Injured Esks give Cats redemption opportunity
EDMONTON — The Eskimos’ bid to stay perfect in 2017 will be put to the test Friday against the desperate, winless Hamilton Tiger-Cats, given Edmonton must do it while dealing with a tsunami of injuries that has sidelined 15 starters.
Friday they take the field with a new kicker, a new long snapper and a new starting running back.
The Esks have 18 players on the six-game injury list and two on the one-game. Middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt and first-string running back John White are done for the year and receiver Adarius Bowman out with a hamstring injury.
They lost six players alone in last week’s 37-26 win over the B.C. Lions, including kicker Sean Whyte, long snapper Ryan King, safety Neil King, and starting running back Travon Van.
Van took over after White went down with a season-ending knee injury. LaDarius Perkins, a fivefoot-eight high-speed cannonball coming off the practice roster, will now get his shot in the backfield.
Hugh O’Neill, who kicked for Edmonton for a couple of years until he was cut in early 2015, signed last week just before Whyte went down against B.C. with a hip injury.
Levi Steinhauer takes over for Ryan King at long snapper.
On paper, Friday’s game is a gruesome mismatch between two teams that bookend the CFL.
The Ticats have just five offensive TDs this season and are averaging just 18 points a game while giving up a league-worst 40.2 points per game. They’re also managing a spate of injuries, including six players in the defensive backfield.
On the plus side, they’re just four points out of a playoff spot and were set to beat Edmonton two weeks ago until Eskimo quarterback Mike Reilly engineered a last minute 75yard touchdown drive for a nail-biter 31-28 win.
Reilly was asked how a team comes back from a 60-1 loss.
“I’m sure that they just flush it,” he said. “You just kind of let that one go because it’s a one-off.”
He said the record doesn’t reflect a Hamilton team that has played well against some of the top CFL teams so far in 2017.
“That’s what we’re expecting: a hard-fought football game.”