Missed op­por­tu­nity

Esks blow their chance to clinch play­off spot

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES [email protected] @sun­ter­ryjones

It was a chance for Ja­son Maas’ Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos to stand up and make a case for them­selves to be a team of sub­stance, a team wor­thy of build­ing be­lief head­ing to­ward the play­offs.

But last night they fell flat on their col­lec­tive faces in an empty, in­ept ef­fort that il­lus­trated the ex­tent this team has come un­rav­elled af­ter an ex­cep­tional start to the sea­son in al­most ev­ery sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory.

The Eski­mos were ex­posed by the now 12-3 league-plead­ing Hamil­ton Tiger-cats 42-12 clinch­ing first place and equal­ing a fran­chise record for reg­u­lar sea­son vic­to­ries while stretch­ing their home record to 7-0 in their first home game since Labour Day, 32-days ear­lier.

Not only did Ed­mon­ton lose by the em­bar­rass­ing mar­gin of 30 points, it looks like the Eski­mos team that lost quar­ter­back Trevor Har­ris to in­jury while en­joy­ing a Most Out­stand­ing Player sort of sea­son now ap­pears to have lost 1,000-yard run­ning back C.J. Gable and star re­ceiver Greg Elling­son.

The last time the Eski­mos played the Tiger-cats they gave up 197 yards pass­ing in the first quar­ter and were down 24-0 early only to tie it up 27-27 and lose it on the last play of the game with a field goal that bounced in off the up­rights.

The thought was that if they showed up and didn’t spot Hamil­ton two-dozen points it would be a dif­fer­ent ball game.

They Eski­mos were down by 16 at the half in this one, And this time there was no come­back and no fin­ish de­cided by the width of a goal post.

This game the Eski­mos, giv­ing up their usual 108yards penal­ties with quar­ter­back Lo­gan Kil­gore throw­ing three more in­ter­cep­tions to make 17th ca­reer in­ter­cep­tions six touch­down passes, were en­tirely out­played and out­classed.

This was the thing. While there are still the home-and-home Saskatchew­an games to end the sched­ule to gain some be­lief for hopes in the post-sea­son and while Har­ris is ex­pected to be back for them and the post sea­son, this was the ul­ti­mate op­por­tu­nity.

The Eski­mos are all but guar­an­teed to be the 10th team to go East as a cross­over club in the Eastern Di­vi­sion play­offs and no team has yet to emerge and get to the Grey Cup in­clud­ing the Eski­mos on three pre­vi­ous tries in­clud­ing 2008 when they lost the fi­nal 36-26 in Mon­treal.

What made this game com­pelling from an Ed­mon­ton per­spec­tive was not only that they had yet to beat any team that had a win­ning record when they played them but beat­ing the Tigercats in Hamil­ton would have changed every­thing.

Not only are the Tab­bies the top team in the en­tire league but the team the Eski­mos would have to beat, in Hamil­ton, in the Eastern Fi­nal should they man­age to de­feat the Alou­ettes in Mon­treal in the semi­fi­nal. And re­mem­ber Ed­mon­ton lost their game on Mount Royal 20-10.

Be­ing a two-game road trip that started in Ot­tawa and with the Eski­mos im­me­di­ately lo­cat­ing in Hamil­ton to spend the en­tire week that repli­cated the play­off week that’s ahead.

The Eski­mos lost the 2008 Eastern Fi­nal 36-26 in Mon­treal and the 2017 Eastern Fi­nal 35-23 in Ot­tawa af­ter choos­ing to fly home and turn around and fly back across the coun­try again to play the fi­nal.

This time the ex­pec­ta­tion is that they’d stay down East.

Not that it’s an ab­so­lute lock that the Eski­mos are in the play­offs or the cross­over.

A win would have elim­i­nated the B.C. Lions, pre-sea­son favourites of many so-called ex­perts af­ter GM Ed Her­vey con­vinced Mike Reilly and sev­eral Eski­mos to join him in Van­cou­ver in free agency, from play­off con­tention.

The Lions are in Ed­mon­ton next Satur­day prior to their third and fi­nal week prior to the Oct. 26 visit by the Roughrid­ers.

Cal­gary, Saskatchew­an and Win­nipeg headed into the week­end all tied for first with 18 points and the Stam­ped­ers and Roughrid­ers hav­ing four games to play to Win­nipeg’s three. The Eski­mos who re­main back with 14 points and now with a los­ing record, lost all three to Cal­gary and both to Win­nipeg so would any tie at the end of the sea­son in the stand­ings. Ed­mon­ton has yet to play Saskatchew­an.

But af­ter that ex­hi­bi­tion there aren’t likely many fans in Ed­mon­ton think­ing about the math­e­mat­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties.

This is a foot­ball team that lost 28-21 and 34-28 to Win­nipeg, were beaten 24-18, 25-9 and 33-17 by Cal­gary and 30-27 and 42-12 by Hamil­ton.

In seven games against the top teams they’ve lost all seven and did so by a com­bined 81 points.

They aren’t in the same league.

PETER POWER/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A pass in­tended for Eski­mos’ wide re­ceiver Greg Elling­son is knocked away by Tiger-cats’ de­fen­sive back Frankie Wil­liams dur­ing the sec­ond-half CFL ac­tion in Hamil­ton, Ont., on Fri­day.

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