stepping up to the challenge.
“But the rest of our team is just gritty and gutsy, I can’t even describe it anymore than that.”
Aside from 7-0, of course, matching their second-best start to a season in club history dating back to 1961.
And for the third game in a row, the Eskimos scored a touchdown on their opening drive, going 92 yards on 10 plays and ending in a 35-yard screen pass to running back LaDarius Perkins for a 7-0 lead.
It was Mike Reilly’s 99th career touchdown pass, extending his streak to 17 straight games throwing at least one to set a new club record and surpass Warren Moon and Tracy Ham.
The RedBlacks spotted them 16 points before getting on the board with a five-yard touchdown catch by league-leading receiver Greg Ellingson, which sprung them back to life to trail 16-13 by halftime.
The second half opened with a 41-yard field goal by O’Neill to put the Eskimos ahead 19-13.
But the RedBlacks responded with a 38 yard pass to Josh Stang by, who got in behind Mercy Maston and into the red zone. The following snap ended with a wobbly Sewell making his way to the locker-room before a nine-yard touchdown catch by Dionte Spencer gave Ottawa its first lead of the game, 20-19, midway through the third.
Tempers flared and flags flew on Edmonton’s ensuing drive, which was interrupted in the end zone with Reilly throwing his second interception of the game, which went off the hands of Vidal Hazelton and right to RedBlacks safety Antoine Pruneau.
With Ottawa storming back, the Eskimos came up with yet another timely fourth-quarter response, with Chris Getzlaf scoring an eight-yard touchdown catch, before Reilly ran in the two-point conversion to go ahead 27-20.
“Getty came up with a huge play for us on that touchdown in the end zone, and that’s just how we roll,” said Reilly, who completed 27 of 38 passes for 384 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while RedBlacks quarterback Trevor Harris was 26 of 37 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Reilly and Perkins split Edmontons 102 rushing yards right down the middle on a combined 27 carries while Bryant Mitchell had game highs of seven catches for 114 yards – 102 of which came in the first half.
After going four-for-four between the uprights, Hugh O’Neill missed his first field goal since returning to the Eskimos on a 49-yard attempt, his longest distance so far, to give Ottawa possession with 43 seconds left.
But it was cornerback Johnny Adams coming up with an interception on a Trevor Harris offering as the clock struck zero.
At halftime Thursday, the CFL announced the halftime show of the 105th Grey Cup in Ottawa on Nov. 26 will be Shania Twain ... An opening-quarter catch by Shamawd Chambers was his first in green and gold since the 2015 Grey Cup after coming off the six-game injured list ... RedBlacks LB Serderius Bryant was helped off the field early in the second quarter ... Mike Reilly doubled his interceptions thrown on the season Thursday, beginning with a deflection that was hauled in by RedBlacks CB Imoan Clairborne ahead of halftime before S Antoine Pruneau came up with a second. He also appeared to injure his eye in the final two minutes on a stiff-arm from LaDarius Perkins ... It was Edmonton’s 10th straight win against an East Division opponent, while six of their last seven games against Ottawa have now been decided in the final three minutes.
Eskimos ball-carrier LaDarius Perkins avoids a tackle by Redblacks Serderius Bryantat TD Place in Ottawa Thursday night.