ESKS WIN; LIONS GO WITH LU­LAY

Eski­mos hold off Franklin, Arg­onauts in the rain for close win

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - GERRY MODDEJONGE gmod­de­jonge@postmedia.com @SunMod­de­jonge

James Franklin al­ways wins when he starts games be­tween the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos and the Toronto Arg­onauts ...

At least, he did be­fore Fri­day, when the Eski­mos won their first game of the sea­son against an East Di­vi­sion op­po­nent, 16-15, in front of 31,056 at Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium.

Af­ter win­ning two with the Eski­mos over the past three sea­sons, Franklin was un­able to equal that to­tal in his first two starts with the Toronto Arg­onauts in place of the in­jured Ricky Ray, com­plet­ing 26 of 36 passes for 296 yards and an in­ter­cep­tion as the de­fend­ing Grey Cup champions fell to 1-3.

Trail­ing by one point with 2:50 re­main­ing, the ex-Eski­mos backup quar­ter­back was un­able to come up with the same game-win­ning fourth-quar­ter drive that saw Toronto come back to win 20-17 a week ago.

This time, it was Mike Reilly’s turn to take his of­fence on a clock-chewing drive to pro­tect the lead in the dy­ing sec­onds, as he com­pleted 21 of 36 passes for 258 yards, two touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion, as the Eski­mos im­proved to 3-2.

“I wouldn’t have cared if we

won 100-99 or 1-0, we needed to get a win to get back on track,” Reilly said. “For what­ever rea­son, we match up tough against them and they match up tough against us be­cause both games were pretty sim­i­lar in the sense of late in the fourth quar­ter, ei­ther team could win it.

“Last week, we could have came away with the win, but they did enough to get the win and this week, we were the team that fin­ished it.”

Fri­day’s game wasn’t just a rematch of last week’s kick­off of this back-to-back series in Toronto, it was a re­play of what the Eski­mos have seen all too of­ten this sea­son: Plenty of rain­fall while they fell be­hind early on the score­board.

In his first game back at Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium since be­ing traded in the off-sea­son, Franklin came out fir­ing, com­plet­ing seven of his eight first-quar­ter passes for 125 yards as the Ar­gos took a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard field goal.

While it stood as the only score of the open­ing frame, it was the fourth time in five games this sea­son the Eski­mos sur­ren­dered the early lead.

Rookie run­ning back Jor­dan Robin­son put Ed­mon­ton on the board for a 7-3 lead, tak­ing a screen pass 30 yards into the end zone for his first Cana­dian Foot­ball League touch­down with 3:52 left in the half.

A cou­ple of sin­gle points and a Lu­dacris half­time per­for­mance later, and the Eski­mos had an 8-4 lead early in the third quar­ter.

Reilly found Williams for a third-down con­ver­sion to ex­tend a drive that ended in an 11-yard touch­down re­cep­tion by the same re­ceiver for a 15-4 ad­van­tage.

But a rough­ing-the-passer penalty against Eski­mos de­fen­sive end Ger­ald Rivers set the Ar­gos up in the red zone on the way to a one-yard touch­down run by James Wilder Jr., who was lim­ited to just 26 yards and a touch­down on 12 car­ries, af­ter hit­ting triple dig­its a week ago.

A two-point con­ver­sion pass to S.J. Green pulled Toronto within three points of the Eski­mos.

Hugh O’Neill bounced a punt in­side the five yard-line, only to have it roll out the back of the end zone to make it 16-12 with 10 min­utes left to play.

Pf­ef­fer made it a one-point game af­ter ring­ing a 28-yard field-goal at­tempt off an up­right and in to set up the tight fin­ish.

“We talked about it all week, just fin­ish,” Eski­mos head coach Ja­son Maas said. “No mat­ter how it starts, no mat­ter what goes on in be­tween, just fin­ish the game. And it was awe­some to do that at the end of the game, to fin­ish it out on of­fence.

“But the way our de­fence played tonight gave us that op­por­tu­nity, and the way our spe­cial teams did, but our of­fence at the end had to grind it out. And they did it.”

The Eski­mos will en­joy a bye in the sched­ule, be­fore fac­ing the Mon­treal Alou­ettes on the road Thurs­day, July 26 (5:30 p.m., TSN/ESPN+/630 CHED).

IN AND OUT

Af­ter los­ing lineback­ers J.C. Sher­ritt and Chris Mu­lumba-Tshi­manga in a span of four plays in the third quar­ter, the Eski­mos had a heart-stop­ping mo­ment when run­ning back C.J. Gable laid mo­tion­less on the field af­ter tak­ing head shots from Ar­gos de­fen­sive line­men Troy Davis and Dy­lan Wynn on the same play.

Un­for­tu­nately, no update was of­fered on his con­di­tion af­ter the game.

“I don’t know, I heard from up­stairs what hap­pened. I didn’t re­ally get to see it,” Maas said. “I’m just thank­ful C.J.’s OK. Once I saw his eyes open and he could kind of move around a lit­tle bit, it was a good feel­ing to see that.

“A scary mo­ment though, and noth­ing that you like to see in foot­ball.”

JA­SON FRANSON/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Ar­gos’ S.J. Green is hit by the Esks’ Aaron Grymes dur­ing the Fri­day the 13th tilt at Com­mon­wealth.

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