MAD DASH

Eski­mos try­ing to get back in play­off pic­ture as sea­son winds down

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Ed­mon­ton ESKI­MOS tjones@post­media.com @sun­ter­ryjones

From the out­side look­ing in, it’s ex­quis­ite.

From the in­side look­ing out, it’s ex­cru­ci­at­ing.

It has to be par­tic­u­larly in­suf­fer­able in the case of the Eski­mos, the team cur­rently on the out­side look­ing in dur­ing a sea­son when the Grey Cup is in Ed­mon­ton and a year when next to no­body dreamed of some­thing like this hap­pen­ing to a team pro­jected to be at or near the top of the ta­bles.

“When your job is on the line there is no such thing as fun. It’s fun if we win the Grey Cup. That’s fun,” said five-time CFL all-star de­fen­sive end Al­mondo Sewell who be­lieves if this team man­ages to miss the play­offs there will be a mul­ti­tude of changes here next year.

Sewell him­self was ex­tended through 2020, the Eski­mos an­nounced Fri­day.

“I wish we had a def­i­nite spot. Are we go­ing to play in the West or go out East? But we’ve put our­selves in this predica­ment and have no­body to blame but our­selves.”

It’s a mad, mad scram­ble for play­off po­si­tions in the CFL and Satur­day it’s a triple-header of games all with play­off im­pli­ca­tions lined up one af­ter the other.

• Saskatchewan at Win­nipeg.

• Ot­tawa at Ed­mon­ton. • B.C. at Cal­gary.

With 53,453 tick­ets sold to the 106th Grey Cup game — 61 per cent of them in the greater Ed­mon­ton re­gion — ev­ery­thing isn’t just about the Eski­mos. It’s about the Grey Cup and who will end up play­ing in it.

Ot­tawa at Ed­mon­ton isn’t go­ing to be a Grey Cup pre­view like some might have imag­ined back when they bought all those tick­ets be­fore the sea­son had even started. But it might be an Eastern Fi­nal pre­view with the win­ner go­ing to the Grey Cup like it was two years ago.

With the Red­blacks here for the 3 p.m. sand­wich ses­sion on the TSN menu, it’s an in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion.

The Eski­mos you know about. They’ve lost three in a row, four of the last five and five of the last seven, thrown a pre­pos­ter­ous per­cent­age of in­ter­cep­tions and suf­fered sacks in equally unimag­in­able num­bers.

When you get to game day, there’s no look­ing back.

“It’s def­i­nitely ex­cit­ing for ev­ery­body else but we dug our­selves a hole by con­tin­u­ing to beat our­selves and make the same mis­takes,” said kicker Sean Whyte.

“It’s things we can fix and con­trol but ev­ery­body here has to rec­og­nize how im­por­tant the next few games are and re­ally fo­cus up. Each guy has to find out what this means to them and what drives them.”

When it comes to the West, it’s a three-team scram­ble for the fi­nal two po­si­tions. Ed­mon­ton could still end up play­ing the Roughrid­ers in Regina in the West semi­fi­nal, trav­el­ling East to play as the cross­over team in the East Di­vi­sion play­offs or end­ing up as the only West Di­vi­sion team not mak­ing it into the post sea­son.

Go­ing into Satur­day, Win­nipeg sits third with an 8-7 record while B.C. sits fourth at 7-7 and Ed­mon­ton goes into the day at 7-8.

The Eski­mos travel to Van­cou­ver next Fri­day for maybe the most mas­sive game of all with both teams hav­ing won a game against each other and this one to set­tle the sea­son se­ries and any tie in the fi­nal stand­ings. Ed­mon­ton will fin­ish up a home against Win­nipeg.

The Lions have the tough­est sched­ule with the away game at Cal­gary, home to Ed­mon­ton, away at Saskatchewan and home to Cal­gary.

The Bombers have home to Saskatchewan, home to Cal­gary and away in Ed­mon­ton.

In the East, only Ot­tawa and Hamil­ton will make the play­offs.

But they’re in a dog­fight to set­tle first and sec­ond with the win­ner get­ting the bye to the fi­nal.

Ot­tawa headed into the week­end at 8-6 and Hamil­ton at 7-7 and the two teams have a home-and home se­ries com­ing up the fol­low­ing two week­ends.

Sev­eral pigskin pun­dits look at the most likely sce­nario now be­ing the Eski­mos go­ing East as the cross­over team.

Ed­mon­ton did it in 2016, de­feat­ing Hamil­ton in the semi­fi­nal but los­ing to Ot­tawa in a bl­iz­zard in the fi­nal.

Back in 2012 the Eski­mos lost to Toronto in the semi­fi­nal and in 2008 won the semi­fi­nal in Win­nipeg and lost the fi­nal in Mon­treal, re­peat­ing what hap­pened in 2002.

In all the Eski­mos have man­aged to get to within one win of get­ting to the Grey Cup game in three Eastern Fi­nals. Think about it. Wouldn’t it make a whale of a story if the Eski­mos had to go East and beat the Tigercats and the Red­blacks to get back to a Grey Cup game — in Ed­mon­ton.

For that to have a hope of hap­pen­ing the Eski­mos would likely need to win this one against the Red­blacks to stay in the hunt.

Ot­tawa has played a Western team in a play­off game in each of the last three years, los­ing the semi­fi­nal to Saskatchewan last year, de­feat­ing Ed­mon­ton in the fi­nal and go­ing on to win the Grey Cup the year be­fore.

“You bet­ter believe I’m cheer­ing for Win­nipeg and B.C. to lose. Who­ever they’re play­ing, I’m a fan of that team,” said mid­dle line­backer J.C. Sher­ritt.

“All we can do right now is put our com­plete fo­cus on this one game and con­cern our­selves with just one team — the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos.”

LARRY Wong/post­media

Eski­mos de­fen­sive back Ar­jen Colquhoun at team prac­tice on Fri­day. He might be all smiles, but his team has a tough road ahead.

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