DOWN BUT NOT OUT Eski­mos could def­i­nitely use an­other one of their late-sea­son runs

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - GERRY Moddejonge

There is a catch phrase for ev­ery sit­u­a­tion.

And for an Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos group that’s been bum­bling, fum­bling and stum­bling it’s way to the bot­tom of the West Di­vi­sion stand­ings since an im­pres­sive 5-2 start to the sea­son, there are at least two:

It’s not easy be­ing green (and gold). And it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

As con­found­ing as the re­cent down­ward spi­ral has been for an of­fence that boasts both the league’s pass­ing-yards leader and re­ceiv­ing-yards leader, but hasn’t man­aged to reach the end zone since the last time they faced the Ot­tawa Red­blacks on Sept. 22 – a span of more than nine quar­ters of play –it couldn’t pos­si­bly get any sim­pler look­ing ahead to the fi­nal three games on Ed­mon­ton’s sched­ule.

Win and they’re in. While the Eski­mos dipped below .500 for the first time this sea­son in a 19-12 Thanks­giv­ing loss to the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers that knocked them into fifth place and out of a play­off spot, they are cer­tainly down, but not ex­actly out.

Some­how, in­cred­i­bly, the team that hasn’t won since knock­ing off the first-place Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers in the Labour Day re­match, on the way to los­ing six of their last eight, is still in con­trol of its own des­tiny.

With an un­be­knownst as­sist from league sched­ulers back in De­cem­ber, the Eski­mos still have a chance to put a cou­ple of tie-breaker op­por­tu­ni­ties to good use, with games re­main­ing against the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers and the B.C. Lions, who are both ahead of them in the stand­ings.

If Ed­mon­ton wins their last three games, they would fin­ish with 20 points while also hand­ing a loss to both B.C. and Win­nipeg that would just so hap­pen cap their to­tal points to a max­i­mum of 20, con­sid­er­ing B.C. has 14 points with four games left and Win­nipeg has 16 points with three games re­main­ing.

Those wins would also hand Ed­mon­ton the sea­son se­ries over both clubs by a mar­gin of 2-1, which would bump the Eski­mos all the way up to a third-place fin­ish and a berth in the West Di­vi­sion semi­fi­nal.

Of course, do­ing the math is one thing. Turn­ing it into re­al­ity is quite an­other.

But the Eski­mos have proven they are no strangers when it comes to find­ing ways to over­come ad­ver­sity and string to­gether some mo­men­tum head­ing to­ward the post-sea­son.

Last year, they turned a sixgame los­ing skid into five straight wins to end the reg­u­lar-sea­son. And in 2016, they won five of their last six reg­u­lar-sea­son games, which came on the heels of a Grey Cup cham­pi­onship in 2015, where they closed out the reg­u­lar sea­son 8-0.

“I mean, that’s the beauty of the CFL, we know if we get in, we have a shot to win this whole thing,” said Eski­mos de­fen­sive cap­tain J.C. Sher­ritt, whose squad is com­ing off a game where they kept the op­pos­ing of­fence out of the end zone for the first time this sea­son. “But we’ve got to get in, and that starts with a win. We’ve got to get back on track and it’s crunch time across the league.

“We see what’s hap­pen­ing. We still con­trol, if we win these three, we’re in great shape.”

While a home play­off game is out of reach, a third-place fin­ish is cer­tainly prefer­able fin­ish­ing fourth and cross­ing over to the East Di­vi­sion, where they have only won on the road once this sea­son. And that lone vic­tory came against a last-place Mon­treal Alou­ettes squad that has al­ready be­gun its hunt for the 2019 play­offs.

Los­ing streaks can hap­pen any­time, but get am­pli­fied when it’s this late in the sea­son.

“For sure, and you’ve got to pull it to­gether late in the year,” said Sher­ritt, re­call­ing his rookie sea­son. “We watched the B.C. team that started 0-5 when I was here in ’11 go on to be un­beat­able, so it’s time to get it done.

“And that’s how it is with ev­ery team.”

But they’re not wor­ried about all the other teams, just the ones they’re play­ing against.

And not even all of them right now, just the one this week.

“It’s what we’re forced to do again,” Eski­mos head coach Ja­son Maas said of pil­ing up wins at the end of the year. “But, again, we don’t care about the whole run, we care about start­ing it now.

“We’ve got to take care of busi­ness this game and this game only.”

One fi­nal phrase: Time to put their money where their mouth is.

LARRY WONG/POST­MEDIA

Eski­mos of­fen­sive line­man Tom­mie Dra­heim at team prac­tice on Fri­day. Ed­mon­ton’s loss to the Roughrid­ers dropped them fifth place.

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