SEV­ENTH HEAVEN

Eski­mos run un­beaten string to seven at Red­blacks’ ex­pense

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - gerry Mod­de­jonge gmod­de­jonge@post­media.com @sun­mod­de­jonge

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.

EX­TRA POINTS

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.

WAYNE CUD­DING­TON/Post­mEdia

Eski­mos ball-car­rier LaDar­ius Perkins avoids a tackle by Red­blacks Serderius Bryan­tat TD Place in Ot­tawa Thurs­day night.

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